India is a cradle of several civilisations and religions. Most religions are egalitarian. Yet, Hindu influence stratified various religions into Hindu –based castes. Thus secularism remained just a shiny label in golden words of India’s Constitution. Muslims are divided into Ashraf, Ajlaf, and Arzal, and these groups have the same function as the caste system in Hindu tradition. While the Ashraf represents the highest-ranking Muslims of Arab descent, those who flee the Hindu caste system and convert to Islam constitute the Ajlaf class. The Arzal represent Muslims belonging to the lowest social class.

The Muslims are 14 per cent of India’s population. Yet, they had a miserable representation of 22 in previous Lok Sabha as against present 26. Muslim representation has declined in elite institutions like Indian police service and administrative service. It was never more than 5% while in the Army. Even so, only Ashraf Muslims make it to services or parliament.

The Jews also are hierarchized into three main Jewish communities, the Baghdadis, the Bene Israels and Cochinis. Orthodox Hindus treat all outliers as `untouchable’. Christians have a two-tier social hierarchy. Many untouchables who converted to Christianity are still treated as untouchables, sometimes by other Christians. The European Christians also are despised as `untouchables’ by high-caste Hindus.

Other religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism also reflect Hindu caste hierarchy. The different Sikh Jats normally marry within caste lines. The Jats which were the elite of Punjab and converted to Sikhism do not give equal respect to Sikhs who belong to the lower levels of Indian hierarchy. The Jains also have separate communities who marry within the community lines. The Buddhist in India have a two-tier hierarchy and just like in the cases of Christians and Muslims it is also related to the status of the community to whom the person belongs. India still has to go a long way to conform with Modi 2.0 vision of`global India’.

ASAD MALICK,

Rawalpindi, June 2.