Modi needs to address caste issue

Modi needs to address caste issue

India dreams of becoming a superpower and with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wields considerable power thanks to the absolute majority he has been given by the electorate, India is now seen by western countries as an ideal place for investment and defense deals.
Nevertheless, Modi faces a number of challenges internally. He needs to allay the fears of Muslims who bore the brunt of Gujarat carnage, fix the economy, alleviate poverty and end caste prejudice that has fragmented the Indian society and contributed to the rise in crimes.
Caste discrimination has permeated deep into the psyche of Indians and controls their way of thinking and social behavior. It has such a hypnotizing effect that people often disregard the basic tenets of sensible social behavior. It lends a snobbish appeal to people who are at the top of the social pyramid and humiliation to people who are at the bottom of the pyramid.
Recently the rape and murder of two girls in a remote village of Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh (India's most populous state) drew world's attention and criticism. This horrific incident would have easily escaped the attention of the public, had media not highlighted it since the case happened in one of the remote areas of the country. People from all walks of life have condemned it unanimously and blamed it on state government's inability to control crime in the state, as there is a spurt in violence against women in recent times.
This incident is also significant because of the new Anti-Rape Law that has come into effect in 2013 that sanctions harsher punishment for this ghastly crime (it comes on the heels of gang rape of a girl in a moving bus in New Delhi). Judging the pulse of the public, media has also started giving a lot of coverage to incidents involving women harassment or rape.
Following this incident there is a widespread debate about the reasons behind happening of such incidents. In this case there were two main reasons, one was lack of public toilets in the village and the other reason was caste bias. Caste system in India is the most unique system of human coexistence that mankind has ever seen. While most countries in the world have other ways of differentiating between various population groups (most notable skin colors), in India it is the caste that separates population groups.
The girls who were raped belonged to Maurya Shakya clan while the culprits belonged to Yadav clan. Both are grouped as OBCs (Other Backward Castes) by the government but Yadavs are numerically and economically superior to the Maurya Shakyas.
The audacity and alacrity with which the accused reportedly committed the crime have all the hallmarks of caste prejudice. They had full confidence that no one in the village would dare protest against them or lodge a complaint against them. Had media not reported this crime, they would have remained scot-free.
This incident might come as a shock to some but these types of caste atrocities are common across the country. The accused often have no repentance of what they do as the victims belong to the lower strata of society. Deprived section of the population is
humiliated, discriminated, degraded just because they are lower in social pyramid. Caste bias manifests itself in the form of rape and killing in remote villages to being unfair at jobs in cities and towns. Arrogance of being at a higher social hierarchy leads people to discriminate and ignominy of being lower in social hierarchy forces the weaker section to accept the discrimination without raising a voice. Caste bias is the single biggest hurdle in country's progress, even more ominous than corruption and poverty (though this bias has strong percolating effects on both). Corruption and poverty are very conveniently debated on national television and newspaper columns but subject of caste prejudice is often deliberately and expediently kept untouched.
The incident that happened is appalling but at the same time this has again raised a critical question to the Indian society that for how long people will continue to inflict damage to the society on the basis of caste and for how long they will be allowed to do it. For how long the deprived sections of the society be humiliated and the benefits of development denied to them on the basis of caste.
On one hand India dreams of becoming a superpower and on other hand a big section of society has been kept aloof from contributing to make that dream a reality. India cannot march on to become a superpower without taking all the sections including the neglected section (which forms majority of Indian population) of society together. By suppressing major portion of Indian society, country is losing out on a very big pool of talent that is left unexplored and untapped.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view