'Caste system greatest tragedy to befall human race'

Published 17 August 2009  |  
Caste system must be completely rooted out so the weaker sections of society can be encouraged to join the mainstream, said Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

Addressing a book release last Monday, Ms. Kumar described caste system as the "greatest tragedy to befall human race", lamenting that it had great impact on the poor and marginalised, especially in a country like India that has rich cultural heritage.

Caste system although has been outlawed by the Indian Constitution, is still practiced in rural areas of the country, where 72% of India's population resides.

India's caste system is perhaps the world's longest surviving social hierarchy. A defining feature of Hinduism, caste encompasses a complex ordering of social groups on the basis of ritual purity.

"I would like to say here, that nobody, including those belonging to the lowest rung of the social strata, should feel small, as your ancestors have made sacrifices for this country, and therefore you too have a right to live with self respect," the Speaker was quoted saying at the event.

Ms. Kumar released two books titled New Princesses of Alwar and Alwar Ki Nai Rajkumariyan published by non-governmental organisation Sulabh International. The books speak the lives of 56 women scavengers from Alwar in Rajasthan who were liberated and rehabilitated by the NGO.

"When I see that even the socially well off among the lower castes, have not been able to come out of the caste bias, I am forced to think that caste system is the greatest tragedy of our country," she said.

The 64-year-old Kumar this June made history in the Lok Sabha when she was unanimously elected its Speaker and thus became the first Dalit woman to occupy one of the highest Constitutional posts.


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