(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Caste Discrimination)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Caste Discrimination)


B.R. Ambedkar is considered to be mesiah or prophet of social justice in India. And his views on caste discrimination are the most significant part of his philosophy. His hooks reflects – his views on caste discrimination.

1) Annihilation of caste
2) Who were the Shudras
3) The untouchables

Ambedkar explained origin of Varna, caste and untouchability on the basis of Historical and sociological facts.

Origin of Varna

Hindu religion is the most ancient reference of varna can be seen in the ‘Purushsukta of Rigveda.’

According to Purushsukta, various varnas were created by Prajapati (Brahma or Lord). Brahmin was created from mouth, Kshatriya from arms, vaishya’s from thigh, Shudra’s from feet. Hindu religious and legal text like ‘Manusmriti’ endorse this explanation but Ambedkar considered it irrational and unhistorical.

According to Ambedkar, in the beginning there were only 3 varnas and they were product of division of labour. Shudra was a Kshatriya clan who continuously struggled with Brahmins therefore Brahmins identified them as shudras. They were devoid of various sacred rituals later texts like Manusmriti endorsed it and made it permanent.

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Origin of Caste

Caste also originated from varna. Some varna in different regions adopted different life styles and traditions and they become various castes.


Untouchables originated as a result of Brahmin – Buddhist conflict to cope up with the challenge posed by Buddhism. Brahmins also emphasized on renunciation of meat eating. Those members of Hindu society who does not accepted this were designated as untouchable.

Though, Ambedkar’s explanation is not supported by historical facts. But, its significance lies in a fact that it question holy foundation of these institution or systems.

Arguments – Against Caste discrimination

According to Ambedkar system of Varna, caste ad untouchability lead to caste discrimination which has very ill effect.

1) Caste system is responsible for degeneration of Hindu society. Due to caste, it could not become accommodative, therefore Hinduism could not expand because Hindu system become a closed society.
To dismantle the religious foundation of caste. He suggested resources-

1) There should be only one authentic religious text for Hindus and should be explained scientifically.
2) The post of priests and religious functionaries should not be hereditary. According to Ambedkar, this post should be filled on basis of concretive exams and they should be open to members of all varnas.
3) These religious functionaries should be considered as government employees and if they do not perform their function property, disciplinary action might be taken against them.
4) The number of religious functionaries should be decided by state as it is done in case of civil servant.
5) Besides this revolutionary idea, he forwarded some other suggestions also to annihilate castes.

i) Inter-caste marriage
ii) Inter caste dinning
iii) Self respect in the untouchable should be generated. He himself advised untouchables to leave their traditional occupation & learn new skill. He advised untouchable to live with cleanliness.
iv) Establishment of economic democracy as a measure to break caste system in India.


1) The idea of annihilation of caste in India is an utopia caste is so deep rooted in Indian society that it can not be annihilated this is the reason when Ambedkar was framing draft of constitution, he also emphaisized on reform in caste, system instead of annihiliation.

2) His views regarding origin of untouchability are unscientific and unhistorical.

3) In criticizing caste, Ambedkar went too far and sometimes he played role of separatist and loyalist.

e.g. He supported McDonald award which made arrangement for separate electorate for Dalit.

He sided with British on many issues e.g. He criticized quit India movement and did not participate in it.

4) Ambedkar criticized caste but according to Modern scholars of Indian politics like Rajanee Kothari Rudolph & Rudolph, Casteism is a positive development in Indian Politics.

1) According to them, caste has developed as organisation of lower caste and on basis of caste, they participated in democratic process.
2) Caste is responsible for division of Hindu society because due to existence of various castes Hindu society could not develop as a homogenous society therefore slavery is responsible due to caste. Today also, caste is hurdle in a way of national integration.
3) According to Ambedkar, castism lead to exploitation of lower caste.
4) Casteism is also responsible for existence maintenance of untuochbility.
In words of Ambedkar – “Root of untouchability lies in caste system. Out caste is a by product of caste”.
5) Casteism is against ideals of liberty, equality, justice and brotherhood.
6) Caste discrimination is against idea of dignity of individual.
Due to casteism, lower castes are treated as a means for the fulfillment of interest of caste Hindus.
7) Casteism also leads to caste violence.

Besides, criticizing caste – discrimination, he also rejected arguments forwarded in favour of caste. Caste and varna were defended on basis of 2 argument

1) Economic
2) Biological

Supporters of varna believed that, it is a form of division of labour. It is useful because ancestral skill is transferred one generation to other generation.

But, according to Ambedkar, it is economically counter productive because a person is forced to accept occupation which is against his interest and abilities. Therefore, Ambedkar believed that if caste decides occupation then economic mobility & economic development is not possible. Ambedkar, believed caste is not only division of labour but of labourer also because some castes are discriminated.

Supporters of varna, equated varna with race and justified it on basis on purity of blood.

But, accordingly to Ambedkar, varna can not be equated with race, He also believes that none of varna is pure. Long interaction has made all the varna’s mixture.

Annihilation of Caste

Ambedkar believed that there was only one solution of this caste discrimination and that is annihilation of caste itself Ambedkar believe that superficial reformative measures cannot lead annihilation to caste discrimination. Caste has its support in the religious texts and Brahmanical order. Therefore for annihilation of caste the philosophical and religious foundation of caste which make it a holy thing should be questioned.


1) Ambedkar linked caste discrimination with the question of social justice therefore he made it political issue other reformers raised the question of caste discrimination but they only treated it from perspective of raising sympathy for Dalits. They wanted to give call to conscious of Caste Hindu But, Ambedkar is different from others because, he took this as a right and not as a charity.
2) Ambedkar unlike other reformers questioned basic foundation of casteism instead of suggesting superficial changes.
3) His arguments against caste discrimination are very important.
4) Ambedkar generated self interest among untouchables and taught them to fight for their rights. This is a main reason that why most of dalit movements in India finds it intellectual roots in Ambedkar’s philosophy.

M.K. Gandhi

Gandhiji was also great supporter of equal treatment with all caste / classes but he was a great supporter of varna system based on birth.

Gandhi has given many arguments to defend varna system.

1) Economic - Varna system results in transfers of ancestral skill from one generation to other generation.
2) Social - Accordingly, if all individuals perform their functions according to their varna then there will be no cut throat competition in society hence less conflict.
3) If every individual performs task assigned to him, he will get sufficient time to know god which is the main purpose of life.
4) Moral – Gandhiji believed that task assigned to each varna is his duty. Siting Gita’s notion of Swa-Dharma Palan. He believes that we should perform our task and duties and not with some other motive.

But, Ambedkar was a great critic of varna like, Ambedkar, Gandhiji also criticized caste discrimination but Ambedkar criticized caste discrimination on socio-economical and political ground. But, Gandhi criticized on moral – spiritual ground.

Under the influence of vedant, Gandhiji supported metaphysical origin-monism according to him, reality is one and in all creatures that reality exists therefore it is unjustified to discriminate on basis of caste.
Gandhiji believed that task of each varna is its duty, therefore as a duty all tasks are equally important and there should not be any discrimination based on caste because lower caste and upper caste all are performing their duties.

Regarding end of caste discrimination both Gandhi & Ambedkar wanted to end discrimination based on caste but they believed in different means. Ambedkar believed in a radical change. He wanted to annihilate caste itself to end caste discrimination. But, Gandhiji, wanted to end caste discrimination through reforms. He did not want to dismantle varna system. Instead of it he suggested other measures like-

1) Giving equal importance to task of all varnas.
2) Gandhiji considered physical labour as important as mental labour.
3) Service should be aim of our life. He advised caste – Hindus to convert considered themselves ‘Atishudras’.
4) Those persons who believe in caste discrimination against them also, ‘non violent satyagraha’ should be used & their thearts transformed.


Both Ambedkar and Gandhi were prophets of social justice. Both were against caste discrimination. Both of them wanted to create society in which all individuals treat equally. As far as end is considered both are similar.
But, they differ in there means and this difference came from their different perspective. Gandhiji was a spiritual-religious person hence he analysed caste discrimination from that perspective. On the other hand Ambedkar was influenced from modern intellectual values therefore he analysed issue from that perspective.

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