I read the news articles and commentary that appeared recently in US Media (NY Times Article, MSNBC Article) . These are sensational articles written to increase page views and ad revenue than responsible journalism, a handy work of people with limited background about India’s history and culture.
While many blame the Hindu Caste System for its ills and recent economic liberalization as its savior, lack of deeper understanding of India could lead to misconceptions among our youth and also about Indians in general.
Yes, it is true Indian society is based on a caste system which originated as a way for efficient division of labor (knowledge workers, Warriors, Traders and Service providers). There was freedom to change their affiliation and it was based on GUNAS and not birth during the Vedic times. Being a knowledge worker or a warrior was not an easy choice and required more disciplined and arduous work. As such you will see lesser % ge of these groups. The outcasts out of the 4 major caste groups of India (dalits) is not mentioned in any of our puranas (legends). Caste system was further extended as people moved across the country and adapted to different vocations. It was again beneficial to train younger apprentices with the knowledge within family circles. These social convenience and need to retain culture lead to myriads of castes in India. Because of these close knit circles, many people survived and succeeded in expanding their numbers, helping India become a populous country.
No wonder people who lived in tribal areas and those who were outcasts (dalits) were documented in later history, but there are ample examples of their fair treatment and how religion treats divinity in every being irrespective of their origin or state. eg. Check this video of Chandala and Adi Shankara.
Growth of outcasts was a result of few vested interests in later centuries that discriminated and reduced them to subhuman conditions. Money lenders indebted them to servitude for life. This has happened in every part of the world. Do you think our GE Capital, Bank of America, City Bank or any of these Payday Loan vendors any different in putting people to perennial debt and servitude?
India has made enormous progress in bringing social changes. Southern States have been forerunners in this area for nearly a century. Economic growth is spearheading the changes and Hindu Caste system is nothing to do in inhibiting this change. An outcast cobbler could have developed a shoe store just like NORDSTROM SHOES in USA, if there were enough rich people who could afford to buy shoes in India.