Short answer: Its all the fault of Hindus. Long answer: Its all the fault of upper-caste (originals, converts). Unbearably long discussion (read below).
There have been several attempts to abolish the caste system in India (from the inside and outside). Jaldhar has already discussed the (imperfect) role played by Vaishnavism in resolving caste issues. Arya Samaj is an example of a successful anti-caste movement (they are opposed to idolatry as well). Guru Nanak banned the concept of caste (one claim – from Sikhs themselves- is that he preserved caste function but outlawed caste inequality- supposedly the original spirit of the Varna-ashram). And off course Islam and Christianity do not have caste system in their “blood” and had the opportunity to establish caste-less society in India over a 1000 year rule (what a lost opportunity). Finally the communists, who came up with the simple formula: caste = class. They believe in a world-wide class system that exists so that they can overthrow it.
Zachary opines that Indians have internalized the fact that the Punjabi race (aka Pakasians in West Punjab today) is the bravest, boldest, fairest of them all. This is certainly believed by all Punjabis that I have met (my mother being an “honorary punjabi” will admit to thinking that way too). But then the Punjabis/Pakasian people have themselves internalized the caste system regardless of religion, specifically the pure/impure crap that is the essence of caste based discrimination.
Zachary’s second claim (quite justified) is that (upper-caste) Hindus wear caste on their sleeves. IMO the Sikh/Muslim/Christian/Communists play a different caste game, by denying that low caste denominations (and discrimination) exist (in their ranks)! The “upper caste” vs “lower caste” Muslim divide is as stark as any others. The pasmanda dalits claim that they are at an additional disadvantage since discrimination exists but there is no remedy (unlike Hindu dalits). Separate mosques, graveyards, political (under) representation. The goal remains the same though: total upper-caste domination.
Of the total religious minorities population more than 75% belongs to these “bulk” and less than 25% belong to the other category who are generally called ‘Ashraf’ or elite and ‘non-indigenous’. Less than 25% are getting more than 75 percent positions and more than 75 percent are getting less than 25 percent positions. This is the factual position. The figure of Muslim representation in parliament and legislatures also speaks the same truth…Now the Lok Sabha list of members is available under one binding from first to thirteenth lok sabha. One can minutely examine and find the names of backward muslims in the list, without much difficulty. From first to fourteenth Lok Sabha around 7500 members were elected but out of this only around 400 muslims could be elected, and out of this 400, 340 belong to Ashraf elites or Muslims of non-indigenous category. The representation of ‘bulk’ of backward muslims is only 60. The figure of Bihar Legislative Assembly is also available. From 1952 to 2000 only 276 Muslims could get elected and out of which 217 belong to Ashraf category and only 59 belong to non-Ashraf category.
The underlying (and most pernicious) message is that low castes are “impure.” This is true of Pakasia as well. It is not a coincidence that Kasab the terrorist comes from the Qassab (Kasai- butcher) caste. The front-line warriors doing the dirty jobs (literally) are going to be low-class and low-caste.
In this context, Omar’s statement that Punjabi converts were mostly upper-caste is instructive. The Syrian Christians also claim that they are all upper-caste converts (so are Catholics in Goa- one such gentleman informs me that they are all gaudiya saraswat brahmin- GSB- converts).
What about the Communists? In Bengal the leadership and the intellectuals is almost exclusively upper-caste. EMS Namboodiripad, the revolutionary leader from Kerala (leader of 1st/2nd elected commie govt in the world) was a super-Brahmin. Prakash Karat is a Nair. In contrast to these elites, the one man who is a moral giant is VS (Achutanandan) an Ezhava (OBC/Shudra). He was with the nationalists during the china war, and was demoted by EMS for his sins. The Communists have never been comfortable with his leadership. They hounded him out of the Politburo (2006) and tried denying him a ticket to the assembly (2011) even when he was one man that commanded respect of the rank and file as well as the common man (and has the results to back it up).
There are precious few luminous public intellectuals in SA from the S-M-X-C galaxy who proudly claim their original low-caste status (like Ambedkar). The one exception being religious leaders (from all caste backgrounds) who have spoken out against caste but their followers have not listened (well enough). The excuse peddled by the S-M-X-C communities is that while they do not believe in caste, individuals may do so (wrongfully). At any rate these religions are never at fault, whatever fault lies is with the trace influence from Hinduism. From a low caste perspective that looks, smells and talks like bullshit (The Golden Temple has symbolically four separate doors for the chatur-varna, none for dalits).
Zachary is speaking truth to power when he says that upper castes dominate Indian society even though they are 30% of the pop (similar to the Pasmanda ref above). But upper castes dominate Pakasia as well. If Sharukh Khan is the badshah of India today, Imran Khan will be badshah of Pakistan tomorrow. It is difficult to believe that lineage mattered for one and not the other (they are also superb professionals).
The disadvantage of wearing caste on your sleeves is that in today’s enlightened world you have to “talk progressive” or remain “defensive”. Pakasians have comfortably banished caste system in public and preserved it in private. Khaandaanii log have “pure” blood in them. That “pure blood” justifies domination, punjabi, pakasian domination. Domination over “impure” low-caste converts in Bengal for instance.
When pakasian elites decry (correctly) caste inequalities, they are merely following in the hallowed footsteps of Buddha, Chaitanya, Nanak, Dayanand Saraswati, Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave etc.* Upper-castes all, fighting (imperfectly) for their lower-caste brothers. But the Pakasians need to lead by example, creating a socialist republic in Pak where even a lowly Kasab can be a king. The beam in your brother’s eye is also the beam in yours.
*But not Jinnah who (allegedly) disowned his daughter over an impure marriage. Mahommedali Currim Chagla, Jinnah’s assistant at the time, recalls: “Jinnah, in his usual imperious manner, told her that there were millions of Muslim boys in India, and she could have anyone she chose. Reminding her father that his wife (Dina’s mother Rattan Bai), had also been a non-Muslim, a Parsi also coincidentally, the young lady replied: ‘Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?’ And he replied that, ‘she became a Muslim’”. [Ref. Wiki]