Intercaste Marriages in Indian Society

The Hindu has written an editorial on the Intercaste marriages based on a survey conducted by a certain SARI (Social Attitudes Research for India) organisation.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar pointed out that, the social ban on intermarriage is “the most fundamental idea on which the whole fabric of caste is built up”. Ambedkar reasons that the stubbornness of caste will only be annihilated when people marry across caste lines.

These days, the inter-caste marriages are very common, unlike the previous generation is the perception, but the caste rigidities exist and people frown upon such marriages.

The survey reveals that nearly 60% of the non-Scheduled Caste respondents said that they would oppose a child or close relative marrying a Dalit. There was even greater opposition to inter-religious marriages. 72 % Hindus said they would oppose a child or relative marrying a Muslim; a similar fraction of Muslims would oppose a child or relative marrying a Hindu.

Much surprising revelation is that many people want laws that ban inter-caste marriages. The finding that even many educated people think there should be laws against inter-caste marriage raises serious questions about our education system and whether it is doing enough to reduce caste and religious prejudice.

Thankfully, despite popular support, no actual Indian law prohibits inter-caste marriage. If anything, on paper, the government approves of these marriages: each year, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment makes available 500 monetary awards to inter-caste couples. The small size of this programme makes it more of a symbolic gesture than an actual incentive, but it is nevertheless a good idea.

The government should be doing much more to promote inter-group marriage and to protect those who seek them from the likes of Moral police like Khap Panchayats.

  1. Sensitise the officials in the courts and the police about the need of protection to those who marry across castes or religion.  Lack of government support in the face of family disapproval may be one reason why the India Human Development Survey found that only 5% of marriages are inter-caste.
  2. Political parties should show the will and have the courage to take up support for inter-caste marriages as an agenda item.
  3. Vociferous advertisement of monetary rewards given for inter-caste marriages should be done. Several state governments also give out money for the same, but the number of rewards is too small to make a difference.
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