Understanding Graded Inequality of Hindu Caste System – Dr Ambedkar’s View


Babasaheb Ambedkar differentiates between inequality and graded inequality of the kind we have in India due to the caste system. Examples of inequality are – inequality or slavery faced by the black people in USA, South Africa, etc against which the sufferers of inequality, black people, have revolted against their oppressors and exploiters.

Graded inequality is entirely found only in an Indian subcontinent and it is the product of caste system. The very important characteristic of Graded inequality which differentiates it from pure inequality is – graded inequality divides the sufferers themselves based on unequal burden and benefits.

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That means under graded inequality, the middle castes (Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras) are sufferers on one hand and beneficiaries on the other hand of the graded inequality i.e. caste system. Benefits and burden being unequal from caste to caste. It is only the highest caste of Brahmins who is the absolute beneficiary and the lowest castes of Ati-shudras ie untouchables are absolute sufferers of graded inequality.

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To explain how Graded Inequality works, Babasaheb Ambedkar has given the following example

“The right of a Brahmin to take a woman from the classes below him but not to give a woman to them is inequity. But Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra will not combine to destroy it. The Kshatriya resents this right of the Brahmin. But he will not combine with the Vaishya or the Shudra and that is for two reasons. Firstly, because he is satisfied that if the Brahmin has the right to take the women of three communities, the Kshatriya has the right to appropriate the women of two communities. He does not suffer so much as the other two.

Secondly, if he joins in a general revolution against this marriage-inequity, in one way he will rise to the level of the Brahmin, but in another way all will be equal, which to him means that the Vaishyas and the Shudras will rise to his level i.e. they will claim Kshatriya women – which means he will fall to their level. Take any other inequity and think of a revolt against it. The same social psychology will show that a general rebellion against it is impossible.

One of the reasons why there has been no revolution against Brahmanism and its inequities is due entirely to the principle of graded inequality. It is a system of permitting a share in the spoils with a view to enlist them to support the spoil system. It is a system full of low cunning, which man could have invented to perpetuate inequity and to profit by it. For it is nothing else but inviting people to share on inequity in order that they may all be supporters of inequity.”

Author – Jayant Pathri

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