A sea-change has taken place in society, according to one perception. 'Nothing much has changed', is another viewpoint. That difference and debate on the issue are quite fascinating. Anthropologist Dr. P.K. Misra presented his analysis in his talk on the topic 'Living on a revolution in Indian society'? In the monthly lecture programme sponsored by Rangsons Group in Ranga Jnana Vinimaya Kendra on Vani Vilas Road, Mysore, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2004. Highlights are published here. — Ed.
Indian scenario represented by society nowadays is quite different from what it was before independence in many ways. Discrimination among people on the basis of class and caste have led to ill feelings. The wounds are perhaps healed, but the scars persist.
It is neither easy nor right to make any generalisations about India because of wide diversity of its people and their culture. Travel across the country provides an excellent means of educating oneself about the people of India and their life.
India's history is long and piquant. It has been distorted by many. We still seem to live in our history.
Evaluation of value system in a society is often done by the factors of good, bad, auspicious, happy or otherwise. Quite often the factor of manners displayed towards one another becomes the tool of evaluation. We always hear that the value systems have changed.
The foremost harbinger of change in our value system was adopting of the egalitarian Constitution, guaranteeing equality and adult franchise, forcing the people's representatives to go to them with folded hands once every five years. Reservation for jobs, school admissions and seats in the Assemblies of States, Parliament and Panchayats not only set apart a place for the backward classes but also enlarged the social base of the country.
Joint family system has virtually disappeared. Marriage age of girls, literacy, life expectancy have risen. The housewife is a virtual dynamo in the family. The child is more computer-literate than adults in the family.
Landlordism that prevailed all over the country was got rid of by land reforms, bringing to end the exploitation of the client by the patrons.
In certain pockets, movements were launched to protest the discrimination based on castes. Development activities were undertaken towards providing shelter for the economically weaker sections, education for all and healthcare measures.
Tremendous manpower with higher learning is now available. Advances have been made in communication and transport making connectivity among people and networking of regions quite easy. Structural changes are taking place resulting in much churning, raising the aspiration level of the people at large.
Some sort of hostility, openly in some pockets, has emerged between the erstwhile exploiting and the exploited. Traditional occupations of the rural populations have either disappeared or moved to urban areas, leading to large scale migration. Tension in society is also coming to the forefront.
Loyalty, submission, respectful behaviour towards the male head of the family have diminished. He is challenged for his viewpoint about life and all issues. Decision-making has become more consultative, with women exerting influence. Men have accepted women as bosses.
Network of relationships on the lines of the joint family system continues during special events such as wedding, religious functions and death ceremonies. These relationships reflect caste loyalties. Marriages are mostly settled on caste basis everywhere in India. They are also performed as per tradition.
Dowry — both giving and receiving — is rampant, across all communities and religions. It is even blessed by the clergy in some religions. Begetting of sons is still considered important.
Millions of people are still below poverty line. Gap between the rich and the poor has become enormous. Exploitation is unabated but disguised. The factor of caste has remained alive and is in its new avataar. The concept of inequality pervades. Inter-caste differences have led to exclusiveness in society. Even those who belong to weaker sections have not accepted the concept of equality.
Unless the value of inequality based on class and caste is frontally attacked, the Indian social revolution will not be complete. One of the reasons for that not to happen is adherence to rituals, tied down to the caste system. This, in spite of tremendous changes that have taken place in Indian society.