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CASTE SYSTEM: A major hurdle for marriages in Kashmir

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By: Er.Ishfaq Khaliq

In Kashmir cast is termed as ‘Kram’ or ‘Zaat’ and there are different castes in Kashmir the origin of which is believed to have emerged from the medieval period when the population here was mostly a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism as well as Jainism. Later when the Islamic influences came here, a considerable portion of the population converted to Islam and, as a given in this monotheistic religion, caste was reduced to a mere identification mark as Islam advocated equality and denounced any sort of superiority on such basis.

It is believed that there are mainly three caste systems in Kashmir- the high cast, the occupational cast and the service cast. The high caste is the people having surnames as Shah, Syed, Bukhari, Andrabi, Geelani, Hamdani, Qadri. These are the castes which were not indigenous of Kashmir and belonged to the people who reached here from Middle East, Arab and central Asians countries for preaching Islam and while doing so settled here and became one with the local community. Castes including Wani, Zargar, Bhat, Naqash, Lone, Khanday, Rather etc were adopted by people based on their occupational nuances. The low casts are Hanjis, Waza, Gilkar, Sofi, Dobi, Ganie, Bangi, or Sheik these are generally people without a land and doing jobs that are very specific to them.

With the passing of time, the caste barriers were eradicated to a large extent mainly due to education and the jobs that were open for all. People from any cast could occupy lucrative posts despite being from any caste and this fact gradually proved good for social integration to some extent and inter caste marriage also became a very common thing. However, there are still great challenges in way of a complete social integration as a larger chunk of the population still thinks on old lines and considers castes to be a great factor in choosing to form relations.

Centuries on, the caste system is still one of the major hurdle in marriages in Kashmir and while many people who have crossed the age of marriage in Kashmir the reason for this delay is to keep the cast trend alive. It has also been observed that those belonging to so called occupational caste who have achieved a good financial position and got good job profiles are often considered for marriages without a hitch. But those who are living comfortably and are still associated with their parental occupations aren’t treated the same way. This is an irony that has led to a huge chasm in the process of social integration which needs to be bridged in order to ensure that our young marriageable populations aren’t left unattended.

The valley of Kashmir is predominantly Muslim and, although Islam is contradicting any type of caste system in marriages, yet there is little respite from the caste based discrimination. It is said in the holy Quran that “Indeed we have created you in pairs-  we created you all from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)

The verses answer the question as to why there are different tribes, why all people are not of the same color and why the world is not a single Nation. Allah answers it by directly addressing the humans saying. In the above mentioned verses the whole of mankind has been addressed to reform it of the great evil that has always been causing universal disruption in the world, that is, the prejudices due to race, color, language, country, and nationality.

Division of man into nations and tribes is also an expression of Allâh’s unique attribute who created an infinite number of people with distinct features extending from one soul. Allâh explained that these differences of color and language are a sign of ‘Allah’s greatness and power. The holy book says: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.” [Sûrah al-Rûm (30): 22]

So, the discrimination based on castes is not allowed in Islam. Unfortunately this discrimination has assumed the worst forms of hatred, enmity, contempt, and tyranny.  The only basis of superiority and excellence is that of moral excellence. The real thing that makes one person superior to others is that one should be more God-conscious, a greater avoider of evils and a follower of the way of piety and righteousness. Such a person, whether he belongs to any race, any nation and any country is valuable and worthy on account of these merits. And the one who is reverse of him in character is, in any case, an inferior person whether he is black or white, Syed, Andrabi, Bukhari, Bhat, Rather, Ganie, born in the east or the west all are equal before Allah.        

The writer is a  Sr.Engineer with ANAF.PVT.LTD

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