ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mobility through Sanskritisation

An Apparent Phenomenon?

Mobility through sanskritisation in a caste context generates social friction. Lest its mobility endeavour turns out to be a superficial course of action, a mobilising caste will not remain content with mere emulation but will question the superiority of the upper castes. The main barriers on the path of mobility chosen by the lower castes are endogamy and hierarchy which are the essence of caste.

Some arguments, because of their continuing relevance, have been derived from my PhD thesis entitled “The Politics of Socio-Economic Inequality: The Riddle of Untouchables in Belgaum District” submitted to Karnataka University, Dharwad, for award of PhD degree in 1988.

The mobility processes that occur in the Western world often effect real changes since the assimilative propensities tend to be strong due to the absence of bias in recognising the newly earned privileges of the historically subjugated groups. In India, however, the inbuilt caste prejudices and biases tend to devalue and degrade the achievements of the lower segments of the society leading to the loss of their integration and forced segregation. Under such circumstances, any process of mobility attempted through the given framework, at least from the viewpoint of the lower and the backward castes turns out to be more futile than successful. The logic of the process of sanskritisation has been revisited here so as to ascertain its veracity with specific reference to some lower castes vis-à-vis the middle castes and the higher castes.

At the outset, one needs to adopt certain criteria to qualify the authenticity of mobility deemed to be achieved due to sanskritisation in terms of its actual realisation by the castes in the context. The first criteria could be assimilation whereby the low castes should feel that their changed status position is valued and acknowledged as distinct from their earlier backgrounds. It means that a change in identity of the mobilising caste should receive identification in the wider context of caste, otherwise it is likely to lose its practical worth thus making no real difference for the mobilising caste. And, of course, as a backing factor for this, another criteria should be to see whether the castes being emulated become flexible and shed their conservative character which is essentially innate to the system of caste hierarchy as a whole.

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