ISSUE OF KEEPING CASTE NAME AS SURNAME
Author: VYDURYA SELVI B
The deep roots of the entire social justice system are choked with religions and castes. Even though the country is secular and adopts no religion, the socio-political stratification prevalent in the society is noxious to the people. Various anti-caste movements throughout the country have paved the way for the eradication of the caste system. But youngsters now have started to concern about their caste identity and keep their caste name as surname thinking it to be a method for modernization and a method of saving culture. This paper explains the pros and cons of various reasons for having the caste name as a surname in the Indian Caste System.
Caste System in India
India is a Secular State. The real meaning of secularism is ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’, meaning the country should treat all religions equally and respectfully. Insertion of ‘Secular’ into the Constitution was to remove the mysticism that is present in the society. Regardless of India being a secular country, the caste system in India is the perfect ethnographic example for Caste.
According to Vedic history, there were four classes of people. They were the Brahmins (priestly people), Kshatriyas (administrators, warriors), Vaishyas (farmers, traders, etc.,), and Shudras (labors for the other three classes). Because of urbanization and modernization, people started moving and settled in various places. People living in particular areas formed groups and gave them a new caste name. This gave birth to many caste names. The main classes were further divided into 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes based on various factors. Those who are not ‘included’ in the Hindu Caste System were considered to be the ‘untouchables’.
The members of a caste community will have their caste name as a surname. The practice of having the surname passed through generations. Having a surname became a symbol of domination and recognition. This was in practice for several years in the country. Upon congregation of similar castes together, the entire caste system was divided into two groups, the Brahmins (upper strata) and the non-Brahmins (lower strata). Domination of the upper castes over the lower castes reduced their chance to get into education, administration, and even obstructed their survival. Leaders all over the country started protesting against the domination of the Upper Castes. Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Periyar, Arignar Anna, are some leaders who rose against caste domination and untouchability. Periyar started the self-respect movement and it gained momentum in the southern part of the country. After the 1950s, some people in Tamil Nadu removed caste surnames from individual names.
Caste Name as Surname
Caste name is kept as a surname to show that they belong to a particular community. It has always been a sensitive issue. People who use this surname think caste names gave them some identity and pride. The senior-most members of a family had caste names as surnames, the upcoming generations followed the same practice. This system was regressive than being progressive in society. The concept of equality was gradually minimalizing. But here are some reasons why people preferred having caste names as surnames.
People see caste name as a brand for their family and community. Preservation of the family name and legacy is done through the broadcast of the caste name. It is to be noted that family names are names of an elderly person of a family put as the last name for the newborns. People have a misconception of keeping their caste name as a family name, which entirely deviated from the very idea of family names.
From my point of view, being born in a particular family is a genetic incident, it should not be considered as a fortune for belonging in a particular caste and is not a matter of pride.
A caste name is used to denote one’s identity and gives recognition. It removes the feeling of insecurity. The caste name of a person is used as a key to open a stage for various opportunities. Access within the community becomes wide and large. But, the upbringing of one community and its people has always suppressed another group of people. This is a result of lesser recognition for people from minority communities.
The caste surnames are the linking chains of the people in various organizations. Through the identification of caste names, people in the national or global organizations come together and form groups for sharing information. Using caste names helps them to find the right and eligible business persons within a limited network. Profit-making becomes easier, like-minded people think likely. Assurance and confidence with a known group of people are more. Matrimonial services have helped people to identify the desired person of their choice within their community.
The entry of people from other communities is restricted because of the connections within a particular community. Inter-caste marriages are opposed by ardent followers of the caste system. Discrimination cannot be eliminated with such a prevalent practice.
Even though the caste system in India shows the diversity of the country, in my opinion, the hypothesis of equality is destroyed by the tradition of having caste name as surnames. I personally feel that the eradication of the caste system is not possible as of now. Some activities which use caste names as a weapon to knock down the harmony of the people can be stopped. The dropping of surnames is one such small step that will bring in fairness, justice, and egalitarianism and it also restores the success of anti-caste movements.
 Dr. J. N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, Central Law Agency
 Casteism among Indians - https://scroll.in/global/970262/casteism-continues-to-thrive-among-indians-abroad-through-surnames
 Why don’t Tamil people have last names? - https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/why-dont-tamil-people-have-last-names-e68327e9444c
 Caste names - https://thewire.in/caste/dalit-brahmin-caste-names
 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35650616#:~:tex t=The%20caste%20system%20divides%20Hindus,the%20Hindu%20God%20of%20creation.
 S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 1918