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P. Singh implemented these recommendations, protests broke out all over India, especially in the north, leading to "unprecedented levels of caste polarization for and against reservation" (Pankaj 2007, 341). Protesters blocked roads, marched in processions, closed businesses, and clashed with opponents. One dramatic protest mode that caught the media's attention was self-immolation, as several Forward Caste students doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire. With as much as 50 percent of university 73 CONCLUSION W hat is caste?
Her son overhears this conversation and provides an economic explanation for caste. The truth is that people from the village don't want us to rise up and be educated like them. Why? Because if we manage to own a bit of land . . then they won't be respected [by us] anymore, they won't find manual labor at a cheap price, they'll have no more serfs. That's what they're afraid of! That's why they insist on the old rules: I should always be half naked in front of them, I should speak to them with my arms crossed, I shouldn't wear my [waist cloth] hanging down to the ground, I shouldn't walk in front of them or dress like them!
Right action was what mattered, not right caste. Yet, among both Buddhists and Jains, caste distinctions did have and continue to have relevance. Jains today, for example, will marry only within their own caste, they organize their temples and religious institutions around caste, and they recognize caste rankings that, as Lawrence Babb (2006) writes, both mirror and overlap local Hindu caste distinctions. Many Jains actually consider themselves to be Hindu and of the Vaisya varna} Buddhism, which declined in India around the twelfth century CE only to enjoy a small nineteenthand twentieth-century revival, also has some association with caste, though 67 differently then than now.
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