CASTE AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AMONG MUSLIMS IN INDIA
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The presence of caste among Muslims in India has been recognised for a long time but the subject has so far been dicussed almost exclusively on the basis of data contained in the decennial censues and reports of British administrative officials. There have been few empirical studies on the subject. This collection, the first of a four-volume series of books on the social and cultural life of Muslims in India, for the first time brings together empirical studies of caste among Muslims in different parts of the country.
The focus of the papers is on internal as well external aspects of castes. The authors discuss the features generally associated with the caste system among the groups studied as well as analyse their traditional association with a particular occupation, ritual and economic obligations, mechanism of dispute settlement, and the nature of relationship between the group and the individual.
The papers dealing with inter-caste relations focus on hierarchical grading, since hierarchy is regarded as one of the salient features of a castes living in a particular locality are taken up with the intention of analysing the interactional behaviour of the various groups and studying the principles of social ranking among them. Both the aspects of caste are discussed against the background of the contraditions between Koranic injuctions against any kind of status differentiations and the realities of living in a stratified society.
Imtiaz Ahmad is former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.