Call For Papers-Conference on Caste System


“Na hi Jnanena Sadrsam – There is nothing equivalent to knowledge”

The Bhagavad Gita – IV.38

Varna, Jati and Kula

A Conference on India’s Caste System

Call for Papers

Conference Schedule: July 29th through 31st, 2011

Location: Radisson Hotel Piscataway-Somerset, New Jersey

21 Kingsbridge Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854


There is perhaps no other aspect of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, that elicits as much debate and controversy as the subject of India’s social order based on its ancient conceptions of Varna, Jati and Kula. Contemporary discussions of the subject tend to be extremely divisive to say the least, and can generate far more heat than light, especially when Hindus attempt to frame a representative narrative of the phenomenon.  The fact that much of this narrative has been generated by non-Indic scholarship in the past few centuries further vitiates our own understanding of this social order. The influence of Colonial scholarship on India is so pervasive that many well-meaning Hindus themselves tend to have a very distorted and incomplete view of this social order. Moreover there are many vested interests who have exploited the fissures that arise naturally within this social organization for multifarious personal ends, ranging from conversion of Hindus to other faiths, creation of political vote banks and other forms of personal advancement.  In recent years, Caste identities appear to be acquiring a renewed strength and vitality based on Caste based political mobilization and reservations. In the year 2011, the Census of India’s population will once again ask people their Caste affiliation – a question they had not asked for 80 years since 1931, thereby placing Caste at the center stage once more. At the same time, Governments of many countries stand ready to indict India and its society for what in their view is its continued practice of Caste based discrimination and perceived human rights violations.

In this background, it is very important that Hindus have a well-articulated position on this topic, developed on the basis of a broad consensus amongst the various constituents of Hindu Society, that can be used both as a foundation for internal dialogue and understanding as well as  for communication with the external world. While recognizing that building a consensus within Hindu society is as necessary as it is difficult, WAVES (World Association of Vedic Studies) would like to make a small beginning in this regard.

Recent History

At the 8th biennial WAVES conference held on August 4 through 7, 2010 at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the participants of the WAVES Conference recommended the need for a position paper, on the topic of Varna, Jati and Kula and constituted a committee to address this subject. On August 11, 2010 a group of ministers headed by the Finance Minister of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee recommended the inclusion of Caste in the decennial census in India. In September 2010, the Government of India cleared this Caste based census and decreed that it will be conducted during the months of June through September 2011.

A number of learned Acharyas and Gurus have called for observations and comments from a wide circle of credible voices from across the Hindu community, to build a consensus on the subject of Varna, Jati and Kula. The Board of Directors of WAVES decided in January 2011 to convene a Conference to facilitate this much needed discussion on Varna, Jati and Kula.


The objectives of this conference is to allow Academicians, Scholars, Activists, Community Leaders,  Field workers and, hopefully, various Gurus and Acharyas from a variety of sampradayas and paramparas (or their representatives) to participate together in a dialog on the subject of Varna, Jati and Kula – the constituents of what is termed as India’s Caste system. We acknowledge the inherent difficulty of any one individual, one group of people or one organization being able to produce a definitive view on the Caste system, which as an institution has survived perhaps more than five millennia in India, and encompasses a vast population of nearly a billion people across the length and breadth of India. Through papers and panel discussions, we anticipate that diverse views on the topic will be granted space for expression, which will represent an opportunity for learning and sharing for all who participate in this dialog. We expect that minimally, a compilation of the papers presented at the conference will be published and will represent resource material for the future. We anticipate that the conference will also lay the foundations for the synthesis of a more definitive policy paper that addresses the perceived and real issues of Caste and Caste based discrimination and its representation both within and outside the sphere of Hindu Society. We hope that such a policy paper will not only provide practical recommendations but will also gain the consensus of a broad variety of Hindu leaders and scholars, thus growing into a historic document for Hindu society itself.


Submissions of papers are invited from Academicians, Scholars, Acharyas and Gurus (or their representatives), Activists, Community Leaders and Field workers, Leaders of NGO’s working with under-privileged segments of society. A preliminary list of categories, (by no means exhaustive) in which papers are being sought is given below.

  1. Historical perspectives on Varna, Jati and Kula :

  • Origin and practice of the Varna, Jati and Kula system through India’s history

  • The major phases of development of the Varna, Jati and Kula system

  • Socio-economic and cultural values of the Varna, Jati and Kula system

  • Islamic Rule and its impact on the Varna, Jati and Kula system

  • British rule and its impact on the Varna, Jati and Kula

  • Bhakti and other Hindu reform movements and their impact on Varna, Jati and Kula

  • Buddhism and Jainism and their intersection with Varna, Jati and Kula

  • Post Independent India and Varna, Jati and Kula

  • Voices of Hindu spiritual and social leaders on the subject of Varna, Jati and Kula

  • Voices of foreigners on India’s social order through the ages

  • Colonial and European studies in Caste and their impact

  1. Scriptural – Shastra based perspectives on Varna, Jati and Kula :

  • Scriptural support from Shruti literature i.e. Veda and Upanishad on Varna and Jati
  • Smriti literature and their problems related to Varna and Jati
  • Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita on Varna and Jati
  • Other Shastras – Arthashastra, Nitishastra etc. on Varna and Jati
  • Distinctions and relations between Varna, Jati and Kula
  • Do Scriptures sanction Caste based discrimination and birth based hierarchies?
  • The role of Dharmashastras in today’s Hindu society

  1. Perspectives on Human Rights and Civil Rights :

  • History of human rights and civil rights
  • Is Caste a Human rights issue?
  • The problem of viewing Varna, Jati and Kula through a Western lens
  • Duties and Responsibilities versus Rights and Privileges
  • Human dignity and Human rights
  • Individual social mobility versus group social mobility
  • Current problems of Caste based discrimination and oppression
  • Lower Caste perspectives on Caste

  1. Politicization of Caste after India’s independence :

  • Empowerment of lower Castes
  • Lower Caste movements in India
  • Caste based politics and political formations
  • Regional stories on Caste based politics
  • Political parties and their exploitation of Caste
  • Caste based reservations and their impact
  • Reverse discrimination and its impact

  1. Geo-Political issues related to Caste :

  • HAF Caste report – Need, Approach, Impact, Value and Agenda
  • Representation of Caste to Western Society – Challenges and Opportunities
  • Is the US the best place to discuss Caste? Pros and Cons.
  • Earning a seat and joining the dialog on Caste – Pre-conditions and prospects
  • Exploitation of Caste issues through internationalization
  • US / Western interference into India’s internal affairs
  • Missionary propaganda, Conversion agenda and case studies in exploitation of Caste
  • Dalit movements within and outside Hinduism and their prospects

  1. Legal frameworks in India around Caste and Caste based discrimination :

  • Constitutional provisions to mitigate Caste based discrimination
  • Indian Constitution’s view of Varna, Jati, Kula and Caste
  • Studies and Commission reports instituted by the Government of India
  • State level provisions for affirmative action and Caste based reservations
  • Case studies in legal proceedings pertaining to Caste
  • Enforcement of the Law – Problems and Opportunities


  1. Caste as social capital :


  • Caste as a phenomenon that provides upward mobility
  • Climbing out of the economic hole – Case studies on Caste
  • Examples where Caste has played a positive role in recent times
  • Caste Identity – Pros and Cons
  • Caste as a Social Security – The role of family and Kula
  • Endogamy – Marriage within the Caste – Pros and Cons
  • Caste phenomena along the Urban – Rural divide in India


  1. Field experiences in working with Caste based discrimination :


  • Hindu attempts to intervene and mitigate Caste based fissures
  • Hindu Diaspora and Caste
  • Case studies in successful interventions – by various Hindu Groups
  • Acharyas and Gurus and their role in promoting field level activities
  • Challenges and opportunities in working in the field on Caste
  • Promotion of Inter-Caste marriages – challenges and opportunities
  • Marginalized sections of society and their prospects
  • Re-conversion into Hinduism and the Caste problem


  1. Caste and other religions :


  • Buddhism and Caste

  • Jainism and Caste

  • Sikshism and Caste

  • Islam and Caste

  • Christianity and Caste


  1. Formulation of a Policy Paper on Caste :


  • Problems and Issues with the HAF report

  • Outlines of a Process

  • Participants – Writers and Reviewers

  • Involvement of Acharyas and Gurus

  • Engaging the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha

  • Engaging Hindu organizations such as VHP, RSS and others

  • Engaging Political points of view – BJP and others

  • Peer Reviews by Academicians and Scholars


The following are expected from all Conference participants:

  1. A 1 Page abstract or synopsis of your paper (with a title)
  2. A brief bio-sketch with a front-facing digital picture
  3. A full paper (of maximum length 12 pages or 6000 words)
  4. A PowerPoint presentation (if presenting in person at the conference)




Line Item



Last Date for Submission of 1 Page Abstract

April 30th, 2011


Last Date for Submission of Full Paper – to be considered for inclusion in the Publication

May 31st, 2011


Last Date for Submission of Full Paper – if not being considered for inclusion in the publication

June 30th, 2011


Last Date for Confirmation of Participation (physically in the conference)

July 15th, 2011


Dates of the Conference in New Jersey July 29th, 30th and 31st, 2011


It is our intent to publish the papers in the form of a booklet prior to the commencement of the conference itself.  In order to ensure that your paper is published, please adhere strictly to this timeline. Papers submitted after May 31st will most likely not be in consideration for inclusion in the conference publication.


All Conference Participants are requested to submit their papers by May 31st, to ensure consideration for being printed in the Conference publication.

E-Mail all your submissions to the following address

[email protected]

Conference Agenda Committee


  1. Dr. Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Director, Center for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts

  2. Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, PhD, Director, Saraswati River Research Center, Chennai

  3. Ms. Aditi Banerjee, B.A., J.D, Attorney at Law and Author, New York

  4. Shri Kalyan Viswanathan, President, Sanatana Dharma Foundation, Dallas

  5. Shri Rajiv Malhotra, President, Infinity Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey

    1. World Association of Vedic Studies

    2. Sanatana Dharma Foundation

    3. All World Gayatri Parivar

  6. Conference Sponsoring Organizations

    Considering the historic nature of this conference, and its potential impact, WAVES invites Hindu organizations to participate in this conference by sponsoring it in some form. At the current time, the following organizations are behind this initiative.

    (Please visit


    Conference Location

    Radisson Hotel Piscataway-Somerset, New Jersey

    21 Kingsbridge Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854

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