SRINAGAR: The ‘Indian Human Development Survey-II’ has reported that 35 percent of marriages in Jammu & Kashmir are inter-caste. However, the survey is being questioned by some Kashmiris on the grounds that the Indian system of caste does not exist in Kashmir.
Conducted by the Delhi-based National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in collaboration with the University of Maryland, the IHDS-II has “A representative sample of 41,554 households spread across 29 states and union territories, in rural and urban India.”
The survey report published by NCAER says that Mizoram, where 87 percent of the population is Christian, has the most inter-caste marriages in India, a nation where 95 percent of Indians marry within their caste.
Meghalaya and Sikkim followed Mizoram with 46 percent and 38 percent, respectively. The three northeastern states were followed by Muslim-dominated Jammu & Kashmir (35 percent) and Hindu-dominated Gujarat (13 percent). The IHDS-II survey was conducted between 2011 and 2012.
These data appear to belie the perception that with modernity and economic progress, traditional barriers of caste have broken down. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir, however, experts say that the survey has misunderstood caste.
Basharat Hassan, a student of sociology and anthropology based in New Delhi, said the survey had uncritically applied the Indian system of caste to J&K. “In India, people are born into their caste. They cannot change it. But in Kashmir, castes are based on profession and there are no Brahmins and Shudras as in India. Using the same yardstick for J&K is not justified,” Hassan said.
When Kashmir Reader spoke to Kashmiri people about the prevalence of inter-caste marriages, eight of the 10 respondents said that the figure could be higher than 35 percent.
“As love marriages are common these days and money plays a more important role than before, I think that there may be more inter-caste marriages than the survey indicates,” Rafia Nazir, a respondent, said.
The IHDS-II survey also found that only one in four respondents knew of people in an inter-caste marriage. In rural areas, only 27 percent of respondents said they knew people who had married outside their caste. In cities, this number was 36 percent.
Sonalde Desai, senior fellow at NCAER and professor of sociology at University of Maryland, said, “I am surprised that only one in four individuals knows someone in an inter-caste marriage. Knowing someone, particularly someone who has engaged in “unusual” behaviour, like inter-caste marriage, is always going to be higher than one doing it oneself.”
The survey says that in a marriage where both partners are working, the husband and wife often tend to be engaged in similar occupations but the pattern is not similar in terms of education.
The report reads: “There is some positive correlation—people with more years of education tend to marry a more educated person. But often, the educational qualification is not similar for both partners. There is a pattern which shows that women tend to “marry up”. In other words, the education level of the husband tends to be higher than the education level of the woman. This trend seems to have persisted across generations.”