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Analyse the salience of ‘sect’ in Indian society vis-a-vis caste, region and religion. (250 words) [2022]


Introduction: In India, social stratification manifests prominently through ‘sect’, ‘caste’, ‘region’, and ‘religion’, creating complex layers of identity and affiliation. A ‘sect’ refers to a subgroup within a religion with distinct beliefs and practices.

  1. Sect and Religion:
    • Sects in India significantly influence the religious landscape, offering a variety of doctrines and rituals within larger religious groups.
    • Example: Within Hinduism, sects like Vaishnavism and Shaivism have distinct practices and deities, yet coexist harmoniously, indicating the flexibility within the religion.
  2. Sect and Caste:
    • The intersectionality of caste and sect often perpetuates socio-economic disparities. Certain sects are traditionally associated with specific castes, leading to further discrimination.
    • Example: Lingayats and Vokkaligas in Karnataka:
      • These two prominent sects in the state of Karnataka have significant influence on socio-political dynamics.
      • The identities of these sects are often intertwined with the caste system, affecting socio-economic hierarchies and political representation in the state.
      • The recent demand by Lingayats to be recognized as a separate religious entity further demonstrates the complexities around sect and caste.
  3. Sect and Region:
    • Sects are often geographically concentrated, influencing regional cultures, traditions, and practices.
    • Example: The dominance of Vaishnavism in the northeastern state of Manipur has significantly shaped the region’s cultural and social practices.

Analysis: The salience of ‘sect’ provides a nuanced understanding of Indian society, indicating the intricate overlap of religious, caste-based, and regional identities. While it brings diversity and individuality within the broader religious framework, the linkages of sect with caste and region can also accentuate social inequalities and segregation. Therefore, sect is a crucial unit of Indian social structure, demanding critical attention to address associated disparities and to promote social cohesion.

Conclusion: Recognizing the impact of ‘sect’ in Indian society vis-a-vis caste, region, and religion is vital to understand the intricate socio-cultural dynamics and work towards inclusive policies that respect diversity while minimizing associated social stratification.

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