Hindu society is divided into four varna, or classes, a convention which had its origins in the Rig Veda, the first and most important set of hymns in Hindu scripture which dates back to 1500-1000 B.C. At the top of the hierarchy are the Brahmins, or priests, followed by the Kshatriyas, or warriors. The Vaisyas, the farmers and artisans, constitute the third class.
The division of Indian society into various castes, together with the practice of untouchability, and the geographic isolation of some tribal communities has meant that these communities have lagged behind others in terms of educational and occupational attainment, political participation and with regard to opportunities for social mobility.
There were many movements and governmental actions that took place pre- and post- independence in order to overcome and attempt to eliminate the inequalities and injustices associated with the caste system. During the national movement, Gandhi began using the term “Harijans” (God?s people) to refer to the untouchables in order to encourage a shift towards positive attitude towards the lower castes. B.R. Ambedkar campaigned for greater rights for Dalits in British India, and even after independence.
Article 341(1): The President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the casts, races or tribes or parts of or groups within casts, races or tribes which shall for the purpose of this Constitution be deemed to be Schedule Casts in relation to that State or Union Territory, as the case may be.
Article 341(2): Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Schedule Casts specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any casts, race or tribe or parts of or groups within casts, races or tribes but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification
Seats shall be reserved in the House of the People for — (a) the Scheduled Castes; (b) the Scheduled Tribes except the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam; and (c) the Scheduled Tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam. (2) The number of seats reserved in any State or Union territory for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes under clause shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats allotted to that State or Union territory in the House of the People as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the State or Union territory or of the Scheduled Tribes in the State or Union territory or part of the State or Union territory, as the case may be, in respect of which seats are so reserved, bears to the total population of the State or Union territory.
Article 16 of the constitution provides for equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state, i.e. No citizen shall on grounds only of religion, race, caste sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment of office under the State. While Clause (4-A) states that nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, which in the opinion of the State are not adequately represented in the service of the State.