No, I do not think so, Why? Because the caste system was not so oppressive as is being made out. Let us see what A.L. Basham has to say on the matter.
He says: ?In no other part of the world were the relations of man and man and of a man and the state as fair and humane? as in India. (The wonder that was India). He was perhaps comparing the lot of the Scheduled Castes in India with the lot of the slaves in Greece and Rome.
It is, therefore, wrong to say that the caste system was responsible for the defeat of the Hindus at the hands of the Muslim invaders. There is no evidence that the Scheduled Castes were ready to join hands with the invaders against their so-called ?tormentors?.
It is also wrong to say that Vaishyas and Shudras did not take part in battles. They did. Vastupala, the great warrior under the Chalukya king Lavanaprasada, declares with great pride: ?It is a delusion to think that the Kshatriyas alone can fight and not vaniks (merchants). Did not Ambada, a vanik kill Mallikarjuna, the warrior, in battle? I, a vanik, am as well known in the shops as in the battlefield.? (Art of War in Ancient India by Prof. P.C. Chakravarty)
The Kashmiri and Hoyasala (Mysore) kings recruited Shudras for their armies. Shudras could attain imperial positions under the Rajput rulers. The ruler of Sind during the visit of Juan Chwang, the Chinese pilgrim, was a Shudra. The Nandas were Shudras.
And in order to protect Hinduism and the Hindu society, Shankara created ten Saiva acetic orders, made up largely of Shudra recruits. He also freed these para-military forces from the caste system.
What can we infer from all these? We can infer that the Vaishyas and Shudras had not accepted the caste system, that they were as good fighters as the Kshatriyas, that the kings had no objection to the recruitment of Shudras as soldiers, that Shankara did not believe in the caste system, that the orders he created had no caste.
Not only these. The lower orders of Hindu society could hold high positions in the state. Thus, Kumarapala, the Chalukya king, appointed Sajjana as governor of Chittor, He was a potter. It is such recognition of their worth that kept the Shudras within the Hindu fold. Jawaharlal Nehru said that the caste system was flexible before the Muslim advent, which is why it was bearable.
There is an impression that the caste system was deeply entrenched all over India. Not true. It was prevalent only in some parts of the country. Thus, it had no deep roots in the South, in Sind, Magadha and Anga. In Kerala, the entire army was made up of the so-called Shudras. The Himalayan territory was mlecha region.
The ultimate damage of the caste system, says Nehru, was what it did to the self -respect of the lower orders of Hindu society. It degraded a mass of human beings and gave them no opportunity to get out of their predicament. This feeling of degradation might have warped their outlook and their willingness to fight for their country. But we can only speculate on these matters.
It is time to ask the question: did caste cause our defeat? I believe caste was only a marginal factor. It was not for want of brave men that the Hindus got defeated. It was not even because the Muslims were superior. It was because, for the first time, the Hindus, a highly civilised people were facing a barbarous enemy who had no rules of war and were prepared to take to unheard of brutalities.
Thus, we have Haajaj, the governor of Iraq, exhorting bin Qasim to follow the injunction of Allah in the Quran (47.4) that is to strike off the head of any infidel. No wonder, when Debal, capital of Sind, fell to bin Qasim, he ordered the massacre of the entire population. The killing went on for three full days. And the loot went on for even longer.
Serge Trifkovic writes (The Sword of the Prophet): ?The massacres perpetrated by Muslims in India are without parallel in history.? This is confirmed by Ziyauddin Burani, a contemporary of Khusrau. He says that ?wars against Hindus were not ordinary wars. They were massacres of extermination.? There are many such instances.
Amir Khusrau writes: Had not the Shariah granted exemption from death by payment of the poll tax (Jaziya), ?the very name of Hind, root and brach, would have been extinguished.?
And Al-Biruni himself writes that the invasions of Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country. ?The Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions.? The invaders singled out the Rajputs and their families for massacre. This must have demoralised the Rajputs.
Remember, dear Reader, during the Second World War, the Japanese, surrendered to the Allies, although they were far more superior to the American men. Why did they do it? Because the ruthless Americans were ready to exterminate the Japanese.
The Hindus were in a similar plight. They were face to face with an enemy who observed no rules of war, who were determined to exterminate the Hindus. Resistance would have brought extermination.
I think it was this dilemma which forced the collapse of the Hindu resistance. Not because of caste factors. (But I am not making any ?final statement?)