Data points, while incredibly useful, may hide social facts or value driven choices.
The data collection process involved asking female respondents whether their natal family belongs to same caste as their husband's family. Based on this survey, it was concluded that as per the sample, only 5% inter caste marriages. Such a questionnaire unfortunately conceals individual choices in personal matters.
What should be the ideal percentage of people opting for inter caste marriages? 10%? 50%? 100%? We don't even know what number to target. It may be such that in a hypothetical and ideal non biased world, the percentage of inter caste couples are 30%. The other 70% chose to marry within their caste by their independent decision and not due to rigid caste based liabilities.
But, what exactly is that magic number? We sadly don't know.
These statistics are useful majorly for comparisons. In this case, the previous similar study a decade back also reported approximately 5% inter caste marriage rates. However, sensationalization and high stress on consolidated indicators lead the masses into a race to blindly shoot up the statistics.
People may very well choose to marry within their caste. Not beacuse they have resentment for other castes, but because they prefer living with a person of culturally similar background. It might so happen that the person they fell in love with happened to be of a similar caste. Or it may be that when looking for a spouse, they didn't look beyond their caste for no specific negative reason.
It will make more sense to know the incidence of failed inter caste marriages (or attempts for such). The threat isn't exactly from the 5% figure. Rather, the stress should be on protecting couples who want to opt for inter caste marriages. There is unreasonably high prevalence of violence against inter caste couples.3 Awareness and open mindedness doesn't help if the result of their actions leads to brutal backlash. Enforcing strict rules against such perpetrators will make inter caste couples feel safer in their act.
Here's my idea of a survey - asking people whether in the past they wanted to go for an inter caste marriage. Then note down the percentage that decided against it due to familial or societal restrictions. That should serve more value in my opinion. In such a survey, we can objectively claim that a higher statistic correlates with better outcomes. A 100% outcome will be considered ideal. It gives us a direction and goal to aim at.
Urbanization and shift into the modern lifestyle has been a driving force for changing caste related practices. However, the perpetuation takes new forms. Brahmin Matrimony4 is a website which does exactly what the name says - finding a match with the Brahmin filter. As if the parent company knew what it was getting up to, they omitted Brahmin Matrimony on their homepage5, even though they mention their other matrimonial sites. These services have more such filters and make it easier to carry on the structures which we supposedly aim to leave behind.
It is difficult moulding a person's beliefs once they're solidified. If caste based filtering in the real world gets discouraged, the practice will very well be continued via internet matrimonial sites.
What seems to be practical and objectively directed towards a positive goal is to provide a safe environment for people who want to opt for inter caste marriages. Let the practice spread naturally and allow the incidence of inter caste marriages to organically reach the stable point.
Just 5% of Indian marriages are inter-caste: survey - link
For the uninitiated, caste is a descent based hereditary and closed social stratification system common in India. There are many attributes and outcomes related to caste, but for the context of this post, it suffices to know that caste is an endogamous group i.e. a person shall typically marry someone from the same caste. This strengthens social divisions as caste divisions are also related to exploitation, status etc.
A simple web search will yield many reports like this one: Brutal Attack on Dalit Woman and Mother After Inter-Caste Marriage
Brahmin Matrimony: website link
Matrimony.com: website link