Caste and Reform
Q34. 'Movements were organised by people from within the lower
castes against caste discrimination'. Explain.
Give a brief description of movements that were organised by
people from within the lower castes against caste discrimination.
Ans. Gradually, by the second half of the
nineteenth century, people from within the Non-Brahman castes began organising
movements against caste discrimination, and demanded social equality and
justice. The Satnami movement in Central India was founded by
Ghasidas who worked among the leatherworkers and organised a movement to
improve their social status. In eastern Bengal, Haridas Thakur’s Matua sect
worked among Chandala cultivators. Haridas questioned Brahmanical texts that
supported the caste system. In what is present-day Kerala, a guru from Ezhava
caste, Shri Narayana Guru, proclaimed the ideals of unity for his people. He
argued against treating people unequally on the basis of caste differences.
Q35. Why were changes necessary in Indian society?
Indian society had been a
prey to many evil practices for long time. Some were:
Most children were married off at an early
age. Both Hindu and Muslim men could marry more than one wife.
In some parts of the country, widows were
praised if they chose death by burning themselves on the funeral pyre of their
Women’s rights to property were also
Besides, most women had virtually no access
In most regions, people were divided along
lines of caste. Brahmans and Kshatriyas considered themselves as “upper
above mention social customs and practices made the changes necessary in Indian
Q36. How did women involve themselves in their upliftment?
Ans. By the
1880s, Indian women began to enter universities. Some of them trained to be
doctors, some became teachers. Many women began to write and publish their
critical views on the place of women in society. Tarabai Shinde, a woman
educated at home at Poona, published a book, Stripurushtulna, criticizing the
social differences between men and women.
Ramabai founded a widows’ home at Poona to provide shelter to widows who had
been treated badly by their husbands’ relatives. By the end of the
nineteenth century, women themselves were actively working for reform. They
wrote books, edited magazines, founded schools and training centres, and set up
women’s associations. From the early twentieth century, they
formed political pressure groups to push through laws for female suffrage (the
right to vote) and better health care and education for women.
Q37. Who was E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker? What did he do to improve
the condition of untouchables?
Ans. E.V. Ramaswamy
Naicker, or Periyar, as he was called, came from a middle-class family. Interestingly,
he had been an ascetic in his early life and had studied Sanskrit scriptures
carefully. Later, he became a member of the Congress, only to leave it in
disgust when he found that at a feast organised by nationalists, seating
arrangements followed caste distinctions – that is, the lower castes were made
to sit at a distance from the upper castes.
that untouchables had to fight for their dignity, Periyar founded the Self
Respect Movement. He argued that untouchables were the true upholders of an
original Tamil and Dravidian culture which had been subjugated by Brahmans. He
felt that all religious authorities saw social divisions and inequality as
God-given. Untouchables had to free themselves, therefore, from all religions
in order to achieve social equality.
Q38. Why were Christian missionaries attacked by many people in
the country? Would some people have supported them too? If so, for what reasons?
Ans. Christian missionaries began setting up schools
for tribal groups and “lower”-caste children. They were also involved in reform
activities as they denounced caste system, sati and advocated education of
girls. They were opposed by the orthodox section of the society as they
believed that they were trying to interfere in their religious matters. Many
people also believed that the ultimate motive of the Christian missionaries was
to convert the people into Christianity. Thus, they were attacked mainly by
conservative section of people in the society.
missionaries were supported by many progressive Indians like the reformers and
the intellectuals who wanted the Indian society to reform. Many people who had
benefitted from the reform activities of the missionaries like the people belonging
to various tribes and lower castes also supported them.
Q39. Why were Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker critical of the
national movement? Did their criticism help the national struggle in any way?
Ans. Both Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker were
critical of the national movement. Phule believed that mostly the upper caste
leaders were involved in the nationalist movement against the British. He
believed that once the British would leave, the people of upper caste would
again use their power and authority oppress and subjugate the people belonging
to lower castes. This would result in division amongst the people.
had joined Congress early in his years. He gradually realised that even
Congress was not free from the evil practice of casteism. When a feast was
organised by the nationalists within the party, different seating arrangements
were made for the people of upper and lower castes. This made Naicker to
believe that the lower castes have to fight their own battle.
criticisms did help in the nationalist movement. The forceful
speeches, writings and movements of lowercaste leaders did lead to rethinking
and some selfcriticism among upper-caste nationalist leaders.
Q40. Write a short note on the following: The Brahmo Samaj, Derozio and Young Bengal, The Ramakrishna
Mission and Vivekananda, The Prarthana Samaj, The Veda Samaj, The Aligarh
Movement, The Singh Sabha Movement
Brahmo Samaj - The Brahmo Samaj, formed in 1830, prohibited all forms of
idolatry and sacrifice, believed in the Upanishads, and forbade its members
from criticising other religious practices. It critically drew upon the ideals
of religions – especially of Hinduism and Christianity – looking at their
negative and positive dimensions.
and Young Bengal - Henry
Louis Vivian Derozio, a teacher at Hindu College, Calcutta, in the 1820s, promoted
radical ideas and encouraged his pupils to question all authority. Referred to
as the Young Bengal Movement, his students attacked tradition and custom, demanded
education for women and campaigned for the freedom of thought and expression.
Ramakrishna Mission and Vivekananda - Named after Ramakrishna
Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda’s guru, the Ramakrishna Mission stressed the
ideal of salvation through social service and selfless action.
Prarthana Samaj - Established in 1867 at Bombay, the Prarthana
Samaj sought to remove caste restrictions, abolish child marriage, encourage
the education of women, and end the ban on widow remarriage. Its religious meetings
drew upon Hindu, Buddhist and Christian texts.
Veda Samaj - Established in Madras (Chennai) in 1864, the Veda
Samaj was inspired by the Brahmo Samaj. It worked to abolish caste distinctions
and promote widow remarriage and women’s education. Its members believed in one
God. They condemned the superstitions and rituals of orthodox Hinduism.
Aligarh Movement - The Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College,
founded by Sayyid Ahmed Khan in 1875 at Aligarh, later became the Aligarh
Muslim University. The institution offered modern education, including Western
science, to Muslims. The Aligarh Movement, as it was known, had an enormous
impact in the area of educational reform.
Singh Sabha Movement - Reform organisations of the Sikhs, the
first Singh Sabhas were formed at Amritsar in 1873 and at Lahore in 1879. The
Sabhas sought to rid Sikhism of superstitions, caste distinctions and practices
seen by them as non-Sikh. They promoted education among the Sikhs, often
combining modern instruction with Sikh teachings.