NCERT Extracts - Women, Caste and Reform
Category : UPSC
Women, Caste and Reform
- From the early twentieth century, Muslim women like the Begums of Bhopal played a notable role in promoting education among women.
- Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain started schools for Muslim girls in Patna and
- Tarabai Shinde, a woman educated at home at Poona, published a book, tripurushtulna, (A Comparison between Women and Men), criticising the social ifferences between men and women.
- Pandita Ramabai. a great scholar of Sanskrit, felt that Hinduism was oppressive towards women, and wrote a book about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women,
- She founded a widow’s home at Poooa to provide shelter to widows who had been treated badly by their husband’s relatives. Here women were trained so that they could support themselves economically.
Demands for equality and justice
- 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.
- In what is present-day Kerala, a guru from Ezhava caster, Shrri Narayana Guru, roclaimed the ideals of unity for his people.
- According to him. all humankind belonged to the same caste. One of his famous statements. was : "one caste, one religion, one god for humankind"
- One of the most vocal amongst the "low-caste” leaders was Jyotirao Phute
- Born in 1827, he studied in schools set up by Christian missionaries. On growing up he developed his own ideas about the injustices of caste society.
- He set out to attack the Brahman's claim that they were superior to others, since they wore Aryans.
- Phule argued that the Aryans were foreigners, who came from outside Ac subcontinent and defeated and subjugated the (me children of the country
- According to Phule., the “upper” castes had no right to their land and power: in reality, the land belonged to indigenous people, die so-called low castes.
- Phule claimed dial before Aryan rule there existed a golden age when warrior-peasants tilled the land and ruled the Maratha countryside in just and fair ways.
- The Satyashodhak Samaj, an association Phule founded, propagated caste equality.
- In 1873, Phule wrote a book named Gulamgiri, meaning slavery. Some ten years before this, the American Civil War had been fought, leading to the end of slavery in America.
- Phule dedicated his book to all those Americans who had fought, to free slaves, thus establishing a link between the conditions of the "lower" castes in India and the black slaves in America.
Who could enter temples?
- Ambedkar was born into a Mahar family. As a child he experienced what caste prejudice meant in everyday life.
- In school he was forced to sit outside the classroom on the ground, and was not allowed to drink water from taps that upper-caste children used.
- After finishing school, he got a fellowship to go to the US for higher studies.
- In 1927, Ambedkar started a temple entry movement, in which his Mahar caste followers participated. Brahman priests were outraged when the Dalits used water from the temple tank.
The Non-Brahman Movement
- V. Ramaswamy Naicker, or Periyar, as he was called, came from a middle-class family.
- Convinced 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.
- Periyar was an outspoken critic of Hindu scriptures, especially the Codes of Manu, the ancient lawgiver, and the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana.
- He said that these texts had been used to establish the authority of Brahmans over lower castes and the domination of men over women.
Some Important Facts
- Madigas were an important untouchable caste of present-day Andhra Pradesh. They were experts at cleaning hides, tanning them for use, and sewing sandals.