Q1. What social ideas did the following people support?
Spread of Western education
Greater freedom and equality for women
Upliftment of widows
Campaigned against the practise of sati
Critical of caste inequalities
Supported widow remarriage
Education for girls
c) Veerasalingam Pantulu
Supported widow remarriage
Education for girls
Critical of the caste system
Critical of all forms of inequality
Critical of the treatment of upper-caste Hindu women and widows
Campaigned against caste and social inequalities
Critical of Hindu scriptures
Promoting women’s education
Supported widow remarriage
Education for girls
Q2. State whether true or false:
(a)When the British captured Bengal they framed many new laws to regulate the rules regarding marriage, adoption, inheritance or property, etc.True (b)Social reformers had to discard the ancient texts in order to argue for reform in social practises.False (c)Reformers got full support from all sections of the people of the country.False (d)The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1829.False Q3.How did the knowledge of ancient texts help the reformers promote new laws? Ans: The reformers believed that changes were necessary in society, and unjust practises needed to be done away with. They thought that the best way to ensure such changes was by persuading people to give up old practises and adopt a new way of life. Whenever they wished to challenge a practise that seemed harmful, they tried to find a verse or a sentence in the ancient sacred texts that supported their point of view. They then suggested that the practise as it existed was against early tradition. For example, Rammohun Roy used ancient texts to show that the practise of sati or widow burning had no sanction. Similarly, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar used ancient texts to suggest that widows could remarry.
Q4. What were the different reasons people had for not sending girls to school? Ans: The following were the different reasons people had for not sending girls to school. (a) They feared that schools would take girls away from home, thereby preventing them from doing their domestic duties. (b) They felt that travelling through public places in order to reach school would have a corrupting influence on girls. (c) They felt that girls should stay away from public spaces. Q5.Why were Christian missionaries attacked by many people in the country? Would some people have supported them too? If so, for what reasons? Like the reformers, the Christian missionaries too were involved in different reform activities. They set up schools for the underprivileged sections of society like the “lower”castes and tribal groups. They questioned the various social injustices. Like the reformers, they too were opposed by the various conservative sections of society. Their attempts at reformation would have been seen by many as an attempt to destabilise the existing Indian social order.
Their reform activities would also have been looked at with greater suspicion because of the close link between their religion and their actions. Many would have felt that at the heart of their actions was the agenda of religious conversion. So, the missionaries would naturally have been attacked by many people across the country. However, as in the case of the reformers, there would also have been many who would have supported the Christian missionaries and their activities. A majority of this support base would have consisted of those very people who benefited from the reform activities of the missionaries, such as the untouchables. Intellectuals and reformers who themselves were involved in various reform activities would also have supported the missionaries. Q6. In the British period, what new opportunities opened up for people who came from castes that were regarded as “low”? Ans: The British period saw the rise of the cities. Many of the poor living in the Indian villages and small towns at the time began leaving their villages and towns to look for jobs that were opening up in the cities. As the cities were growing, there was a great demand for labour—labour for digging drains, laying roads, constructing buildings, working in factories and municipalities, etc.
This demand for labour was met by the population migrating from the villages and towns. There was also the demand for labour in the various plantations, both within the country and abroad. The army too offered opportunities for employment. Many of these migrating people belonged to the low castes. For them, the cities and the plantations represented the opportunity to get away from the oppressive hold that upper-caste landowners exercised over their lives and the daily humiliation they suffered. Q7. How did Jyotirao and the reformers justify their criticism of caste inequality in society? Ans: The reformers questioned the brahmanical texts that supported the caste system and the inferiority of the so-called“low castes” and the superiority of the so-called “high castes”. They challenged the brahmanical claims to power and authority. Jyotirao Phule claimed that the lower castes were the true children of the land known as India. According to him, the Brahmins—who traced their genealogy back to the Aryans—were outsiders.
The upper castes had therefore no right to their land and power. Like Birsa Munda who envisioned a golden age free from diksusand all other forms of evil, Jyotirao Phule too believed in a golden age free from the Aryans and their ideas of caste. He also extended his criticism of the caste system and linked it with all other forms of inequalities and injustices prevalent not only in Indian society but also in Western society. A case in point is his linking of the miseries of the black slaves in America with those of the lower castes in India. Shri Narayana Guru, another reformer who criticised caste inequality in society, proclaimed the ideals of unity of all people within one sect, a single caste and one guru. Ambedkar criticised caste inequality on the basis of his belief that being a low caste did not imply that one was not a human being; all humans had the right to equality—whether they were men or women, high castes or low castes. E. V. Ramaswami Naicker (or Periyar) argued that the untouchables were in fact the true upholders of an original Tamil and Dravidian culture which had been subjugated by the Brahmin outsiders.
Like Jyotirao Phule, he too saw the Brahmins as having no claims to the power which they used for oppressing the lower castes. He pointed out that unlike what all religions would have one believe, social divisions and inequalities were not God-given. He urged the lower castes and the untouchables to free themselves from falsities that had been propagated for generations. Only then would social equality be achieved. He also criticised the Hindu scriptures by saying that these texts had been used for establishing the authority of the upper castes over the lower castes and the domination of men over women. Q8. Why did Phule dedicate his book Gulamgiri to the American movement to free slaves? Jyotirao Phule was concerned with all forms of inequalities and injustices existing in society—whether it was the plight of the upper-caste women, the miseries of the labourer, or the humiliation of the low castes. By dedicating his book Gulamgiri to the American movement to free slaves, he linked the conditions of the black slaves in America with those of the lower castes in India.
This comparison also contains an expression of hope that one day, like the end of slavery in America, there would be an end to all sorts of caste discriminations in Indian society. Q9. What did Ambedkar want to achieve through the temple entry movement? Ans: Lower castes were usually not allowed anywhere near temple gateways. During the temple entry movement initiated by Ambedkar in 1927, the lower caste people not only entered the temple premises but also used water from the temple tank, thereby causing great outrage among the Brahmin priests. Through this movement, Ambedkar wished to make everyone see the power of caste prejudice in society. He wanted to prove that being of a low caste did not mean that one was not a human being, so the sense of outrage was unwarranted. He wanted to show that like the upper castes, the lower castes too had every right to equality.
The ultimate aim of such movements was to reform Hindu society; to reorganise it on two main principles—equality and absence of casteism. Q10. Why were Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker critical of the national movement? Did their criticism help the national struggle in any way? Ans: BothJyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker were critical of the national movement as they could barely see any difference between the preachers of anti-colonialism and the colonial masters. Both, according to them, were outsiders and had used power for subjugating and oppressing the indigenous people. Phule believed that though the upper-caste leaders were then asking people all over the country to unite for fighting the British, once the Britishers had left, they would continue with their oppressive caste policies, thereby causing divisions amongst the very people they were trying to unite.
He believed that they only wished for unity to serve their purposes, and once the purposes had been served, the divisions would creep in again. Naicker’s experience in the Congress showed him that the national movement was not free from the taint of casteism. At a feast organised by nationalists, the seating arrangements followed caste distinctions, i.e., the lower castes were made to sit at a distance from the upper castes. This convinced him that the lower castes had to fight their battle themselves. Their criticism did lead to rethinking and some self criticism among the upper-caste nationalist leaders. This in turn helped strengthen the national struggle, as free from prejudices of caste, religion and gender, the leaders could unite and concentrate their attentions upon the single aim of overthrowing the colonial administration.