The humanistic ideals of social equality and the equal worth of all individuals which inspired the newly educated middle class had a major impact on the field of social reform. The social reform movements formed an integral part of the religious reforms as many evil practices claim legitimacy from religion. In later years though, the social reform movement gradually dissociated itself from religion and, adopted a secular approach. Also social reform movements were limited to upper and middle classes but it later penetrated into lower strata too. Generally social reform movements had two fold objectives i) For the upliftment of status of women and children ii) Removal of disabilities imposed based on caste.

  •  Vidyasagar's ideas were a happy blend of Indian and western thought. He believed in high moral values, was a deep humanist and was generous to the poor. In 1850, he became the principal of Sanskrit College. 
  •  He was determined to break the priestly monopoly of scriptural knowledge, and for this he opened the Sanskrit College to non-brahmins. He introduced western thought in Sanskrit College. 
  • Vidyasagar championed the uplift of the status of women in India, particularly in his native Bengal. With support from people like Akshay Kumar Dutta, Vidyasagar introduced the practice of widow remarriages to mainstream Hindu society. He persuaded the British Government to take action and pushed for it to pass The Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, 1856.
  •  He was also a crusader against child marriage and polygamy. 
  • As secretary of Bethune School (established in 1849), he was one of the pioneers of higher education for women in India .

  •  Henry Vivian Derozio was the founder of the Young Bengal Movement. He was born in Calcutta in 1809 and taught in the Hindu College, Calcutta 
  •  He organised debates where ideas and social norms were freely debated. In 1828, he motivated them to form a literary and debating club called the Academic Association. 
  •  Due to his unorthodox (legendarily free) views on society, culture and religion, the Hindu-dominated management committee of the college, under the chairmanship of Radhakanta Deb, expelled him as a faculty member. 
  •  He died of cholera in 1833. His followers were known as the Derozians and their movement the Young Bengal Movement. They attacked old traditions and decadent customs. 
  •  advocated women’s rights and their education. They founded associations and organized debates against idol worship, casteism and superstitions. 

  •  Jyotiba Phule belonged to the Mali (gardener) community and organized a powerful movement against upper caste domination and brahminical supremacy. 
  •  Phule founded the Satyashodhak Samaj (Truth Seekers' Society) in 1873, with the leadership of the Samaj coming from the backward classes, Malis, Telis, Kunbis, Saris and Dhangars. The main aims of the movement were (i) social service, and (ii) spread of education among women and lower caste people. Phule's works, SarvajanikSatyadharma and Gulamgiri, became sources of inspiration for the common masses. 
  •  Phule was bestowed with the title of Mahatma on 11 May 1888 by another social reformer from Bombay, Vithal Rao KrishnajiVandekar. 
  •  Phule used the symbol of Rajah Bali as opposed to the, brahmins' symbol of Rama. He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women's education in India; couple started the first indigenously-run school for girls in Pune in 1848. 
  •  He championed widow remarriage and started a home for pregnant Brahmin widows to give birth in a safe and secure place in 1863. 

  • Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956),was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist Movement and campaigned against social discrimination against Untouchables , while also supporting the rights of women and labour. 
  • Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar (dalit). In 1913, Ambedkar moved to the United States at the age of 22. He presented a thesis, Ancient Indian Commerce. In 1916 he completed his second thesis, National Dividend of India — A Historic and Analytical Study.. In Bombay, he formed a Bahiskrit Hitkarini Sabha in July 1924 for the welfare of the outcastes. Later, he also organized the Akhil Bharatiya Dalit Varg Sabha to fight against caste oppression.
  • Satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town. In 1920, Ambedkar had also started a weekly paper called ‘Mooknayak‘(Leader of the Dumb) to champion the cause of the depressed classes in India. In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar publicly condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmriti for justifying caste discrimination and publicly burned copies of the ancient text.
  • He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the all-European Simon Commission in 1925. This commission had sparked great protests across India, and while its report was ignored by most Indians, Ambedkar himself wrote a separate set of recommendations for the future Constitution of India. The depressed classes were represented by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar at the First Round Table Conference. 
  • Ambedkar formed the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in August, 1936, which participated in the provincial elections of Bombay and won 13 seats out of 15 seats reserved for scheduled castes. Independent Labour Party was transformed by Ambedkar as the All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1942.
  • Ambedkar was first elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bengal but he lost his seat after the partition. However, he was chosen by the Bombay Congress Legislative Party in place of M.R. Jaykar who resigned earlier. Ambedkar was elected as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. He is called the father of the Indian Constitution.
SNDP movement was an example of a regional movement born out of conflict between the depressed classes and upper non-Brahmin castes. It was started by Sri Narayana Guru Swamy among the Ezhavas of Kerala, who were a caste of toddy-tappers and were considered to be untouchables. The movement as a whole brought transformative structural changes such as upward social mobility, shift in traditional distribution of power .
Lot of work in this direction had already been done by Shri Narayan Guru & N. Kumaran Asan Social reformer T.K Madhavan took up the issue, Vaikom in northern part of Travancore became centre of agitation Gandhi undertook a tour of kerla in support of the movement
This movement in Madras Presidency was started by C.N. Mudaliar, T.M. Nair and P. Tyagaraja to secure jobs and representation for the non-brahmins in the legislature In 1917, Madras Presidency Association was formed which demanded separate representation for the lower castes in the legislature.
Mir Nithar Ali (TituMir) disciple of Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi organized Muslim Peasants of Bengal against Hindu Landlords of Bengal & British Indigo Planters. British records described the movement as militant but it was not, in 1831 last year of Mir’s life there was a confrontation between him and British police in which Titu Mir was killed.

  •  Abolition of infanticide – by Bengal regulation act of 1795, by Lord Wellesley by regulation of 1804 again. 
  •  Abolition of sati- by Lord William Bentinck through under regulation of 1829. Lot of contribution in this direction was made by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, initially this ban applicable in the presidency of Bengal only. In 1830 the regulation was extended to Bombay and madras presidencies also. 
  •  Abolition of slavery–by Lord Ellenborough 
  •  Widow Remarriage act – through act 15th in 1856. Approval of widow by Hindu widow remarriage act this was result of the pioneering efforts of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. 
  •  Native marriage act- 1872 banned the child marriage, polygamy & approval of inter caste marriage & widow remarriage. Fixed the minimum age: 18y for boys & 14y for girls. Act was not applicable to Hindus, Muslims, & other recognized faiths. 
  • Age of consent act 1891 –prohibited child marriages.
Positive Aspects of Reform Movements

  •  Use of vernacular languages 
  •  Emphasis on individual’s rights 
  • Reason based thinking 
  •  Creation of national awakening among the masses 
  •  Creation of the feelings of sacrifice, service and rationalism 
Negative Aspects of Reform Movements 
  •  Narrow social base 
  •  Communal consciousness 
  • The modern education neglected mass education 
  •  Concentrated upon and benefited only a microscopic minority of the Indian population 
  •  Lack of unity and a sound organization 
  •  Opposition from orthodox elements was there at every attempt of the reformers 
  •  Did not give proper emphasis to certain issues like casteism, untouchability, inheritance rights of women’s etc. 
SOCIAL REFORM MOVEMENTS SOCIAL REFORM MOVEMENTS Reviewed by The Hindu Current Affairs on October 10, 2018 Rating: 5

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