Backward Class movement
Some of the most important backward class movement in India are as follows:
- Satya Shodhak Samaj
- Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam Movement
- Justice Party
- The Self-respect Movement.
Satya Shodhak Samaj
In Western India, Jyotirao Govindrao Phule struggled for the upliftment of lower castes through his Satya Shodhak Samaj. Belonging to the Mali caste, which supplies flowers to the Peshwa’s family, he had suffered humiliation, which made him to turn against caste inequalities. He strongly criticized the Brahmanical domination in the name of religion. He was also critic of Indian National Congress for neglecting the weaker sections.
The aim of his organization was to achieve social justice for weaker sections of the society. He opened a number of schools, orphanages for the children and women belonging to all castes. He was elected as a member of the Poona Municipal committee in 1876. His writings include Dharma Tritiya Ratna, Ishara, Life of Shivaji, etc.
In 1888, he was honored with the title of Mahatma. Soon Dr B.R. Ambedkar took up the mantle of fighting for the cause of depressed castes in the twentieth century as part of Indian National Movement. His efforts culminated in the form of enactment of the reservation system for socially underprivileged sections in the Constitution of India.
Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam Movement: The non-Brahmin movement found reflection in Kerala under the leadership of Shri Narayana Guru who belonged to the backward Ezhava caste. He established the SNDP Yogam with its branches outside the Kerala State also. He launched a two-point program for the upliftment of the Ezhavas to root out-the practice of untouchability.
As a second step Narayana Guru built a number of temples, which were declared open to all castes. He also simplified rituals regarding marriage, religious worship, and funerals. Narayana Guru achieved a notable success in transforming the untouchable groups into a backward class. He criticized Gandhi for his faith in Chaturvarna, which he considered the parent of the caste system and untouchability. He gave a new slogan “one religion, one caste and one God for mankind”.
In reaction to the incipient nationalist movement, represented by the nineteenth century Hindu revivalism, which led to improving the position of the Brahmin caste, the non- Brahmins of Madras Presidency sought to ally with the colonial regime, hoping that foreign rule would protect their position and somewhat neutralize power differences within the population. Mindful of the importance of literacy as the base of the Brahmins’ virtual monopoly of government offices, the non-Brahmin elite sought to advance their communities through education.
Dr T.M. Nair, P. Thyagaraja Chetty, and C.N. Mudaliar came together and founded the Justice Party in 1916. It was resolved to form an association of non-Brahman Hindus under the name of South Indian Peoples’ Association. Chetty asked all non-Brahmins to unite and draw the attention of the government to the grievances voiced in the Manifesto.
He said, “Let all non-Brahmins do everything needful to ensure a continued educational, social, political, and economic development as broad and enduring basic; and, then, their future as British subjects will be brighter and more prosperous than it is today.”
With the proclamation of the non-Brahmin Manifesto, it was argued that an association for the political advancement of the non-Brahmin community should also be formed to function alongside the South Indian Peoples’ Association. In August 1917, the South Indian Liberal Federation came into existence.
It was announced that the Justice Party’s objective was justice for all Dravidians through the establishment of a separate state under the watchful guidance of the British rule. His idealism, however, was influenced by the immediate practicalities of securing required reforms for the betterment of the non-Brahmin community.
The Self-respect Movement
The Self-respect Movement was founded by Ramaswamy Naicker in 1925. It was designed to improve the living conditions of the Dravidian people, to expose the Brahmin tyranny, and the deceptive methods by which they controlled all spheres of Hindu life.
He organized the “Dravida Nadu Conference” for the advocacy of a separate and independent “Dravida Nation”. The demand was reiterated the following year in response to the Lahore Resolution passed by the Muslim League demanding the creation of Pakistan.
Naicker supported the creation of Pakistan and tried to enlist the support of the Muslim League for the creation of the “Dravida Nation”. The basic presupposition of the movement toward a separate nation was that the Dravidian non-Brahmin peoples were of different racial stock and culture from that of the Aryan Brahman.
In 1944, Naicker founded the Dravida Kazagham and asked the members to wear black shirts whenever possible to symbolize the present day downtrodden condition of the Dravidians. The organization of the party was to be based upon units in each village, taluq and district.
The main objective of the Dravida Kazagham was proclaimed to be the achievement of a sovereign, independent Dravidian Republic federal in nature with four units representing the linguistic division, each division having residuary power and the autonomy in the matter of internal administration.
It would be an egalitarian society to which the depressed and downtrodden could pledge allegiance. Naicker called upon the people to renounce all the titles conferred upon them by the British. This increased the Dravida Kazagham’s popularity among the masses.
The principal objective of Naicker was to remove all “superstitious beliefs” based on religions. No member was allowed to wear any religious marks on the forehead. He called upon the non-Brahmin community to boycott Brahmins at ceremonies.
Miller Committee Report
This Committee was appointed on 23rd August 1918 by the then Maharaja of Princely State of Mysore which is now called as Karanataka. The Maharaja believed in mass representation of non-Brahmins in the service ofthe state. Surprisingly Dewan Sir M.Vishvesvaraiah who was himself an enlightened person advocating meritocracy, opposed the view of the Maharaja. Finally the Maharaja appointed this committee under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Miller, the then ‘Chief Judge of the Chief Court of Mysore’ to recommend/advise the necessary steps to be taken for the adequate representation of deprived communities in the public service.
The committee maintained that again under the present system of Government, the officers ofthe Government in the higher grades of service have necessarily much influenced in framing the policy of administration and the efficiency of services viewed as machines for securing the even and uniform progress of the state is likely to be increased by the presence in their ranks of officers of different communities.
The committee’s view with reference to field level jobs in the government service is – “It is these officers who come most frequently in contact, in their official capacity, with all classes of the state and, from the point of view of general administration, it seems desirable that in these grades a full representation of all important communities should be found”.