NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 8 - Women, Caste and Reform

Chapter 8 - Women, Caste and Reform

Question 1: What social ideas did the following people support.
Rammohun Roy
Dayanand Saraswati
Veerasalingam Pantulu
Jyotirao Phule
Pandita Ramabai
Mumtaz Ali
Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

Rammohun Roy: Ban of Sati
Dayanand Saraswati: Widow remarriage
Veerasalingam Pantulu: Widow remarriage
Jyotirao Phule: Equality among all the castes
Pandita Ramabai: Women’s education
Periyar: Equality to untouchables
Mumtaz Ali: Women’s education
Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar: Widow remarriage

Question 2: State whether true or false:
a) When the British captured Bengal they framed many new laws to regulate the rules regarding marriage, adoption, inheritance of property, etc.
b) Social reformers had to discard the ancient texts in order to argue for reform in social practices.
c) Reformers got full support from all sections of the people of the country.
d) The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed in 1829.

a) True
b) False
c) False
c) False

Question 3: How did the knowledge of ancient texts help the reformers promote new laws?
Rammohun Roy was well versed in Sanskrit, Persian and several other Indian and European languages. He tried to show through his writings that the practice of widow burning had no sanction in ancient texts. By the early nineteenth century, many British officials had also begun to criticise Indian traditions and customs. They were therefore more than willing to listen to Rammohun who was reputed to be a learned man. In 1829, sati was banned. The strategy adopted by Rammohun was used by later reformers as well. Whenever they wished to challenge a practice that seemed harmful, they tried to find a verse or sentence in the ancient sacred texts that supported their point of view. They then suggested that the practice as it existed at present was against early tradition.

Question 4: What were the different reasons people had for not sending girls to school?
When the first schools were opened in the mid-nineteenth century, many people were afraid of them. They feared that schools would take girls away from home, prevent them from doing their domestic duties. Moreover, girls had to travel through public places in order to reach school. Many people felt that this would have a corrupting influence on them. They felt that girls should stay away from public spaces. Therefore, throughout the nineteenth century, most educated women were taught at home by liberal fathers or husbands. Sometimes women taught themselves. 

Question 5: Why were Christian missionaries attacked by many people in the country? Would some people have supported them too? If so, for what reasons?
The Christian missionaries were attacked by the people, as they were involved in the religious conversion of poor and tribal people that is, converting a Hindu into a Christian. These missionaries had also set up schools for tribal and poor kids to learn. However, the larger section of people who looked down upon the poor people and tribal people did not like the idea of exposing tribal people to education. Hence, people started attacking Christian missionaries.

Question 6: In the British period, what new opportunities opened up for people who came from castes that were regarded as “low”?
The poor began leaving their villages to look for jobs that were opening up in the cities. There was work in the factories that were coming up, and jobs in municipalities. Drains had to be dug, roads laid, buildings constructed, and cities cleaned. This required coolies, diggers, carriers, bricklayers, sewage cleaners, sweepers, palanquin bearers, rickshaw pullers. The poor from the villages and small towns, many of them from low castes, began moving to the cities where there was a new demand for labour. Some also went to work in plantations in Assam, Mauritius, Trinidad and Indonesia. Work in the new locations was often very hard. But the poor, the people from low castes, saw this as an opportunity to get away from the oppressive hold that upper-caste landowners exercised over their lives and the daily humiliation they suffered.

Question 7: How did Jyotirao the reformers justify their criticism of caste inequality in society?
Phule argued that the Aryans were foreigners, who came from outside the subcontinent, and defeated and subjugated the true children of the country - those who had lived here from before the coming of the Aryans. As the Aryans established their dominance, they began looking at the defeated population as inferior, as low- caste people. According to Phule, the “upper” castes had no right to their land and power: in reality, the land belonged to indigenous people, the so-called low castes. Phule claimed that before Aryan rule there existed a golden age when warrior -peasants tilled the land and ruled the Maratha countryside in just and fair ways. He proposed that Shudras (labouring castes) and Ati Shudras (untouchables) should unite to challenge caste discrimination. The Satyashodhak Samaj, an association Phule founded, propagated caste equality.

Question 8: Why did Phule dedicate his book Gulamgiri to the American movement to free slaves?
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.

Question 9: What did Ambedkar want to achieve through the temple entry movement?
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. Ambedkar led three such movements for temple entry between 1927 and 1935. His aim was to make everyone see the power of caste prejudices within society.

Question 10: Why were Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker critical of the national movement? Did their criticism help the national struggle in any way?
They were critical of the national movement run by upper-caste leaders because they held that this would serve the purposes of upper-castes. After the movement, these people would again talk of untouchability. Again they would say, "Me here and you over there". Periyar left the Congress in the reaction of an incidence of untouchability. Yes, their criticism helped the national struggle as unity. The forceful speeches, writings, and movements of such lower caste leaders did lead to rethinking and some self-criticisms among upper-caste nationalist leaders.

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