List of Important Caste Movements

Caste movements are social and political movements that have been organized by lower caste groups to challenge the caste system and demand equality and social justice. These movements have played a significant role in bringing about change in Indian society.

Gopal Baba Walangkar

  • A retired Mahar army officer. Established Anarya Dosh Parihar Samaj at Dapoli, Ratnagiri (Maharashtra).
  • Published ‘Vital Vidvansak’ (First volcanic eruption of protest Brahmanism).

Iyothee Thass

  • A prominent anti-caste activist from Tamil Nadu. He was a practitioner of Siddha medicine. He converted to Buddhism and asked other low castes from Tamil Nadu to do the same.
  • Founded the Dalit Mahajan Sabha which worked against caste discrimination against Dalits.
  • Paper: Tamilan.

Aravippuram Movement, (1888; Kerala)

  • For the rights of the depressed classes (especially the Ezhavas or Iravas of Kerala)
  • He urged them to abandon the occupation of toddy-tapping and to abstain from liquor.
  • Aravipuram Pratistha was a historic event, because a member of a lower caste, forbidden from entering the temple, had himself consecrated the Shiva image in a temple.
  • Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (Society for the Propagation of Sri Narayana Guru’s Tenets) was set up in 1902-03.
  • Important leader: Sri Narayan Guru

Justice Party Movement on behalf of intermediate castes (1916; Madras)

  • Officially called the South Indian Liberal Federation. It also led to the beginning of the Dravidian movement.
  • Founded against the domination of brahmins in government service, education and the political field.
  • Objective was to work for the development of non-Brahmins through a constitutional government.
  • The efforts yielded in the passing of the 1930 Government Order providing reservations to groups.
  • Periyar converted Justice Party into the social organization Dravidar Kazhagam and withdrew it from electoral politics in 1944.
  • Important leaders: Dr T.M. Nair, P. Tyagaraja Chetti, and C.N. Mudalair

Nair Movement (1891; Kerala)

  • It was against social and political domination of Nambudiri Brahmins and non-Malayali Brahmins.
  • Malayali Memorial was formed by Raman Pillai in 1891.
  • Martand Varma’s novel C V Raman Pillai attempted an evocation of the lost Nair military glory.
  • Nair Service Society by Padmanabha Pillai was set up in 1914.
  • Important leaders: C.V. Raman Pillai, K.Rama Krishna Pillai, and M. Padmanabha Pillai

Self-Respect Movement (1925; Tamil Nadu)

  • It was an egalitarian movement that propagated the ideologies of breaking down the Brahminical hegemony, equal rights for the backward classes and women in the society and revitalization of the Dravidian languages like Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.
  • Kudi Arasu journal was started by Periyar in 1910.
  • It brought the concept of Tamil Nationalism to the masses.
  • E. V Ramawamy Naicker or Periyar played the most important role.

Nadar Movement (Tamil Nadu)

  • An untouchable caste of agricultural labourers, originally called ‘shanans’, emerged as a prosperous mercantile class by the end of the 19th century and began to call themselves by the prestigious title of ‘Nadars’ to claim Kshatriya status.
  • They organized a ‘Nadar Mahajan Sangam’ in 1910 and imitated upper caste customs and manners (Sanskritisation).
  • They raised funds for educational and social welfare activities.

Depressed Classes (Mahars) Movement (1924; Maharashtra)

  • Led by B. R. Ambedkar.
  • For the upliftment of untouchables of Mahar Community in Maharashtra. They demanded the right to use public places, temple entry, abolition of Mahar Watan and separate representation in the legislative council.
  • Ambedkar founded the Depressed Classes Institution in 1924,
  • A Marathi fortnightly Bahiskrit Bharat was founded in 1927.
  • Samaj Samta Sangh in 1927
  • Scheduled Caste Federation in 1942 to propagate their views

Congress Harijan Movement (1917 onwards)

  • In 1917, Congress for the first time passed the resolution for the abolition of untouchability and appealed to people for removing all disabilities imposed by custom upon Dalits.
  • Congress Working Committee in Delhi (1929) appointed an Anti-Untouchability Sub-Committee with Madan Mohan Malviya as its president and Jamnalal Bajaj as the secretary.
  • For elevating the social status of the lower and backward classes; the All-India Anti-Untouchability League was established in 1932 by Mahatma Gandhi; also, weekly Harijan was founded by him in 1933.
  • Foundation of All India Depressed Classes League under the leadership of Babu Jagjivan Ram.

Kaivartas Movement (1897 onwards Midnapore, Bengal)

  • Founded Jati Nirdharani Sabha (1897) and Mahishya Samiti (1901).
  • Kaivartas later developed an identity of Mahishyas.
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