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Backward caste mobilization in North India

The backward classes have been deprived of many social, economic, political and religious privileges. These were treated as untouchables and subjected to extreme forms of exploitation. While the presence of structural conditions of relative deprivation provided only the necessary context for the genesis of protest movements, certain external influences provided the sufficient conditions to create an awakening among them. The Christian missionaries were the first group to organize a programme for them. The missionaries not only converted them to different denominations but initiated a broad based programme involving English education and setting up of orphanages and other special welfare programmes. Those of the depressed classes who were converted to Christianity soon developed a different life style from their contemporaries. They received English education and were recruited to various government jobs.

A further impetus was provided by the national movement, which provided an ideology of egalitarianism and supported social movements, which revolted against discrimination of any kind. Then there were the reform movements, which initiated programmes of education and welfare for the backward classes. These movements were against many orthodox brahmanical practices including their attitudes towards the untouchables. Finally British abolished slavery and introduced an egalitarian system of law, liberal education and notions of representative government. All these developments provided a favorable climate for the genesis of social movements with distinct ideologies and leadership among the backward classes. They began to organize themselves in different parts of India establishing new identities based on diverse ideologies. These include claims of higher Varna status through a reinterpretation and recasting of appropriate mythologies of origin. For example several castes like Ahirs in North India,Gopas in Bengal ,Gollas in A.P and Karnataka and Konars in Tamil Nadu claimed descent from Yadav dynasty to which Lord Krishna belonged. The rejection of Brahmanical ideology and culture was another protest movement. The Dravida Kazhagam movement in TamilNadu idealized the Dravidian culture and religion and attacked the Aryan culture and religion.

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