The social movements have shaped the world we live in and continue to do so. Social movements not only change societies but they also inspire other social movements. When a group of people come together in order to bring about change in society in regard to certain social issues with the aim of changing people’s perspectives about that aspect, it may lead to a social movement.
In our history we have read about many social movements and struggles. For example, the 19th century social reform movements of the struggles against caste and gender discrimination and of the nationalist movement in India that brought us independence from colonial rule in 1947. Many nationalist movements around the world in Asia and Africa and Americas that put an end to colonial rule, the socialist movements world over, the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s that fought for equal rights for Blacks, the anti apartheid struggle in South Africa have all changed the world in fundamental ways.
Features of a Social Movement
(a) A social movement requires sustained collective action over time. Such action is often directed against the state and takes the form of demanding changes in state policy or practice.
(b) In a social movement collective action must be marked by some degree of organisation. A social movement cannot be spontaneous and disorganised. This organisation may include a leadership and a structure that defines how members relate to each other, make decisions and carry them out.
(c) Those people who participate in social movements have shared objectives and ideologies.
(d) A social movement has a general orientation or way of bringing about change.
(e) Social movements often arise with the aim of bringing about changes on a public issue, such as ensuring the right of the tribal population to use the forests or the rights of displaced people to settlement and compensation.
(f) While social movements seek to bring in social change, counter movements sometimes arise in defence of status quo. There are many instances of counter movements such as, when Raja Rammohan Roy campaigned against sati and formed the Brahmo Samaj, defenders of sati formed Dharma Sabha and petitioned the British not to legislate against sati.
When reformers demanded education for girls, many protested that this would de disastrous for the society. When reformers campaigned for widow remarriage, they were socially boycotted. When the so called lower caste children enrolled in schools, some of the upper caste children were withdrawn from schools by their families.
Peasant movements have often been brutally suppressed. More recently the social movements of the excluded groups like the dalits have often invoked retaliatory revengeful action. Likewise proposals for extending reservation in educations institutions have also led to counter movements opposing them.
(g) Social movements cannot change society easily. Since, it goes against both powered and deep rooted interests and values, there is bound to be opposition and resistance. But over a period of time changes do take place.
(h) Protest is the most visible form of collective action, but a social movement can act in other, equally important, ways.
(i) Social movement activists hold meetings to mobilise people around the issues that concern them. Such activities help to form a shared understanding and also prepare for a feeling of agreement about how to pursue for a feeling of agreement about how to pursue a collective agenda. An example of development of a shared understanding is the speech given by Ankush Kale, a Pardhi, at a public meeting.
In his speech he highlighted the tortures and torments the Pardhi community has suffered. They are skillful hunters but they are treated as criminals and tortured. They are found guilty without proof and their women are humiliated. Because of all this, they are not even considered for employments.
(j) Social movements chart out (arrange/plan) campaigns like lobbying with the government, media and other important makers of public opinion.
(k) Social movements develop distinct modes of protest like candle and torch light possessions, use to black cloth, street theatres, songs, poetry. In the freedom movement, Gandhi adopted novel ways such as Ahimsa, Satyagrapha and use of Charkha. He wore hand spun and hand woven clothes to support the Indian cotton growers, spinness and weaves. He took everyday items like Salt (Dandi March) and cloth as symbols of resistance against the fusion of foreign power and capital.
Social conflict does not automatically lead to collective action. For such action to take place, a group must consciously think or identify themselves as oppressed beings. There has to be an organisation, leadership and clear ideology. Often, however, social protest does not follow on these lines.
People may have a clear idea of how they are exploited, but they are often unable to challenge this through overt political mobilisation and protests. In his book “Weapons of the Weak”, James Scott analysed the lives of peasants and labourers in Malaysia. Protest against injustice took the form of small acts such as being deliberately slow. These kinds of acts have been defined as everyday act of resistance.
Distinguishing Social Change and Social Movements
The social change and social movements have distinctive features which can be distinguished as:
(a) Social change is continuous and ongoing. It is a sum of countless individual and collective actions gathered across time and space. For example, Sanskritisation and Westernisation in India.
(b) On the other hand, the social movement involves long and continuous social effort and action by people directed towards some specific goals. The 19th century social reformers effort to change society are regarded as social movements.
Sociology and Social Movements
From the very beginning, the discipline of sociology has been interested in social movements and our society has seen many social movements. The French Revolution was a violent culmination of several movements aimed at overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. In Britain, the Industrial Revolution was marked by great social upheaval.
Poor labourers and artists who had left the countryside to find work in the cities protested against the inhuman living conditions into which they were forced. Food riots in England were often suppressed by the government.
All these protests were perceived by elites as a major threat to the established order of society. Their anxiety about maintaining social order was reflected in the work of sociologist Emile Durkheim.
According to him, social movements can lead to disintegration or disorder of society which is more important than individual. His works about division of labour, social facts, suicide and religion tells that for him social structures enable social integration. For him, social movements were the forces that led to disorder. Scholars influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx offered a different view of violent collective action. EP Thompson, a historian held that the ‘crowd’ and the ‘mob’ were not made up of lawbreaking hooligans who were out to destroy society. Instead, they too had a ‘moral economy’. In other words, they have their own shared understanding of right and wrong that informed their actions.
Research showed that poor people in urban areas had good or relevant reasons for protesting. Thus, they are resorted to public protest because they had not other way of expressing their anger and resentment against deprivation.
Theories of Social Movements
Various theories have been proposed by the sociologists to describe social movements. Some of them are mentioned below:
Theory of Relative Deprivation
According to this theory, social conflict arises when a social group feels that its condition is worse off than the condition of other groups in the society and results in successful collective protest.
This theory emphasises upon the role of psychological factors such as resentment and rage in encouraging social movements. However, the limitation of this theory is that all instances where people feel relatively deprived do not result in social movements.
To mobilise collectively in a sustained and organised manner, grievances have to be discussed and analysed in order to arrive at a shared ideology and strategy. This means that there is no automatic casual relationship between relative deprivation and collective action. Other factors like leadership and organisation are equally important.
Theory of Collective Action
The theory of collective action was proposed by Mancur Olson. In his book, ‘The Logic of Collective Action’ he argues that a social movement is a sum of rational individuals pursuing their self-interest. A person will join a social movement only if she/he will gain something from it and the risks are less than the gains. Olson’s theory is based on the notion of rational utility-maximising individual.
Resources Mobilisation Theory
MC Carthy and Zald rejected Olson’s assumption that social movements are made up of individuals pursuing their self-interest and propounded the Resource Mobilisation theory. They argued that a social movement’s success depends on its ability to mobilise resources of diffsorts. If a movement can manage resources such as leadership, organisational capacity and communication facilities and can use them within the available political opportunity structure, it is more likely to be effective.
However, critics argue that a social movement is not limited by existing resources. It can create resources such as new symbols and identities. Even with an initial limited material resources and organisational base, a movement can generate resources through the process of struggle.
Types of Social Movements
Social movements have been classified in different ways for simplification on the basis of their origin, causes, etc. They can be classified as:
On the Basis of Purpose
The redemptive or transformatory social movement aims to bring about a change in the personal consciousness and actions of its individual members. For example, people in the Ezhava community in Kerala were led by Narayan Guru to change their social practices.
This movement strives to change the existing social and political arrangements through gradual incremental steps. The 1960s movement for the reorganisation of Indian states on the basis of language and the recent Right to Information campaign are examples of reformist movements.
This movement attempts to radically transform social relations, often by capturing state power. For example, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that deposed the Tsar to create a communist state and the Naxalite movement in India that seeks to remove oppressive landlords and state officials can be described as revolutionary movements.
Most social movements have a mix of redemptive, reformist and revolutionary element or the orientation of a social movement may shift over time such that it starts with revolutionary objectives and later it becomes reformist.
A movement may start from a phase of mass moblisation and collective protest to become more institutionalised. Social scientists who study the life cycles of social movements such a movement a move towards social movement organisation. The way a social movement is perceived and classified is always a matter of interpretation. It differs from one section to another. For example, what was a ‘mutiny’ or ‘rebellion’ for British colonial rulers in 1857 was the first war of independence for Indian nationalists. This shows how people attach different meanings to social movements.
On the Basis of Cause
Social movements are also classified as old and new social movements.
Old Social Movements
Old social movements are often based on class related issues like the trade union or peasants movements. For much of the 20th century , working class movements, peasant movement and anti-colonial movements were taking place.
While anti-colonial movements united entire people into national liberation struggle, class-based movements united classes to fight for the rights. Workers’ movements in Europe gave rise to the international communist movement. Besides brining about the formation of communist and socialist states across the world, most notably in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, these movements also led to the reform of capitalism.
The creation of welfare states that protected workers’ rights and offered universal education, health care and social security in the capitalist nations of Western Europe was partly due to political pressure created by the communist and socialist movements.
Since capitalism and colonialism have usually been inter-linked through forms of imperialism, social movements have simultaneously targeted both these forms of exploitation. That is, nationalist movements have mobilised against rule by a foreign power as well as against the dominance of foreign capital.
New Social Movements
The decades after the Second World War witnessed the end of empire and the formation of new nation-states as a result of nationalist movements in India, Egypt, Indonesia and many other countries. Since then, another wave of social movements occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s.
This was the time of the war in Vietnam where forces led by the United States of America were involved in a bloody conflict in the former French colony against communist guerrillas.
In Europe, Paris was the nucleus of a vibrant students’ movement that joined workers’ parties in a series of strikes protesting against the war. The United States of America was also experiencing a rise of social protest as the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King had been followed by the Black Power Movement led by Malcom X. The anti-war movement was joined by tens of thousands of students who were being compulsorily drafted by the government to go and fight in Vietnam.
During this time also the women’s movement and the environmental movement gained strength. It was difficult to classify the members of these so-called ‘new social movements’ as belonging to the same class or even nation. Rather than a shared class identity, participants felt that they shared identities as students, women, blacks and environmentalists.
Distinguishing the News Social Movement from the Old Social Movement
Historical Contexts : The historical context of the new social movement is very different from old. The period before the Second World War was full of nationalist movements which were overthrowing colonial powers. And working class movements in the capitalist West were wresting better wages, better living conditions, social security, free schooling and health security from the state. That was also a period when socialist movements were establishing new kinds of states and societies.
Central Goal : The old social movements clearly saw reorganisation of power relations as a central goal and functioned within the frame of political parties. For example, Indian National Congress led the Indian National Movement, the Communist Party of China led the Chinese Revolution. Today ‘old’ class-based political action led by trade unions and workers’ parties is on the decline and issues a class-based exploitation and inequality are no longer central concerns. So, the ‘new’ social movements were not about changing the distribution of power in society but about quality-of-life issues such as having a clean environment.
Role of Political Parties : In the old social movements, the role of political parties was central. Political scientist Rajni Kothari points that the increase of social movements in India in the 1970s is due to people’s growing dissatisfaction with parliamentary democracy. Kothari argues that the institutions of the state have been captured by elites. Due to this, electoral representation by political parties is no longer an effective way for the poor to get their voices heard. People left out by the formal political system join social movements or non-party political formations in order to put pressure on the state from outside. The new social movements, on the other hand not only includes the political as well as non-political formation such as non-governmental organisations, women’s groups, environmental groups and tribal activists.
Today, India is struck by the fact that globalisation has been re-shaping peoples’ lives in industry and agriculture, culture and media and firms are becoming trans-national. Often legal arrangements that are binding are international such as the regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Environmental and health risks, fear of nuclear warfare are global in nature. Not surprisingly therefore may of the new social movements are intentional in scope. Thus, in the new social movement the old and new movements are working together in new alliances such as the World Social Forum that have been raising awareness about the hazards of globalisation.
Types of Social Movements in the Indian Context
India has experienced a whole range of social movements involving women, peasants, dalits, adivasis and others. Gail Omvedt in her book ‘Reinventing Revolution’ points out that, social inequality and the unequal distribution of resources continued to be the important elements in these movements.
Peasant movements have mobilised for better prices of their produce and protested against the removal agricultural subsidies. Dalit labourers have acted collectively to ensure that they are not exploited by upper-caste landowners and money-lenders. The women’s movement has worked on issues of gender discrimination in diverse spheres like the workplace and within the family.
All these show that the new social movements are not just about economic inequality and are not limited to class lines only. Identity politics, cultural anxieties and aspirations are essential elements in creating social movements and occur in ways that are difficult to trace to class-based inequality.
Often, these social movements unite participants across class boundaries. For example, the women’s movement includes urban, middle-class feminists for gender discrimination as well as poor peasant women to fight against exploitation by landowners and moneylenders. The regional movements for separate statehood bring together different groups of people who do not share homogenous class identities. Thus, in a social movement question of social inequality can occur alongside, other, equally important issues.
The ecological or environmental movement is a diverse scientific, social and a political movement for addressing environmental issues. With the great emphasis put on development there has been a great deal of concern about the unchecked use of natural resources and a model of development that creates new needs that demands greater exploitation of the already depleted natural resources. This model of development has been critiques for assuming that all sections of people will be beneficiaries of development. However, in contrast big dams displace people from their homes and sources of livelihood and industrial pollution has a great impact. The ecological movement as such is not an isolated movement. It is interlinked to many other concerns.
The Chipko Movement is an example of the ecological movement in the Himalayan foothills. According to Ramachandra Guha in his book, ‘Unquiet Woods’, villagers rallied together to save the oak and rhododendron forests near their villages. When government forest contractors came to cut down the trees, villagers, including large number of women came forward to hug the trees to prevent them from being cut.
The trees that were to be felled were the mode of subsistence. All of them depended on the forest to get firewood, fodder and other daily necessities. This conflict placed the livelihood needs of poor villagers against the government’s desire to generate revenues from selling timber. The economy of subsistence was pitted against the economy of profit.
The Chipko Movement not only raised the issue of social inequality between the villagers and government but also raised the issue of ecological sustainability. Cutting down natural forests was a form of environmental destruction that had resulted in devastating floods and landslides in the region. While the survival of villagers depended on the survival of the forest, they also valued the forest for its own sake as a form of ecological wealth that benefits all. In addition, the ‘Chipko Movement’ also expressed the resentment of hill villagers against a distant government headquartered in the plains that seemed indifferent and hostile to their concerns. So concern about economy, ecology and political representation underlay Chipko Movement.
Trees are necessary for the conservation of environment. Similarly, clean water is necessary for a healthy environment. In the light of this, the Government of India through the ‘Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission’ (Namami Gnage) and Swachch Bharat Abhiyan initiated systematic efforts to create a balance, structure and quality in India’s ecology.
Class Based Movements
Peasant movements or agrarian struggles have been a part of the country since pre-colonial days. The movements between 1858 and 1914 tended to remain localised, disjointed and confined to particular grievances. Some of the well-known movements of this time are the Bengal Revolt of 1859-62 against the indigo plantation system and the Deccan riots of 1857 against moneylenders.
Some of these issues continued into the following period, and under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi became partially linked to the independence movement. For example, the Bardoli Satyagraha (1928, Surat District) a ‘non-tax’ campaign as part of the nationwide Non-Cooperative Movement, a campaign of refusal to pay land revenue and the Champaran Satyagraha (1917-18) directed against indigo plantations.
In the 1920s, protest movements against the forest policies of the British government and local rulers arose in certain regions. The first organisation to be founded was the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (1929) and in 1936 the All India Kisan Sabha. The Sabhas organised by the peasants demanded freedom from economic exploitation for peasants, workers and all other exploited classes.
At the time of independence, there were two most classical cases of peasants movement, namely Tebhaga Movement (1946-47) and the Telangana Movement (1946-51). The first was the struggle of sharecroppers in Bengal. It had the support of Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party of India (CPI). The second was directed against the feudal conditions in the princely state of Hyderabad and was led by the CPI.
The period after 1947 was characterised by two major social movements the Naxalite struggle started from region of Naxalbari (1967) in Bengal and the New Farmer’s movements.
New Farmer’s Movement
The so called ‘new farmer’s movements began in the 1970s in Punjab and Tamil Nadu. These movements were regionally organised, were non-party and involved farmers rather than peasants. The basic ideology of the movement was strongly anti-state and anti-urban. The focus of demand were ‘price related issues’, e.g. price procurement, remunerative prices, prices for agricultural inputs, taxation and non-repayment of loans etc.
The movements included novel methods of agitation wherein farmers were blocking roads and railways, refusing politicians and bureaucrats entry to villages and so on. These movements have broadened their agenda and ideology to include environment and women’s issues as well. Hence, they can be seen as a part of the worldwide ‘new social movements’.
Factory production began in India in the early 1860s. The general pattern of trade set up by the colonial regime was one in which raw materials were procured from Indian and goods manufactured in the United Kingdom were marketed in the colony. These factories were, thus, established in the port towns of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai). Later factories were also set up in Madras (Chennai).
Tea plantations in Assam were established as early as 1839. In the early stages of colonialism, labour was very cheap, as the colonial government did not regulate either wages or working conditions. However, later trade unions emerged and then workers started to protest. Their actions were, more spontaneous than sustained. These workers were also drawn, into the anti-colonial movement by some nationalist leaders.
The war led to the expansion of industries in the country but it also brought a great deal of misery to the poor. There were food shortages and sharp increase in prices. As a result, a large number of strikes happened in the textile mills in Bombay. In September and October 1917 there were around 30 recorded strikes. Jute workers in Calcutta struck work. In Madras, the workers of Buchingham and Carnatic Mills (Binny’s) struck work for increased wages. Textile workers in Ahmedabad struck work for increase in wages by 50 per cent.
Establishment of Trade Unions
The first trade union was established in April 1918 in Madras by BP Wadia, a social worker and member of the Theosophical society.
During the same year, Mahatma Gandhi founded the Textile Labour Association (TLA). In 1920, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed in Bombay. The AITUC was a broad-based organisation involving diverse ideologies.
The main ideological groups were the communists led by SA Dange and MN Roy, the moderates led by M Joshi and VV Giri and the nationalists involved people like Lala Lajpat Rai and Jawaharlal Nehru. The formation of the AITUC made the colonial government more cautious in dealing with labour. It attempted to grant workers some concessions in order to contain unrest. In 1922, the government passed the fourth Factories Act which reduced the working day to 10 hours. In 1926, the Trade Union Act was passed, which provided for registration of trade unions and proposed some regulations. By the mid 1920s , the AITUC had nearly 200 unions affiliated to it and its membership stood at around 250,000.
During the last few years of British rule the communists gained considerable control over the AITUC. The Indian National Congress chose to form another union called the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) in May 1974.
The split in the AITUC in 1947 paved the way for further splits on the line of political parties. Apart form working class movement being divided on the lines of political parties at the national level, regional parties too started to form their own unions from the late 1960s.
In 1966-67 the economy suffered a major recession which led to a decrease in production and consequently employment. In 1974 there was a major railway worker’s strike. The confrontation between the state and trade unions became acute. During the emergency in 1975-77, the government curbed all trade union activities. The workers’ movement was very much part of the wider struggle for civil liberties.
Caste Based Movements
The Dalit Movement
Social movements of dalits show a particular character. They do not only include economic exploitation or political oppression, but also includes many more dimensions. It is a struggle for recognition as fellow human beings. It is a struggle for self-confidence, a space for self-determination and for abolishment of stigmatisation (criticism), that untouchability implied. It has been called a struggle to be touched.
The world Dalit commonly used in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati and many other Indian languages, means the poor and oppressed persons. It refers to those who have been broken, ground down by those above them in a deliberate way.
There has not been a single, unified Dalit movement in the country now or in the past. Different movements have highlighted different issues related to Dalits. Each of these movements, however, assert a Dalit identity.
In spite of the differences in the nature of Dalit movements and the meaning of identity, there has been a common quest for equality, self-dignity and eradication of untouchability.
This can be seen in the Satnami Movement of the Chamars in the Chhattisgarh plains in Eastern MP, Adi Dharma Movement in Punjab, the Mahar Movement in Maharashtra, the socio-political mobilisation among the Jatavas of Agra and the Anti Brahman Movement in South India.
In the contemporary period of the Dalit movement has unquestionably acquired a place in the public sphere that cannot be ignored. This has been accompanied by a growing body of Dalit literature.
Dalit literature opposed to the Chaturvarna system and caste hierarchy which it considers as responsible for crushing the creativity and existence of lower castes. Hence, it gives a call for social and cultural revolt. While some emphasise on the structural features of the society including the economic dimensions.
Backward Class/Castes Movements
The emergence of backward castes/classes as political entities had occurred both in the colonial and post-colonial contexts. The colonial state often distributed patronage on the basis of caste. It made sense, that people stay within their caste for social and political identity in institutional life.
It also influenced similarly placed caste groups to unite themselves and to form a ‘horizontal stretch’. Caste, thus, began to lose its ritual content and become more and more secularised for political mobilisation.
The term ‘Backward Castes’ has been in use in different parts of the country since the late 19th century. I began to be used more widely in Madras presidency since 1872, in the princely state of Mysore since 1918, and in Bombay presidency since 1925.
From the 1920s, a number of organisations united around the issue of backward caste rise up. For example, All-India Backward Classes Federation, All India Backward Classes League, etc. As of 1954, 88 organisations were counted to work for backward classes.
The Upper Caste Response
The increasing visibility of both Dalits and other backward classes has led to a feeling among sections of the upper caste that they are being given unsympathetic treatment. They feel that the government does not pay attention to them as they are not numerically significant enough.
The condition of all social groups, including the lowest caste and tribes has improved today as compared to the condition before independence. In the early part of the 21st century, the variety of occupations and professions among all caste groups is much wider than it was today.
However, this does not change the massive social reality that the overwhelming majority of those in the ‘highest’ or most preferred occupations are from the upper castes. On the other hand, the vast majority of those in the menial and disliked occupations belong to the lowest castes.
The Tribal Movements
Most of the tribal movements have been largely located in the ‘tribal belt’ in middle India, such as the Santhals, Hos, Oraons, Mundas in Chota Nagpur and the Santhal Parganas. The region constitutes the main part of Jharkhand whole history of tribal movements goes back to a hundred years. Jharkhand and North-East as an example of a tribal movement are discussed below.
Tribal Movements in Jharkhand
Jharkhand is one of the newly-formed states of India, carved out of South Bihar in the year 2000 after more than a century of resistance. The initial social movement of Jharkhand had a charismatic leader Birsa Munda, an adivasi who led a major uprising against the British. After his death, Birsa became an important icon of the movement with stories, songs and writing about his struggle.
During this time Christian missionaries were also working in South Bihar spread literacy in the area. Literate adivasis began to research and write about their history and myths. They documented and disseminated information about tribal customs and cultural practices. This helped create a unified ethnic consciousness and a shared identity as Jharkhandis.
The literate adivasis were now in a position to get government jobs. Over time, middle-class adicasi intellectual leadership emerged that formulated the demand for a separate state and promoted for it in India and abroad.
Within South Bihar, Adivasis shared a common hatred of dikus-migrant traders and money-lenders who had settled in the area and grabbed its wealth, impoverishing the original residents. Most of the benefits form the mining and industrial projects in the mineral rich region had gone to dikus even as adivasi lands had been alienated.
The experiences of marginalisation and sense of injustice against adivasis were responsible to create a shared Jharkhand identity and inspire collective action that eventually led to the formation of a separate state.
The issues against which the leaders of the movement in Jharkhand agitated were:
- Acquisition of land for large irrigation projects and firing ranges.
- Survey and settlement operations.
- Collection of loans, rent and cooperative dues, which were resisted.
- Nationalisation of forest produce which they boycotted.
Tribal Movements in the North-East
The process of state formation initiated by the Indian Government after independence generated disturbing trends in all the major hill districts in the North-East region. Conscious of their distinct identity and traditional autonomy, the tribes were unsure of being incorporated within the administrative machinery of Assam. One of the key issues that bind tribal movements from different parts of the country is the alienation (separation) of tribals from forest lands.
The Women’s Movement and Women Organisation
The early 20th century saw the growth of women’s organisations at a national and local level. For example, the Women’s India Association (WIA) (1917), All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) (1926) and National Council for Women in India (NCWI) (1925). Initially, these organisations had a limited scope but it extended over a period of time.
Agrarian Struggles and Revolts
It is often assumed that only middle class educated women were involved in social movements. However, women have participated along with men in struggles and revolts originating in tribal and rural areas in the colonial period. For example, the Tebhaga movement in Bengal, the Telangana arms struggle from the erstwhile Nizam’s rule and the Warli tribal’s revolt against bondage in Maharashtra. Much of then struggles have been to remember the forgotten history of women’s participation.
Many of the women activists who were also involved in the nationalist movement got involved in the nation building task post 1947.
In the mid 1970s there was renewal of women’s movement in India. It was called the second phase of the India women’s movement as there were changes both in terms of organisational strategy as well as ideologies.
There was a growth of autonomous women’s movements. The term ‘autonomy’ referred to the fact they were independent from political parties as distinct from those organisations that links with political parties as it was believed that they marginalise women issues.
Apart from organisational changes, there were new issues that were focussed upon by women’s movements. For example, violence against women etc. As a result of many campaigns various changes took place. The most important amongst them the legal chances that took place due to campaigns against land rights, employment, sexual harassment and and dowry.
There has been a recognition too that while all women are in some way disadvantaged vis-a-vis men, all women do not suffer the same level or kind of discrimination. The concerns of the educated middle class women is different from the peasant women, just as the concern of the dalit woman is different from the ‘Upper Caste’ woman.
There has been greater recognition that both men and women are constrained by the gender identities. For instance, men in patriarchal societies feel they must be strong and successful. It is not, manly, to express oneself emotionally.
A gender just society would allow both men and women to be free. The idea of gender just society is based upon two important factors-educated women with multiple roles and improved sex ratio. The programme of the Government of India Beti Bachao, Beti Padao Yojana is an effort in the fulfilment of gender-just society.