Part 8 – Educational and Social Reforms

Language and Education Policy

  • Although the British had captured Bengal in 1757, yet the responsibility of imparting education remained only in Indian hands.

  • The study of ancient texts written in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit still continued.

  • In 1781, Warren Hastings established a Madrasa in Calcutta to encourage the study of Muslim laws along with Arabic and Persian languages.

  • A decade later in 1791 due to the sincere efforts of the British resident, Jonathan Duncan, a Sanskrit College was established to promote the study of Hindu laws and philosophy in Banaras

  • It is apparent from the government and Church records that

  • There were about 80,000 traditional institutions of learning in Bengal alone

  • Which means that there was at least one institution for every four hundred people in that province

  • Different educational surveys of Madras, Bombay and Punjab also demonstrate similar facts

  • There was at least one school in every village of India at that time

  • The East India Company began to adopt a dual policy in the sphere of education.

  • It discouraged the prevalent system of oriental education and gave importance to western education and English language.

  • The Charter Act of 1813 adopted a provision to spend one lakh rupees per annum for the spread of education in India

  • Consequently, not even a single penny out of the allocated funds could be spent on education.

  • The contemporary British scholars were divided into two groups on the issue of development of education in India.

  • One group, called the Orientalists, advocated the promotion of oriental subjects through Indian languages.

  • The other group, called the Anglicists, argued the cause of western sciences and literature in the medium of English language.

  • In 1829, after assuming the office of the Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck, emphasized on the medium of English language in Indian education.

  • In the beginning of 1835, the 10 members of the General Committee of Public Instruction were clearly divided into two equal groups

  • Five members including the Chairman of the committee Lord Macaulay were in favour of adopting English

  • Other five were in favour of oriental languages

  • The stalemate continued till 2 February 1835 when the Chairman of the committee, Lord Macaulay announced his famous Minute advocating the Anglicists point of view.

  • Bentinck got the resolution passed on 7 March 1835 which declared that henceforth

  • Government funds would be utilized for the promotion of western literature and science through the medium of English language

  • In 1854, Sir Charles Wood sent a comprehensive dispatch as a grand plan on education.

  • The establishment of departments of public instructions in five provinces

  • Introduction of the pattern of grants in aid to encourage private participation in the field of education were recommended.

  • The dispatch also laid emphasis on the establishment of schools for technical education, teacher and women education.

  • The dispatch recommended the establishment of one University each in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras,

  • On the model of the London University

  • Consequently, within the next few years, the Indian education became rapidly westernized.

Social Policies and Legislation

  • In the beginning, the British interest was limited to trade and earning profits from economic exploitation.

  • They were apprehensive of interfering with the social and religious customs and institutions of the Indian

  • Thus, they adopted the policy of extreme precaution and indifference towards social issues in India.

  • Reason why they indulged in criticizing the customs and traditions of India

  • Was to generate a feeling of inferiority complex among the Indians.

  • However, in the mid-19th century the social and religious movements, launched in India

  • Attracted the attention of the Company’s administration towards the country’s social evils.

  • The propaganda carried out by the Christian missionaries also stirred the minds of the educated Indians.

  • There were primarily two areas in which laws were enacted, laws pertaining to women emancipation and the caste system.

Social Laws Concerning Women

  • The condition of women, by the time the British established their rule, was not encouraging.

  • Several evil practices such as the practice of Sati, the Purdah system, child marriage, female infanticide, bride price and polygamy had made their life quite miserable.

  • There was no social and economic equality between a man and woman.

  • A Hindu woman was not entitled to inherit any property.

  • Female Infanticide

  • It was particularly in vogue in Rajputana, Punjab and the North Western Provinces.

  • Factors such as family pride

  • The fear of not finding a suitable match for the girl child

  • The hesitation to bend before the prospective in-laws

  • Therefore, immediately after birth, the female infants were being killed either by feeding them with opium

  • By strangulating or by purposely neglecting them.

  • Some laws were enacted against this practice in 1795, 1802 and 1804 and then in 1870.

  • This evil practice came to be done away through education and public opinion.

Widow Remarriage

  • There are many historical evidences to suggest that widow remarriage enjoyed social sanction during ancient period in India.

  • In course of time the practice ceased to prevail increasing the number of widows to lakhs during the 19th century.

  • Prominent among these reformers were Raja Rammohan Roy and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.

  • They carried out large scale campaigns in this regard mainly through books, pamphlets and petitions with scores of signatures.

  • In July 1856, J.P. Grant, a member of the Governor-General’s Council finally tabled a bill in support of the widow remarriage,

  • Which was passed on 13 July 1856 and came to be called the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856.

Child Marriage

  • In November 1870, the Indian Reforms Association was started with the efforts of Kasha Chandra Sen.

  • A journal called Mahapap Bal Vivah (Child marriage: The Cardinal Sin) was also launched with the efforts of B.M. Malabari to fight against child marriage.

  • In 1846, the minimum marriageable age for a girl was only 10 years

  • In 1891, through the enactment of the Age of Consent Act, this was raised to 12 years.

  • In 1930, through the Sharda Act, the minimum age was raised to 14 years

  • After independence, the limit was raised to 18 years in 1978

Purdah System

  • Similarly, voices were raised against the practice of Purdah during the 19th and 20th century

  • The condition of women among the peasantry was relatively better in this respect.

  • Purdah was not so much prevalent in Southern India.

  • Through the large scale participation of women in the national freedom movement

  • The system disappeared without any specific legislative measure taken against it

Struggle against the Caste System and the related Legislation

  • Next to the issue of women emancipation, the caste system became the second most important issue of social reforms.

  • The Shudras were subjected to all kinds of social discrimination.

  • In the beginning of the 19th century the castes of India had been split into innumerable sub castes on the basis of birth.

  • In the meantime, a new social consciousness also dawned among the Indians.

  • Mahatma Gandhi made the removal of untouchability a part of his constructive programme.

  • He brought out a paper, The Harijan, and also organised the Harijan Sevak Sangh.

  • Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the downtrodden

  • In Bombay, he formed a Bahiskrit Hitkarini Sabha in July 1924 for this purpose.

  • Later, he also organised the Akhil Bharatiya Dalit Varg Sabha to fight against caste oppression.

  • Jyotirao Phulein Western India and Shri Narayana Guru in Kerala respectively established the Satya Sadhak Samaj

  • Shri Narayana Dharma Partipalana Yogam to include self-esteem among the downtrodden.

  • In the Madras Presidency also the beginning of 20th century witnessed the rise of Self-respect Movement of Periyar E.V.R.

  • These movements were directed mainly in removing the disabilities suffered by Harijans in regard to drawing of water from public wells

  • Getting entry into temples and admission into schools.

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