Last Update: June 2023 (Secularism)


This article deals with Secularism’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Secularism?

  • Secularism is defined as the principle of separation of state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. 
  • But nature and extent of separation may take different forms depending upon the different values it intends to promote.

Three models of Secularism


US Model

  • US Model is of the view that religion is a private affair of person and state passively respects all religions. 
  • In this model, ‘ARM LENGTH DISTANCE’ is maintained between state and religion.  

French Model

  • It is also known as Laicite/Militant Secularism.
  • Due to a long battle against religious influence on laws and government, Laicite was introduced in France.  
  • It is followed in France and Quebec province of Canada.
  • Laicite secularism believes in total separation between religion and state (i.e. religious activities and symbols are banned in the public sphere).
  • This model also restricts wearing hijab and the Sikh turban in the public sphere. 
  • But, French secularism has come under criticism that rather than promoting diversity, freedom of thought and multiculturalism, it is interfering with the basic right to religious self-expression. Recently, this model came into controversy due to backlash by Islamists against Charlie Hebdo’s publication of offensive cartoons of Prophet Mohammad and denial of the French government to condemn such acts. 

Indian Model

The Indian idea and practice of secularism, although inspired by western ideas yet, is rooted in India’s unique socio-historic circumstances like religious diversity and support for all religions. 

Features of Indian secularism are as follows:-

  • The Wall of Separation between state and religion is porous, i.e. state can intervene in religion to promote progressive voices within every religion. E.g., Abolition of Untouchability (among Hindus) and Abolition of Triple Talaq (among Muslims). 
  • However, religion is prohibited from interfering in state matters, disallowing the mobilization of electoral support on religious lines. 
Indian Model of Secularism

It is sometimes argued that the concept of secularism has been imported from the west. But it is clear from the above differences that strict church and state separation is the central area of focus in the West, while in India, peaceful co-existence is the main focus.

Provisions regarding Secularism in India

Provisions regarding Secularism in India
  • Articles 25 to 28: Deals with freedom of religion to all.  
    1. Article 25: guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. 
    2. Article 26: every religious denomination has the freedom to manage its religious affairs. 
    3. Article 27: Freedom from payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion. 
    4. Article 28: Freedom to attend religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions. 
  • Articles 14 (Equality before law and equal protection of law), Article 29 (Protection of distinct language, script or culture of minorities ), Article 44 (Uniform Civil Code) and 51A, by implication, prohibit the establishment of a theocratic state. 
  • Judicial pronouncements regarding secularism
    1. In the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court had declared secularism as a part of the basic structure of the Constitution
    2. Rev Stanislau vs the State of MP held that forcible conversions are not included in the right to propagate religion as it may disturb public order. 
    3. In the Church of God (Full Gospel) in India vs K. K. R. Majestic Colony Welfare Association (2000)it was held that the right to religion is subject to public order, and no prayers should be performed by disturbing the peace of others. 
    4. Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India (1994)Supreme Court held that “the concept of secularism is one facet of the right to equality.”
    5. The Doctrine of Essential Practices pronounced by Supreme Court.
  • Section 123(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951  prohibits political parties to ask for votes on religious lines. 
  • Places of Worship Act, 1991: The act prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947.

Challenges to Secularism

  • Frequent recourse to revivalist events such as Ghar Wapsi etc., breeds fear amongst the minorities.
  • Incidents of lynching, especially of Muslims, in the name of cow vigilantism. 
  • Charges of ‘Love Jihad‘ by far-right Hindutva groups in case of inter-religion marriages. BJP ruled states like UP and MP are bringing laws against so-called Love Jihad.
  • Communal Riots and Targeted Violence.
  • Religious hate speech, falsification of history and dissemination of wrong information. 
  • International events such as the rise of ISIS (Daesh), instigation by foreign agencies such as ISI etc. 


Last Updated: June 2023 (Communalism)


This article deals with Communalism’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Communalism can be defined as allegiance to one’s own ethnic/religious group rather than wider society. Although it is exclusive in outlook, a communalist considers his religion superior to other religions. 

Stages of Communalism

Communalism is manifested at three levels

Mild When people belonging to the same community believe that they have the same secular interest.
Moderate When people belonging to different communities believe that they have different secular interests.
Extreme When people believe that they not only have different interests but mutually antagonistic and hostile interests (i.e. one community can prosper only at the cost of another community).

Note: Communalism is an ideological tool often used by the upper class to mobilize people to achieve their own political goals. 

6 Types of Communalism

Often there is a perception in the society that communalism is a threat to national security. But, it is not a threat to national security per se. It depends upon the type of communalism we are looking at.

According to Sociologists, there are 6 types of Communalism.


1. Assimilationist

  • When a large religious community tries to bring into its fold small communities.  
  • E.g., Hindu organizations projecting Tribals as Hindus. 

2. Welfarist

  • When a religious community makes an effort for the welfare of the members of that community.
  • E.g., Christian organizations doing welfare work for Christians.

3. Retreatist

  • When the religious community forbid their members from participating in political affairs.
  • E.g., Bahi Community.

4. Retaliatory

  • When members of the religious communities are made to believe that their interests are mutually antagonist to the interests of other religious communities.
  • E.g., the Hindu-Muslim community.

5. Separatist

  • When people demand a separate state based on religious identities within the federal framework.
  • E.g., Punjabi Suba Movement by Punjabi Sikhs. 

6. Secessionist

  • When people demand secession based on religious identities.
  • E.g., Khalistan Movement. 

The last three threaten national integration, but the first three aren’t. Hence, we cant say communalism is always a threat to national integration.

Characteristics of Communalism

  • Communalism is an ideological concept. 
  • It is a total commitment to a set of beliefs & unwillingness to accept other beliefs.
  • It mostly rests on prejudices. 
  • It closes the self and is highly emotional.
  • It causes rivalry and violence among the masses. 
  • The higher class people and elites use it as an instrument for division and exploitation.
  • It strikes at the roots of secularism and national integration.

Evolution of Communalism in India

The genesis of communalism in India can be traced back to British rule.

  • With the emergence of secular education, a new educated middle class emerged. But the aspirations of the middle class were not getting satisfied in the absence of adequate economic opportunities. Communal Politics emerged to get the largest pie for their community.
  • In India, socio-economic classes coincided with religious distinctions. E.g.,
    • Hindu Zamindars vs Muslim peasants in Bengal, Kerala etc.
    • Hindu Banias vs Muslim (Jatt) Peasants in Punjab. 
  • Divide and Rule Policy of Britishers: To counter the growing national movement.

However, the overthrow of the colonial state was only the necessary condition to fight the menace of communalism but not sufficient condition. There were other forces at play too. Even in the post-independence period, the Government failed to control communalism. After independence, communalism persisted and has been the biggest threat to the secular fabric of our nation. As a result, the following communal violence outbreaks happened in India:-

  1. Anti-Sikh riots of 1984
  2. Mass killing and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley (1989) 
  3. Riots after Babri Masjid demolition (1992) 
  4. Godhra riots of 2002
  5. Assam violence between Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims (2012)
  6. Muzzafarnagar riots (2013)
  7. Delhi riots (2020) 
Communal Riots in India

Causes of Communalism

Failing of Minorities to integrate into mainstream

  • Muslims failed to intermix in the national mainstream and insisted on sustaining a separate identity. 

Vote Bank Politics

  • Various religion base parties use communalism to consolidate their vote banks.

Communal way of history writing

  • British historians like James Mill described the ancient period as the Hindu period and the medieval period as the Muslim period.

Economic Causes

  • If a certain religious community is economically weak, it leads to the feeling of relative deprivation and leads to the rise of communalism.

Absence of Uniform Civil Code

  • In the absence of a Uniform civil code, there is a perception that all communities have divergent and contradictory interests. 

Psychological factors

  • Hindu groups consider Muslims are crusaders, fundamentalists and unpatriotic.
  • On the other hand, the Muslims believe that they are treated as inferior in India.  

Politics of Appeasement

  • Political parties try to appease communities for votes epitomized by Shah Bano Case. This promote Communalism.

Provocation of Enemy Countries

  • E.g., Pakistan fosters Communal feelings, especially in Kashmiri Muslim Youth.

Social factors

  • Issues like beef consumption, Hindi/Urdu imposition, conversion efforts by groups etc., further created a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims. 

Present issues related to Communalism

Love Jihad

  • Ultra Right Hindu outfits allege that organized conspiracy is going on under which Muslim males marry Hindu females with the sole purpose to convert them into Islam.
  • Although the term ‘love jihad’ has no legal basis, states like UP, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh are planning to make a law against ‘love jihad’.

Problems in State Machinery to fight Communalism

  • National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) fights for communal violence-related causes. But its recommendations are advisory in nature.
  • Various commissions have given suggestions to solve the issue of communal violence. Prominent among them are SACHAR COMMITTEE and RANGANATH MISHRA COMMISSION.
    • Sachar committee (2010) : Recommended to set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC). 
    • Ranganath Misra Commission: Recommended reservation for minorities. 
  • There is no specific act to deal with communal violence and targeted violence. It was also held in the Sajjan Kumar vs NCT of Delhi Case (2018) regarding communal riots against Sikhs of 1984.
  • The role of police in communal riots is highly controversial. It is further aggravated by the large scale concentration of the dominant caste in the police.  

Impact of Communalism

1. On Politics

  • Organization of political parties on a communal basis.
  • Voting in elections also happens on a communal basis.
  • Large scale riots near elections to polarize voters.

2. On Society

  • It has created a wide rift among the people.
  • Hampers unity of the nation and creates various sub-national feelings.
  • Curbing of Progressive voices. E.g. Voices for the abolition of Triple Talaq is being opposed.  

3. On Economy

  • The vandalization of public property like burning of buses, trains etc.
  • Badly impacts the investor’s confidence.

Ways to eradicate Communalism

  1. Building solidarity and assimilation of various religious groups by fostering a secular culture, e.g. celebrating each other’s religious festivals.
  2. Swift and prompt response to radicalization by a militant group on social media through police action and psychological counselling. 
  3. Ensuring that political parties refrain from using religion in order to h votes through strict vigilance by institutional mechanisms such as the Election Commission. 
  4. The Parliament should frame stern laws against communal violence.
  5. CBI or a special investigative body should investigate communal riots within a stipulated time frame. Further, special courts should hear such cases for quick delivery of justice to victims.
  6. A pluralistic settlement where members of different communities live should be encouraged by removing existing barriers as religious segregation strengthens communal identities and reinforces negative stereotypes of other religious groups.
  7. Government should not ban minority practices in order to appease the majority group. E.g. the state should not show a preference for vegetarianism. 
  8. Uniform Civil Code should be formulated and implemented with the consensus of all religious communities so that there is uniformity in personal laws.
  9. Equal Opportunities Commission should be formed. 
  10. The state should show zero Tolerance toward riots.  
  11. Promote the Indian ideology of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, i.e. the whole world is a family.

Dowry Issue in India

Dowry issue in India

This article deals with the ‘ Dowry issue in India .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Dowry is the payment given to the bridegroom’s family at the wedding, either in cash or in kind.
  • Dowry Death = When young women are murdered or pushed to commit suicide as a result of constant torture and abuse from spouses and in-laws in an effort to extract a larger dowry.
Dowry Issue in India


  • Dowry as part of Indian culture: The exclusion of women from the workforce, especially those belonging to the higher caste, has resulted in the practice of dowry.
  • Increasing consumerism: People see dowry as an avenue to fulfil their impossible dreams. 
  • For some people, paying a dowry at their daughter’s marriage is an investment for fetching a high dowry through their son’s marriage. 

New Trend: Earlier, only upper castes indulged in dowry, but now lower castes are imitating higher castes. It is the process of Sanskritization at play.

Effects of Dowry System

  • Domestic Violence: Women are at the receiving end and are harassed & tortured.
  • Imbalance in sex ratio: Due to the huge burden of dowry, daughters are seen as a financial burden leading to female infanticide & foeticide.
  • It is against the Constitutional spirit of Equality and Justice as it violates the Fundamental Rights of women and their parents. 
  • It negatively impacts the child’s personality. 
  • It is detrimental to the Indian image at the global level and also goes against Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) ratified by India.

Provisions to prohibit  dowry

Provisions to tackle Dowry

1. Dowry (Prohibition) Act, 1961

  • Under the provisions of the act, demanding & giving dowry has been made punishable by 6 months or a fine.
  • The issue with the Act: “Dowry” is defined as the gift given or demanded as a condition for marriage. Gifts given without condition are not considered dowry and are not punishable. 

2. Section 304 B of IPC

  • Section 304 B deals with dowry death-related cases
  • It has the provision of imprisonment of 7 years to life term. 

3. Section 498 A of IPC

  • Dowry-related cases are non-bailable and non-compoundable. 

4. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  • Dowry often leads to domestic violence against women. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence protects women from such violence. 

5. Conventions

  • Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is against all types of discrimination against women, including dowry. 

Issues with Dowry related provisions of IPC

  • Section 406 of IPC doesn’t demarcate the boundary between ‘Dowry’ & ‘Streedhan’. This ambiguity has been misused in demanding dowry. (according to Justice Malimath Committee) .
  • Section 498 A of IPC is problematic
    • The husband or his family members are presumed to be guilty until they prove their innocence => this provision is misused by the women. 
    • Dowry-related cases are non-compoundable (can’t compromise while the case is going) and non-bailable. According to Justice Malimath Committee, it kills any effort of conciliation.
    • In Rajesh Sharma vs the State of UP (2017), the Supreme Court accepted that Section 498A of the IPC is misused. As a safeguard, Supreme Court ordered to set up of 3 membered ‘family welfare committees in all districts. The committee will look into every complaint within a month & no arrest can be made till that time. Supreme Court, however, has stated that these directions do not apply to cases in which the wife has suffered tangible physical injuries or Death.

How to end dowry?

  • Attitudinal Change: Government should use peer pressure to bring attitudinal change in society. 
  • Amend Sections 406 and 498A of IPC  as suggested by Malimath Committee. 
  • Government should enforce the laws strictly. 
  • Dowry-related cases should be fast-tracked in the courts.  
  • Government should promote “Adarsh Marriage” & “Mass Marriage”.

Initiatives for Women

Initiatives for Women

This article deals with ‘Initiatives for Women.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .

Initiatives for Women
Initiatives for Women

Constitutional measures

  • Right to Equality under Article 14 .
  • Article 16 : Equality of opportunities in matter of public appointments for all citizens.
  • Article 23 : Bans trafficking in human and forced labour .
  • Equal pay for equal work under Article 39(d) (DPSP) 
  • Article 42 : Maternity Leave .
  • Article 44 : state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for its citizens, throughout the territory of India.
  • Article 51(A)(e) : Renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Fundamental Duty) .
  • Article 300 (A : Right of property to women .
  • 73rd & 74th Amendment Act 1992 : Reservation of 1/3rd of seats in local bodies of panchayats and municipalities for women. 


  • Vishakha Judgement : Supreme Court gave detailed guidelines regarding women at workplace known as Vishakha guidelines.
  • Shyara Bano case : Triple Talaq was declared unconstitutional  by the Supreme Court .
  • Laxmi vs Union of India : Supreme Court recommended following to contain incidents of Acid Attacks :-
    • Don’t sell acid to person under 18.
    • Sell acid only if they show identity proof and purpose of purchase .
    • Record the sale details and submit them to police.
    • Sell only non-harmful form of acid.

Statutory Provisions

1 . Special Marriage Act , 1954

  • It has been amended to fix the minimum age of marriage at 21 years for males & 18 years for females .

2. Hindu Succession Act 1956

  • Equal share to daughter in father’s property , while a widow has the right to inherit husband’s property.
  • An amendment in this Act in 2005 enabled daughters to have equal share in ancestral properties.

3. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

  • It prohibits traffic in women and girls for the purposes of prostitution.

4. Dowry Prohibition Act,1961

  • Act makes dowry demands in wedding arrangements is illegal.

5. Indecent   Representation   of   Women (Prohibition)  Act,   1987

  • Act prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings etc.

6. Sati (Prevention) Act , 1987

  • The practice of Sati which was first abolished in 1829, was revised and made illegal in 1987.
  • It provided for a more effective prevention of the commission of sati and its glorification and for matters connected therewith.

7. National Commission for Women (NCW) Act, 1990

  • The National Commission for Women was set up as statutory body in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 .

8. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

  • It seeks to determine domestic violence in all forms against women & make it a punishable offence.

9. Sexual Harassment At Workplace Act

  • Based on Vishakha guidelines .
  • It has provision of formation of ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ (ICC) to deal with cases of Sexual Harassment at workplace .

10. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

  • It increased women’s maternity leave entitlements from 12 to 26 weeks .

11. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 

12. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 2003.

13. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013

  • In the backdrop of Nirbhaya gang rape, this Act was passed amending the CrPC. The new law has provisions for increased sentence for rape convicts, including life-term and death sentence, besides providing for stringent punishment for offences such as acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.

14. Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971

  • The act provides certain grounds on which abortion is allowed including foetal abnormalities, physical and mental injury to the mother and failure of contraceptive methods.
  • But there are some issues with present act. These include
    1. Denial of Reproductive rights to Unmarried women: It does not contain provisions for unmarried women seeking abortion in case of contraceptive failure.
    2. Upper limit of 20 weeks: Under the act, termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks needs approval of the court. This is problematic since a number of foetal abnormalities are detected after 20 weeks .
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been introduced to address above issues. Amendments include
    1. Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for termination of pregnancy.
    2. Relaxing the contraceptive-failure condition for “any woman or her partner” (including unmarried women)


1 . Convention on Elimination  of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

  • India ratified CEDAW in 1993.

2. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) (1995)

  • It was adopted on Fourth World Conference on Women which was held in Beijing.
  • It sets  objectives and actions for advancement of women and achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern like (1) Women and the environment, (2) Women in power and decision-making, (3)  girl child, (4) Women and the economy, (5) Women and poverty, (6) Violence against women, (7) Human rights of women, (8)Education and training of women, (9) Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, (10) Women and health, (11) Women and the media and (12)Women and armed conflict .
  • After signing the Beijing Declaration, India setup Nodal Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), National Commission for Women, passed progressive legislations etc.

Government’s Schemes  to empower Women

1 . Health related Schemes

1.1 PM Suraksheet Matritva Yojana (PM SMY) 

  • Ante – Natal (before birth) checkup for pregnant women on 9th of every month by specialist  .
  • Started in 2016 .

1.2 Janani Suraksha Yojana 

  • To promote Institutional delivery of the pregnant women .
  • Started in 2005 .

1.3 PM Matru Vandana Yojana 

  • ₹ 6,000 to be given to all mothers .
  • To be given in Instalments (6th Month pregnancy || 3 months after birth || 6 months after birth)
  • Applicable for  first  two  children .

1.4 Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

  • Safeguard the health of women & children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel ( LPG ) .

1.5 To Combat Diseases among Pregnant Women & infants

  • Anaemia : Anaemia is the major problem in Pregnant women.  Iron Folic Acid supplements are given to women to deal with this issue.
  • Diarrhoea : Large number of infants die because of this . ORS and Zinc Tablets are given to women to deal with this issue. 

Side Topic : Menstrual Hygiene  Schemes

  • Only 12% of menstruating women in India use sanitary napkins
  • 23% of rural girls  drop out of school when they start menstruating. Dropping out  encourages early child marriage and makes them lose the opportunity to be in  workforce.
  • To deal with this, government has started following menstrual hygiene schemes :-
Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan Started by Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD).
Under one component of the Scheme , sanitary pads are provided to girls in schools .
Suvidha Started by Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.
It aims to provide 100% biodegradable sanitary napkin .
Project Stree Swabhiman Started by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).

2. Financial Security

2.1 Stand up India

  • Loan of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore is provided woman without collateral  for setting up a new enterprise .

2.2 Swa-Shakti

  • This project aims at establishment of more than 16000 SHGs(Self Help Groups) having 15 – 20 women members each & thereby enhance women’s access to and control over resources for betterment of their lives.

2.3 Rashtriya Mahila Kosh

  • It provide funds to  poor women  .

2.4 Mahila E-Haat

  • Web based initiative which provides access to woman entrepreneurs  to global markets .

2.5 Sukanya Samridhi Yojana

  • Small savings scheme for girl child

Side Note : Some women entrepreneurs to be quoted as example

  • Kiran Mazumdar : Biocon Limited (world’s leading Biotech company)
  • Rajni Bector : Cremica & Mrs Bector (Phillaur (Punjab) based company which is the largest food confectionary company of India) 

3. Other schemes

3.1 PM Mahila Shakti Kendra

  • These will be set-up at village level in all Anganwadi Centres. 
  • It will Empower women through training and capacity building .

3.2 Sakhi- one stop centre scheme

  • It provide  support ( rescue , medical and legal, psychological support ) to women affected by  Domestic Violence .

3.3 Working Women Hostel

  • To provide safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with day care facility for their children, in urban, semi urban, or even rural areas where employment opportunity for women exist .

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana

  • Objectives of the scheme
    1. Prevent female foeticide &  infanticide.
    2. Ensure every girl child is educated .
  • Funding Pattern : It is 100 % funded by the Centre .
  • Salient features of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana
    • Task Force  has been setup under the District Collector .
    • It ensures strict implementation of PCPNDT Act .
    • It also ensures strict implementation of POCSO Act  (POCSO= Protection of children from sexual offences).
    • Small Saving Scheme under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao known as Sukanya Samridhi Yojana has been started.

Inspite of these schemes, position of women is not that good

  • Global Gender Gap Report  2018 (by World Economic Forum) : India  is ranked 108 .
  • As per census 2011 , sex ratio for India is 940 females per 1000 of males .
  • According to  Lancet, nearly 10 million female abortions have taken place in India in the last 20 years.
  • Female literacy levels according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census are 65.46% where the male literacy rate is over 80%.
  • Woman Labour Force Participation is low (at 27%).
  • On an average,  66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s.
  • Global Wage Report points toward fact that Indian Woman are paid 30% lesser than males for same job .

What more should be done ?

Reproductive Health 

  • There is need to shift focus from female sterilisation to male sterilisation.


  • Mission mode approach for literacy among women  should be adopted.


  • Recognizing women’s unpaid work should be utmost priority.
  • Need to grant Rights of women to immovable property.

Governance and Decision Making

  • Number of women legislatures should be improved

Environment and Climate Change

  • Climate change will impact Women the most as
    • Higher temperatures will increase their labour in food processing & collection of potable water
    • Global warming will lead to low food => it will  affect females more than males due to unequal intra-household food allocations .

Other aspects

  • Programs should place women at centre stage.
  • Need to recognize special needs of single women including widows, separated, divorced and deserted.

Economic Survey Topic : Development as antidote to female issues

  • Development  is an antidote’ to problems faced by women in India  due to Convergence Effect ( i.e. when development happens , all socio-economic indicators improve) .
  • In India , Convergence Effect is seen in all female problems except
    • Female Labour Participation
    • Son Meta Preference (Sex Ratio of Last Child)
Development as antidote to female issues

(Note : Comparison is made  when other countries were at same wealth level )

Reason for above observation : Cultural Lag

  • Whenever development happens
    • If it is impacting peripheral values ,  changes will be accepted .
    • But when it is impacting any core value, it faces backlash and is not accepted easily.
  • For changing core values, demand for change should come from within the society .
  • Hence, development is necessary for social change but it is not a sufficient condition. 

Women Organizations and Movements

Women Organizations and Movements

This article deals with  Women Organizations and Movements ’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Unlike the women’s movement in the West, the Indian women’s movement began in the shadow of colonial rule and the commitment to attain freedom from colonial rule. Thus, the Indian women’s movement transcended the limited gender framework, unlike the women’s liberation struggles in other parts of the world, especially in the West, where the principal purpose was to address the relationship between women and men in the private and public spheres. Questions of independence and freedom from colonial power were inextricably linked with the consciousness of the Indian women’s movement

Since the late 19th century, the Indian society has witnessed an active feminist movement. The early attempts at reforming the conditions under which Indian women lived were mainly carried out by western educated middle and high-class men. However, soon they were joined by the women of their families. These women and the men began organized movements fighting against oppressive social practices such as female infanticide, sati, child marriage, laws prohibiting widow remarriage, etc.

After Independence, many of the bourgeois women within the liberal section advocated for representation. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, India witnessed the resurgence of the women’s movement, mainly due to the repercussion of the problems that cropped up at the national front (such as price rise) and the women’s active mobilizations on the international front. 

Pre-Independence Movements

Women’s Organizations Started by Men

1. Brahmo Samaj

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahmo Samaj in 1825. It attempted to abolish restrictions and prejudices against women, including sati, child marriage, polygamy, and limited rights to inherit property.
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy played an essential role in getting Sati abolished.

2. Prarthana Samaj

  • Founded by MG Ranade & RG Bhandarkar in 1867
  • Its objectives were more or less similar to that of Brahmo Samaj but remained confined to western India.

3. Arya Samaj

  • Founded by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875
  • Unlike the above two, it was a religious revivalist movement that aimed to revitalize ancient Hindu traditions. It advocated reforms in the caste system, compulsory education for men and women, prohibition of child marriage by law, and remarriage of child widows.

While the men wanted women to be educated and take part in public activities, at the same time, they regarded the home as the primary focus for women. Gender equality was never an agenda for any of the movements mentioned above. They had a very limited perspective on changing the position of women within the family.

Women’s Organization Started by Women

By the end of the nineteenth century, a few women emerged from reformed families who formed their organizations. 

1. Swarnakumari Devi

  • She was the daughter of Devendranath Tagore, a Brahmo leader, and sister of the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who formed the Ladies Society in Calcutta in 1882 to educate and impart skills to widows and poor women to make them economically self-reliant. 
  • She edited a women’s journal named Bharati. 

2. Ramabai Saraswati

  • She formed the Arya Mahila Samaj in Pune in 1882 and Sharda Sadan in Bombay after few years.

Women in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and other smaller cities formed associations whose members were drawn from among a small group of urban educated families. They helped bring women out of their homes, giving them an opportunity to meet other women, doing philanthropic work, encouraging them to take an interest in public affairs and thus broadening their horizons.

National Women’s Organizations

  • The early women’s organizations were confined to a particular locality or city. In 1910, Sarala Devi Chaudhurani, daughter of Swarnakumari Devi, formed the Bharat Stree Mandal to bring together “women of all castes, creeds, classes and parties based on their common interest in the moral and material progress of the women of India.” Branches were started in cities such as Lahore, Amritsar, Allahabad, Hyderabad, Delhi and Karachi. 
  • The early 20th century saw the growth of women’s organizations at a national and local level. The Women’s India Association (WIA) (1917), All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) (1926) and National Council for Women in India (NCWI) (1925) were the prominent ones.

National Freedom Movement

  • Gandhian Movement: Women had been associated with the freedom struggle before Gandhi’s arrival. They had attended sessions of the Indian National Congress and taken part in the Swadeshi movement in Bengal. But the involvement of a large number began when Gandhiji launched the Non-Cooperation Movement and gave a special role to women.
  • Revolutionary Movements: While thousands of women joined the freedom movement in response to Gandhi’s call, others could not accept his creed of nonviolence and joined revolutionary or terrorist groups. Their hatred of the British was intense, and they planned to make attempts on European lives as widely as possible.  
  • Agrarian Movements: Women participated along with men in struggles and revolts in the colonial period. The Tebhaga movement originating in tribal and rural areas in Bengal, the Telangana arms struggle from the erstwhile Nizam’s rule, and the Warli Tribal Revolt are some examples. 
  • Labour Movements: In 1917, Anasuya Sarabhai led the Ahmedabad textile workers’ strike, and in 1920 under her leadership, the Ahmedabad textile mill workers union was established. By the late 1920s, the presence of women in the workers’ movement was noticeable. There were several prominent women unionists. 

Post Independence Women’s Movements

During the freedom movement, it was felt that with the nation’s Independence, many of the disabilities would disappear, and problems of women attributed to colonial rule would end. The national government undertook to remove the legal disabilities suffered by women and initiatedmajor reforms in the form of Hindu family laws. The legal reforms in the 1950s sought to provide greater rights to Hindu women in marriage, inheritance and guardianship. However, they failed to bridge the gap between legal and social realities. Similar changes in the family laws of other communities, like Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews, have not yet come up due to political resistance despite the Directive Principle of State Policy clearly stating the need for uniform laws for all the communities. 

Feminist Movements

Feminist activism in India gained momentum in the late 1970s. 

  • Towards Equality Approach: United Nations declared 1975-85 as the International Decade of the Woman and organized the World Conference on Women in Mexico (1975). As a result, in India, the National Committee on the Status of Women was set up to examine the status of women in the country and investigate the extent to which the constitutional and legal provisions had impacted women’s status. The Committee came out with its findings in the form of a report popularly known as the Towards Equality Report (1974). The beginnings of the women’s movement in India have often been traced back to this report. It showed that women were far behind men in enjoying the equal rights conferred on them by the constitution. This report led to a change in ideology to ‘Women in Development’ rather than ‘Women and Development’.
  • New organizations such as the Self-Employment Women’s Association (Gujarat), Working Women’s Forum (Tamil Nadu), Shramik Mahila Sangathan (Maharashtra) etc., concerned themselves with the plight of women workers in the unorganized sector. These organizations organized women’s labour and took up the issues of their wages, working conditions, exploitation and health hazards. 
  • Mathura Rape Case: This case brought women’s groups together for the first time. The reason was the acquittal of policemen accused of raping a young girl in a police station leading to country-wide protests in 1979-1980, which forced the Government to create a new offence of custodial rape.
  • Alcoholism (Anti-Arak Movement): Alcoholism leads to violence against women. Women groups launched anti-liquor campaigns in Andhra, Himachal, Haryana, Odisha, MP etc. 
  • Anti-Dowry Movement: In the 1980s, several women’s and other progressive organizations formed a joint front in Delhi called “Dahej Virodhi Chetna Manch” and campaigned through protest, demonstrations, discussions, street theatre, posters etc. After much deliberation, the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 1984 was passed.
  • Deforestation and Ecological Movement: Women have direct contact with natural resources like fuel, food and fodder, forest, water and land, especially in rural areas. Economic hardships faced by women in the Himalayan region due to the cutting down of forests resulted in the spontaneous mobilization of women. They hugged the trees to prevent the contractors from felling them. It is popularly known as the Chipko movement. It was just the beginning, followed by several other movements, such as the Green Belt movement in 1977 (planting trees), the Appiko movement (hugging the trees), Narmada Bachao Andolan etc., which saw significant participation of women at all levels. 
  • Triple Talaq: Started in the Shah Bano Case & culminated with the Shyara Bano case in the Supreme Court, which has effectively banned the practice of Triple Talaq in Muslims. 
  • Bhanwari Devi Gangrape Case (1992): Bhanwari Devi was a Saathin in Rajasthan with the job of raising consciousness in her village about child marriage, dowry etc. Men of the dominant caste resented her efforts wrt Child Marriage, and she was brutally gang-raped. NGO named Vishakha filed a Case in Supreme Court culminating in Vishakha Guidelines.

Self Help Groups (SHGs)

  • SHGs were key instruments in women’s empowerment. 
  • 10-20 rural women from the same village, mostly poor, come together to contribute fortnightly or monthly dues as savings and provide group loans to the members.

Literary Movements

Journals devoted to promoting women’s equality in various languages started to raise women’s issues. These include

Feminist Network English Bombay
Ahalya Bengali Calcutta
Women’s Voice English Bangalore
Stree Sangarash Hindi Patna
Manushi Hindi Delhi

Present Movements

  • ‘Pinjra Tod’: fighting against the discriminatory rules in colleges and university hostels against girls.
  • Temple Entry Movement: Women leaders like Tirupati Desai (of Bhumata Brigade) raised their voices for entry of women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Temples like Shani Shignapur and Sabarimala etc. 
  • #MeToo Movement: MeToo Movement was started in the US and came to India, where women named powerful men who have sexually assaulted their colleagues in the workplace. The movement showed that the Balance of Power in the workplace is skewed in favour of perpetrators of sexual harassment. 
Women Organizations and Movements

Caste System

Last Updated: May 2023 (Caste System)

Caste System

This article deals with the Caste System. This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Caste System?

Caste is a system of social stratification which trace its origin from the Varna system. In this, a person’s special privileges and ineligibilities are decided by birth and can’t be transformed in a person’s lifetime.

Caste System

Origin of Caste System

The meaning of the word VARNA means colour. There are differences among social thinkers about the origin of castes, though three theories about castes’ origins are quite famous.

  1. Racial theory 
  2. Occupational theory of caste system
  3. The political theory of the caste system

1. Racial theory

  • It is supported by Herbert Risley and G.S.Ghurye.
  • In his book, The Peoples of India, Risley stated that castes’ origin is linked to Racialism. According to him, 
    • Aryans came from Middle Asia & were divided into 3 Varnas (Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaishya). 
    • They defeated natives with their better warfare capabilities and merged them in the Varna system giving them Shudra status. The new system was called Chaturvarna. 
    • Additionally, they invented endogamy rules to maintain their racial purity.  
  • Ghurye also supported Risley and accepted that the caste system in India is a product of Aryans that originated in Ganga Yamuna Doab and then spread to other parts.

2. Occupational theory 

  • Nesfield is the proponent of this theory.
  • He believed that occupation is the basis of the origin of caste.
  • According to him, occupation and only occupation is the basis of the origin of the caste system. All castes are products of division of labour which by time became hereditary. Additionally, they started to marry within the occupational group to support vocational efficiency, which consolidated the caste system.
  • Critics of this theory believe that occupational groups are present in various societies, then why caste system didn’t originate there.

3. Political theory

  • Abbé Dubois is a supporter of this theory.
  • He believed that the caste system was the product of the Brahmanical mind. According to him, to maintain their supremacy for an extended period, they invented the caste system. 
  • But critics don’t support this theory. According to critics, Brahmans were neither the leader of the army nor the class that dealt in wealth, so how did they establish this system.

The most accepted theory for the caste system is MULTIFACTORIAL THEORY which believes that the origin of the caste system is due to many factors.

Salient features of Caste System

The caste system in India is mainly associated with Hinduism and has governed Hindu society for thousands of years. Salient features of the caste system include

  • Ascribed status 
  • Endogamy
  • Heredity of occupations
  • Commensal restrictions 
  • Jati panchayat
  • Jajmani system

Ascribed Status

  • In the caste system, a person’s status is decided on his birth only, which he can’t change in his lifetime.


  • A caste is an endogamous group where each caste member is expected to marry within their caste group.

Heredity of Occupation

  • Members of a particular caste can adopt the occupation associated with that caste.

Purity Pollution basis

  • The caste hierarchy is decided according to the degree of purity and pollution. Pure caste is ranked at the top, and impure is ranked at the bottom.

Commensal Restrictions

  • A person belonging to a lower caste are not allowed to dine with people belonging to a higher caste.

Jati Panchayat

  • Every caste has its own Jati panchayat, which enforces marriage, occupational and dietary rules via provisions like a social boycott.

Jajmani System

  • The economic aspect of the caste system is called Jajmani System.  
  • Jajmani system denotes the exchange of services and objects among different caste groups. 
  • Those castes which take services from other castes are called JAJMANS, and those which give services are called Praja or Kamin. 
  • Western thinker William Wisser studied the caste system with a functional perspective and believed that the Jajmani system ensures egalitarianism by the dependence of different caste on each other.
  • However, French thinker Louis Dumont believed it to be an oppressive system. According to him,
    • Many castes take services only but do not give services.
    • Many castes give services only but do not take services.
    • Many times the value of exchanged services or objects are not equivalent.

Above mentioned caste system remained in force till British arrival. With and after British arrival, many changes were seen in the Caste system due to the following reasons:-

  • The advent of industrialization.
  • Urbanization: With increasing migration, city life is becoming anonymous where caste identities of co-habitants are seldom known. 
  • Rise of new occupations
  • Exoteric Education System.
  • Impact of the rule of law and constitution
  • Dalit consciousness due to the efforts of stalwarts like BR Ambedkar. 
  • Herbert Risley’s attempt to assign rank in the social hierarchy to castes: The colonialists conducted methodical and intensive surveys and reports on the ‘customs and manners’ of various tribes and castes all over the country to govern them effectively. The 1901 Census sought to collect information on the social hierarchy of caste. This direct attempt to count caste and officially record caste status changed the institution itself. Before this, caste identities had been much more fluid and less rigid. 
  • British Administration took a keen interest in the welfare of the downtrodden like the Government of India Act of 1935, which gave legal recognition to Scheduled Castes marked out for special treatment.
  • Breakdown of Jajmani system: The Jajmani system involves exchanging goods and services, with each Jati contributing its share based on occupational speciality. However, it is dissipating due to the traditional breakdown of occupation and industrialization.  

Whereas the causes mentioned above weakened the caste system, on the other hand, there are 3 main reasons which provided a lifeline to the caste system

  1. Democracy 
  2. Caste-based reservation 
  3. Caste organizations 

There is a saying that after independence, though caste is diminishing, Casteism is increasing. Andre Beitelle believes that democracy and reservation will provide a lifeline to the caste system for the next 100 years. Recent times show a paradoxical situation- as on the one hand, the caste system has weakened; on the other, caste-based identities have strengthened due to political mobilization.

Manifestations of Caste System

The caste system is manifested at many levels and in many forms.

  • Endogamy: To sustain itself, the caste system relies on endogamy, i.e. marriage within the same caste. Those who dare to go against this norm have to suffer honour killings.
  • Social boycott of those who dare to go against the set norms of caste.
  • Resource deprivation as one goes down the caste hierarchy. E.g., Dalits have to suffer land alienation, bonded labour and indebtedness. 
  • Dalits are forced to take up jobs that are regarded as polluted and unhygienic.
  • SCs and STs have to face various atrocities.

Ill effects  of Caste System on Indian Society

  • Hindered national unity by dividing people based on caste. 
  • It resulted in the creation of a class of idlers.
  • Stood against democracy as democracy works in equality. 
  • It has led to the lower status of women in society. 
  • Resulted in religious conversion: Shudras converted to Islam and Christianity to get out of the exploitative system.
  • It led to the introduction of untouchability.
  • Caste System acts against meritocracy.

Some Benefits

  • The caste system started as a natural division of labour and was useful in its original form. 
  • It helped accommodate multiple communities, including invading tribes in the Indian society. 
  • It has helped pass knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. 
  • Through subsystems like the Jajmani system, the caste system kept our villages self-sufficient and made the village community, in the words of Charles Metcalfe, ‘Little Republics‘. 

Ways to eradicate Caste

  • Improve Education and ensure good quality education to all.
  • Promote inter-caste marriage.
  • Economic stability and a job-producing economy will help resolve the need for a caste-based reservation.
  • Eradicate Timeless Reservation: According to sociologists like Andre Beittle, reservation has provided 100 years lease period to the caste system.
  • Strengthen Section 123 of Representation of People Act (RoPA), 1951: To prevent parties from invoking votes solely on caste grounds. 

India has been a signatory to the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969), which places the country in an “anti-racism” camp. 

Side Topic: Caste Mobility

Mobility in the caste system can be seen at two levels

Inter Caste Mobility

  • Sanskritization: The process whereby people emulate the ritual practices and customs of upper caste people.

Intra Caste Mobility

  • Elite sub-stratum: Sub Stratum of elites has formed within the lower castes. E.g., Meenas in STs.
  • Westernization 


  • M.N. Srinivas gave the concept of Sanskritization after studying village Rampura (Mysore)  in his book Caste and Religion among the Coorgs of South India.
  • It denotes the process by which caste or tribes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by emulating the rituals and practices of the upper or dominant castes.
  • The lower castes tend to do the following things to get upward mobility and social prestige.
    • Renunciation of polluted vocations.
    • Renunciation of non-vegetarianism and acceptance of vegetarianism.
    • Renunciation of alcoholism.
  • According to Srinivas, Sanskritization doesn’t lead to any structural change in caste hierarchy but only positional change. 

Issues with Sanskritization

  • It doesn’t lead to structural change but only positional change of some individuals. 
  • It exaggerates the scope of ‘lower castes’ to move up the social ladder. In a highly unequal society such as India, there were and still are obstacles to taking over the customs of the higher castes by the lower.   
  • It leads to practices of secluding girls and women adopting dowry practices.   


  • Due to the policy of positive discrimination (reservation in jobs and admission) adopted by the Indian government, an increasing number of groups now lay claim to backward status in state matters and a forward status in society. This trend is exactly opposite to Sanskritization, thus termed as De-Sanskritization. 
  • The agitation of Gujjars in Rajasthan to claim the status of Scheduled Tribe and by Jats in north-western India to include them in backward caste list exemplifies this trend. 

Side Topic: Dominant Castes

  • The concept given by M.N Srinivas holds that a caste is dominant when it is numerically higher than the other castes. 
  • It can be seen as an anomaly to Caste System. 
  • Dominant caste may not be ritually highest but enjoy high status because of wealth, political power and numerical strength.
  • Examples include Jats in Haryana, Sikh Jatts in Punjab, Yadavs in UP & Bihar, Reddys in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana etc. (mainly agrarian communities). 
  • The power of the dominant caste is supported by a norm discouraging village from seeking justice from court or police.  
  • After the Mandalisation of politics, the power of the dominant caste has increased very much.

Modern avatar of Caste

  • According to M.N. Srinivas, after the Mandalization of politics, the vertical hierarchical nature of caste has been replaced by a horizontal arrangement of competing caste groups free from any stigma of purity & pollution & this has been termed as the modern avatar of caste. 
Modern avatar of Caste
  • Elite substratum: Within backward caste, a class has been created which has taken advantage of affirmative action and is now monopolizing all new opportunities. 
Elite substratum
  • The caste system has become ‘invisible’ for the upper caste, urban middle and upper classes. The opposite has happened for the so-called scheduled castes and tribes and the backward castes. For them, their caste has tended to eclipse the other dimensions of their identities.   
  • The secular pattern of living has been emerging because of urbanization. 
  • Trends for intercaste marriage: Due to economic and social necessities, inter-caste marriages on western lines are being performed at increased frequency.
  • New food habits: Due to the frequent mixing of the people at meetings, conferences, seminars etc., food habits have changed. People have started to eat at the same table, accept food prepared by low caste people etc.

Role of Caste in Politics (based on Rajni Kothari’s study)

Various phases in Dalit Movement in India are as follows:-

1. Pre-Independence

These can be divided into two parts.

  • Reformative: They never questioned the Caste System. All they wanted was discriminatory aspects of the Caste System should be reformed. E.g., the Harijan Movement of Gandhi. 
  • Alternative: Create an alternative socio-cultural system where there was no caste system. E.g., Religious Conversions etc. 

2. Post Independence

2.1 1950-60s

  • Congress was manipulating Dalits as a vote bank, but they were not given any leadership role. To challenge it, 
    • The Republican Party of India was formed.
    • There was a mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism.
  • But Republican Party wasn’t able to sustain itself due to Marxist vs Ambedkarite ideology. Ambedkarites favoured gaining political power and using it for the social upliftment of their community. But Marxists wanted to annihilate socio-political structure and create a completely classless society. 

2.2 1970s

Dalit Panther Movement 
  • It was inspired by the ‘Black Panthers Movement of USA’.  
  • It was aimed at generating awareness among people regarding the plight of the Dalits.
  • Educated students carried it out, and the methodology included public debates, pamphlets, plays etc. Students of other sections of society apart from Dalits also participated in this. 
  • They defined dalits in a holistic way consisting of “all those who are exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion.”

2.3. 1980s

Rise of Bahujan Samaj Party

  • They were of the ideology that, ‘In a democracy, the majority should rule. 
  • They wanted to take power out of the hands of elites, especially Brahmins, Rajputs and Baniyas. 

Caste Census

  • Caste Census is the caste-wise tabulation of the population in the census exercise. 
  • Caste was included as a category in the Census in 1931 for the last time. From 1951, although the population of SCs and STs is counted, caste is not included. 

Timeline of Caste Census

1872 The first population Census of India was conducted.
1881 The first synchronous census of India was conducted.
1931 The last census that counted the different castes of India.
1951 In the first census post-independence, the government decided to include SC and ST data but didn’t include data on other castes.
1979 Mandal Commission estimated that the OBC population in India is approximately 52%.
2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) was conducted, which studied the socioeconomic status of rural and urban households and ranking of households based on predefined parameters like the structure of the house (Kuccha or Pucca), ownership status, the main source of income etc.   

But the data of SECC was never made public.
2021 There were demands of including Caste Data in the Census-2021. But PM has replied in the Lok Sabha that Caste data will not be enumerated in Census-2021.

Arguments against Caste Census

  • It will subvert India’s anti-caste struggle and make the castes more rigid by reinforcing caste identities. 
  • Identity Politics: Caste Census will strengthen the caste boundaries and force political parties to indulge in caste politics instead of focusing on development issues. 
  • Rise in demand for reservations: Caste census would lead to a clamour for higher quota in government jobs and admissions to educational institutions.
  • Estimates of caste are already available in surveys conducted by the NSSO and National Family and Health Survey (NFHS). 

Arguments favouring Caste Census

  • The collection of caste data will help better policymaking and understanding the effects of affirmative action and redistributive justice. It will help in rationalising reservation policy as per the needs of specific caste.
  • Further, Indra Sawhney’s judgment of the Supreme Court has also demanded that such evidence be collected every 10 years to bar privileged castes from cornering all the affirmative actions.
  • For OBC sub-categorization, the need of a new caste census is sine quo none.

Salient features of Indian Society

Last Updated: June 2023 (Salient features of Indian Society)

Salient features of Indian Society

This article deals with Salient features of Indian Society. This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Mark Twain on Indian Society - India is the cradle of the Human race

What is Society?

  • Society can be defined as the network of social relationships due to interaction between its members. 
  • There are 4 attributes of any society 
    • Definite territory: there should be definite geographical territory.
    • Progeny: Source of membership through reproduction.
    • Composite Culture.
    • Independence: It can’t be a sub-entity of a larger entity.
  • India is a state with multiple societies/nations in it. Indian society is an amalgamation of many societies 
    • India is one state with multiple nations.
    • Sri Lanka is one state with two nations.
    • Japan is a single state with a single nation.
    • Korea is two states with one nation.
Indian Society and Nation
  • Change in society can be studied wrt following 
    • Endogenous Changes: From within the system like Buddhism, Jainism, Bhakti etc.
    • Exogenous Changes: From outside the system like Islam, Christianity, British rule, globalization etc. 

Characteristics of Indian Society

  1. Multiethnic society: Indian society is multiethnic due to the co-existence of many racial groups. 
  2. Multilingual Society: Across the country, more than 1600 languages are spoken.
  3. Multi-class society: Indian society is segmented into multiple classes. This division can be based on birth as well as financial and social achievements.
  4. Accommodative Society: Throughout its history, India has witnessed numerous invasions by different empires and civilizations, including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Mauryans, Mughals, British, and others. But Indian society has accommodated and assimilated various cultures, traditions, and ideas brought by these invasions. 
  5. Patriarchal society: Indian society is primarily a patriarchal society where men enjoy greater status than women. However, some tribal societies are matriarchal as well.
  6. Unity in diversity: Various diversities exist in India. But beneath this diversity, there is fundamental unity.
  7. Co-existence of traditionalism and modernity: Traditionalism is upholding core values. In contrast, modernity refers to questioning the tradition and moving towards rational thinking and social and technological progress. Due to the spread of education, modern thinking among Indians has increased. However, family life is still bound by traditional values and belief systems.
  8. The balance between individualism and collectivism: Individualism is an outlook that stresses human independence, self-reliance and liberty. In contrast, collectivism is giving a group priority over each individual in it.  
  9. Blood and kinship ties: Blood relations and kinship ties enjoy a stronghold over other social relationships.  
  10. Caste System is an intrinsic part of Indian society. 
  11. Joint Family: Since time immemorial, Indians have preferred to live in Joint families. 
  12. Marriage: Mostly, monogamy is practised, but polygamy is also practised at some places. 

Salient Features of Indian Society

Salient features of Indian Society

1. Caste System

Refer separate Article- CLICK HERE.

2. Joint Family

A family in which 

  • People live together with all family members up to 2nd generation, 
  • Members have no individual identity, 
  • Decision-making power lies exclusively with the eldest male member of the family. 

is called a joint family.

  • The Indians have understood the importance of the Joint family since time immemorial.
  • What constitutes jointness in the family?
    • Common residence 
    • Commensality (inter dining)
    • Common ownership of property
    • Rights and obligations 
    • Ritual bonds: Periodic Propitiation of dead ancestors 
    • Blood relations (filial (father-son) and fraternal (between siblings)) are more important than marriage (conjugal) relations.

Advantage of Joint Families

  • It provides social insurance to the members.
  • Division of work: Workload, either domestic or business, is divided between the members.
  • Sharing resources with the cousins minimize the expenses on children.
  • It leads to the development of a feeling of camaraderie between cousins.
  • Social Security: Weaker family members – such as the elders or children – are taken care of by other members. 
  • Joint Families are more disciplined because the head of the big family becomes virtually its patriarch.
  • Women members can work too as grandparents, and other members are there to look after children. 
  • Agency of social control: Members doesn’t indulge in antisocial activities. 

Disadvantages of Joint Family

  • It creates parasites who love to feed on others’ income. 
  • The low status of women as blood relations are more important than conjugal relations.
  • Prostitution of personality: Children are forced not to show their real personality but behave according to the expectations of others.
  • Joint families are an ‘arena of contradiction and conflict.’
  • Agent of cultural reproduction: In Joint families, obsolete values like patriarchy don’t change. 
  • Joint families have a high fertility rate as an extra child doesn’t become a financial liability.
  • It leads to encroachment on privacy as a joint family has no privacy. 

Side Topic: Type of Families

Nuclear Family Consists of husband, wife, and unmarried children
Joint Family Consists of people living together up to 2nd generation
Blended Family Husband and wife with children from previous marriages live together
Single Parent Family When only one parent (male or female) provides care to the children due to reasons such as divorce, death etc.

From Joint Families to Nuclear Families

But despite its many advantages, silent changes have been taking place as old joint family systems have been disintegrating and nuclear families are coming up.

Reasons why Indians are moving towards Nuclear Families

  • Migration: Post-LPG Reforms, people are migrating towards cosmopolitans for jobs.
  • Spread of female education: educated girls can’t reconcile with husbands’ mothers & are forced to set up independent establishments. 
  • Disparity in the income of brothers:  Brothers with decent income usually separate.
  • Influence of urbanization: Various sociologists have revealed that city life is more favourable to small nuclear families than big joint families.  
  • Western value system: Individualistic values have been inculcated.

Functional Joint Family

  • Many Sociologists are of the view that we are not moving towards nuclear family but Functional Joint Family. 
  • According to sociologist IP Desai, a Functional Joint family is a family where although the members of a family are living separately, the individual gives importance to the fulfilment of obligation towards kin, especially parents.   
  • Although a person lives in the city, he keeps sending money to his parents.

Side Topic: Female-Headed Households

Generally, in Indian Society, households are Male headed. But there are some situations when Females head the household

  1. Migration of males to the urban areas.
  2. Widowhood  
  3. Divorce

3. Marriage Systems

Marriage is a relationship that is socially approved and sanctioned by custom and law. It is also a set of cultural mechanisms that ensure the family’s continuation.

Marriage has a large variety of forms

1. Polygamy vs Monogamy

1.1 Monogamy

Monogamy restricts the individual to one spouse at a time

  • Man can have only one wife.
  • Woman can have only one husband.

1.2 Polygamy

  • Polygamy denotes marriage to more than one mate at one time. 
  • It takes various forms
    1. Polygyny: One husband with two or more wives. Baigas and Gond Tribes in India practice Polygyny.
    2. Polyandry: One wife with two or more husbands. Usually, where economic conditions are harsh, polyandry may be one response of society, as a single male cannot support a wife and children. Toda, Khasa, Kota and Ladhaki Bota tribes in India practice Polyandry.
  • Even where polygamy is permitted, monogamy is more widely prevalent in actual practice.

2. Patrilocal vs Matrilocal vs Neolocal

2.1 Patrilocal

After marriage, the wife comes to reside in the family of her husband is known as the patrilocal marriage.

2.2 Matrilocal

The family in which after marriage husband comes to reside in the family of her wife is known as matrilocal family.

2.3 Neolocal

After marriage newly married couple establish a new family independent of their parents and settled in a new place.

3. Endogamy vs Exogamy

3.1 Endogamy

  • Endogamy requires an individual to marry within a culturally defined group. E.g., caste, religion etc. 

3.2 Exogamy

  • Exogamy requires the individual to marry outside of their group.

In India, village exogamy is practised in most north India so that daughters are married in distant places to ensure that they can’t interfere in the matters of her parents’ home and settle in her affinal home without interference.

Side Topic: Live-In Relationships

The trend of Live-In Relationships is increasing in India.

Reasons for increasing Live-In relationships in India

  • Penetration of modern education and ideas emanating from it like freedom, equality, autonomy, individualism etc.
  • Patriarchy associated with institutionalized marriages (like patrilocal residency, gender inequality, unequal division of labour between sexes, lack of agency over reproduction, etc.) makes some educated women choose Live-In relationships instead of marriage.
  • Legal and financial complications associated with marriages in case of splitting or divorces.
  • Increased labour force participation has made women economically independent to take decisions affecting their lives.
  • Career oriented and highly aspirational youngsters view legal institutionalized marriages and children as impediments to their career growth.
  • Impact of globalisation and westernization.
  • Inter-caste and interreligious marriages are still not accepted by society, forcing youth to prefer live-in relations.

The legality of Live-In Relationships

  • S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal: Supreme court has accepted live-in relationships under Article 21.
  • Justice Malimath Committee has recommended that live-in partners should be included in the definition of a wife.

4. Patriarchy

  • Patriarchy is a social system in which woman is suppressed.
  • It is not a constant concept since the nature of the subjugation of women varies. 
  • Brahmanical Patriarchy, Tribal Patriarchy and Dalit Patriarchy are different from each other. 

Structures of Patriarchy

  • Family: First lessons of Patriarchy are learned in a family.
  • Patriarchal construction of the Knowledge System (media, education institution etc.)
  • Symbolism
  • Religion: Patriarchy is legitimized by religion. E.g., Manu Smriti.
  • Caste System: Caste purity needs to control the sexuality of the woman. 

Question UPSC: How is patriarchy impacting the position of middle-class working woman?

  • Dual Burden /Second Shift: Due to patriarchy, working women face double exploitation because they are forced to do household chores even after their jobs. 
  • Glass Ceiling Effect: Due to this, women are not promoted to higher positions.
  • Workplace Violence, including sexual violence.
  • Wage Gap: Women are paid lesser for the same work.

5. Cultural Lag

Famous sociologist W.F. Ogburn coined the term Cultural Lag

Every group has two types of values 

  • Core Value 
  • Peripheral Values 

According to the concept of Cultural Lag

  • Whenever change comes at peripheral values, it is accepted by the group. 
  • But when change comes at Core Values, it is not easily accepted.
  • This phenomenon creates anxiety because the group is neither traditional nor fully modern in such a situation. 
  • E.g., People have accepted educating the girl child, but they have not given up Patriarchal Mindset. 

Changes in Indian Society

  • From Joint family to Nuclear and Functional Joint families: Already discussed above. 
  • Change in the marriage system
    1. Legislative measures like the child marriage Restraint Act, 1929 and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 have increased the minimum age of marriage.
    2. Freedom in mate selection which was earlier selected by the family.
    3. To fulfil career and individual ambitions, distance marriages” and “delayed marriages” have become common features. 
    4. Cases of divorce and desertion have also increased. 
  • The status of women in the family has improved as they have become more educated and started working, thus along with other male members in the family, they also now have a say in family issues. 
  • Women are given the right to ancestral property and a legal right to share the property with male members after the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was amended in 2005.

NCERT Topic: Impact of colonisation  on Indian Society

History is full of examples of annexation. But, there is a difference between empires of pre-capitalist and capitalist times.

  • Change in land ownership: It impacted the old agrarian ties. E.g., In Permanent Settlement, Zamindars were made sole proprietors with no rights even to Khudkashts.
  • Forest Laws & Tribals: Tribals were exploited, and their rights on minor produce were taken away 
  • Criminalization of Tribes via Criminal Tribes Act.
  • The policy of Divide and Rule: Colonialists divided Indian society based on religion.  
  • Forced Movement of Population on a large scale: Eg : 
    • Workers from Bihar & Jharkhand moved to Assam to work on tea plantations. 
    • Indentured labourers send to Africa and the Americas.
    • Deindustrialization & ruralization led to the movement of artisans to agriculture.
  • Exoteric secular knowledge: Brahmin monopoly over education ended, and Dalits also got access to knowledge
  • English replaced Persian as the official language: Muslims suffered, and Hindus who adapted to change rapidly increased their government jobs.