The Caste movement in India was an expression of the growth of the larger national and human consciousness of the people. They were expressions of the democratic awakening of the lower castes. Their growing consciousness of their basic human rights was a part of the general national democratic awakening.
In the wake of the introduction of a new system of education, new political and economic forces which rested on the principles of individual liberty, equality, and democratic spirit percolated among the Indian masses. These forces stood in contrast to the feudal and traditional structure based on class caste, privileges, and social status and this inspired socially submerged classes to break through all shackles imposed on them.
Caste movements in India were fundamentally the movements to achieve mobility on the part of groups that had lagged behind the brahmins in westernization. The idea of equality was inherent in them and they were inevitably secular movements. They made an assault on the brahmin’s cultural and social predominance and exclusiveness. Brahmanical dominance in education and in new professions provided the bulk of stimulus for these movements. And it is no accident that these movements were the strongest in peninsular India where only one caste in the varna sense, the brahmins enjoyed a preponderance in higher education, government employment, and professions. It was also the region where a wide social and cultural gulf existed between the brahmins and the others.
Caste movements in India, in general, emerged as the manifestation of social mobility on the part of the castes lower than the brahmins in the social hierarchy. To all intents and purposes, this was the reaction against the social, economic, and cultural preponderance and exclusiveness of the brahmins over the other castes.
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Caste movements emerged as a response to the challenges posed by the brahmins in various walks of life they emerged as a defense mechanism, to contend with the brahminical influence.
The desire for social mobility was articulated through caste groups. The increase in horizontal solidarity occurred with an improvement in communication-enabled allied castes living over a wide region to be drawn into the mobility process. It also got a great Filip through the British policy of divide and rule in which census operation played a significant role.
The British policy of classifying castes on the basis of social precedence as recognized by native public opinion from the 1901 census provided an opportunity for making claims for social pre-eminence through caste mobilization.
So improved communication network made wider links and combinations possible, a new system of education provided an opportunity for socio-economic promotion, new administrative system, rule of law undermined certain privileges enjoyed by a chosen few previously & certain economic forces like the process of industrialization threw open equal opportunities for all, dismantling social barriers.
Caste associations came into existence and each association had as its aim of the improvement of the social and economic standing of the caste. Implicit in the general struggle of the castes for upward mobility was the idea of equality.
Caste became a rallying point that gave rise to caste solidarity. It gave rise to the community along caste lines. The rationale put forward by the caste leaders was that such communities had exclusive interests that suffered at the hands of the brahmins.