Monday, September 12, 2011

Contribution of Rammohan Roy (social and religious reforms)

Rammohan Roy had the firm view that the problems relating to the Hindu caste-based customs and the resultant misery of the people were of more immediate importance than the political transformations of India. Not that India's Independence was less important, but he rather considered that in order to tackle the issue, it was essential to liberate the Indian society from the chains of caste based customs. He also anticipated the assistance and co-operation of the British in the national efforts to achieve the objective. Rammohan was not  one among those educated persons who were sympathetic to Christianity and British rule rather he did not conceal his faith in Vedas and Upanishads which were considered to be the foundation of the doctrines of Hinduism. Simultaneously, he believed that the caste rules and the caste based customs and practices were fundamentally opposed to the Hindu religious faith and that they presented the Indian people, including Hindus, from reaching the level of civilized peoples. Rammohan wielded his sword mainly against the ill treatments towards woman and low caste people in the Hindu society.He strongly opposed the denial of property rights to woman in the family, prohibition of widow re-marriage, the system of Sati, polygamy, restrictions imposed on scooling of girls, the pardah system confining woman in the home,and so on. He demanded that polygamy and Sati be band and widows be given the right to re-marry.
It was during the first three decades of the 19th century that Rammohan started propagating these ideas. Initially it was confined within the state of Bengal then it spread through out India.
Rammohan founded Brahmo Samaj mainly among the caste Hindu. It was not only Brahmo Samaj of Bengal and the Satya Sadhak Samaj of Maharashtra that had worked for social reforms.Similar movements of various forms appeared in the different provinces during the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. While some of them had similarities with the Brahmo Samaj of Raja Rammohan Roy, others could be compared with the Satyasadhak  Samaj of Phule, born in a low caste Hindu. Both of the movements were meant for the  improvement of the society.Similar movements had come up in Kerala.
In 1826, a Jury act was passed which introduced religious discrimination the law courts.Under it Hindus and Muslims could be tried by European or Indian Christians, but no Christian whether European or Indian, could be tried by Hindu or Muslim Jurors . Rammohan submitted apetition against the act signed by both Hindus and Muslims to the British Parliament. In Bombay and Madras also there was public protest against the act.Under the presure of Indian public opinion the Jury act was amendedin 1832, abolishing the discriminatory provisionsof the Act of 1826.
When Rammohan Roy visited England, he submitted before the Parliamentary Select Committee, appointed to consider the question of the renewal of the East India Company's charter, a number of important demands like the separation of the judicial and executive functions  in the administration of criminal justice and the consultation of Indian public opinion before enacting legislation. Although his demand did not bear fruit immediately, they surely focussed public attention on important public issues. He was also keenly aware of the miserable condition of the peasants and the serious drain on India's economy.