Women, Caste and Reform: Class 8 History Question & Answers

Women, Caste and Reform: Class 8 History Question & Answers: This article provides question and answers to intext-questions and Textbook exercise questions. Click here for other chapters of class 8 history.

Intext-Questions & Answers

Activity Questions

Answer: In the pre-printing age, before the widespread availability of books, newspapers, and pamphlets, discussions about social customs and practices primarily took place through oral communication, religious scriptures, storytelling, and community gatherings. Here are some ways in which these discussions might have occurred:

Oral Tradition:

  • Oral Narratives: Elders, storytellers, and wise individuals within communities played a crucial role in conveying social norms and practices through oral narratives. Stories, parables, and anecdotes were used to illustrate moral values and societal expectations.
  • Community Gatherings: Villages and towns often had spaces designated for communal gatherings. These gatherings served as platforms for discussions on various aspects of social life, including customs and practices.

Religious Teachings:

  • Religious Leaders: Priests, monks, and religious scholars were instrumental in interpreting and disseminating religious texts that contained guidelines for social conduct. Religious sermons and discourses addressed the community, providing moral and ethical insights.

Local Performances:

  • Dramas and Skits: Local performances, dramas, and skits were organized to depict social situations and customs. These artistic expressions were a form of social commentary, highlighting both positive and negative aspects of prevailing practices.
  • Festivals and Celebrations: During festivals, cultural events often included performances that conveyed societal values. These events were occasions for the community to reflect on its customs and traditions.

Community Meetings:

  • Village Councils: In many societies, village councils or elders’ meetings were held to discuss matters concerning the community. Social customs and practices were deliberated upon, and decisions were made collectively.

Traveling Scholars and Philosophers:

  • Wandering Intellectuals: Scholars and philosophers who traveled from one place to another played a role in disseminating knowledge. They engaged in discussions with local communities, sharing perspectives and challenging existing norms.

Symbolic Representations:

  • Symbolic Rituals: Rituals and ceremonies often carried symbolic meanings that conveyed messages about societal expectations. These rituals were interpreted and discussed within the community.

Personal Correspondence:

  • Letters and Messages: Although not as widespread, individuals could convey their thoughts on social customs through personal letters and messages. However, this method was limited to those who were literate.

Trade and Cultural Exchange:

  • Travel and Trade Routes: As people traveled for trade or cultural exchange, they brought with them new ideas and perspectives. Interactions along trade routes facilitated the exchange of cultural practices and customs.

While the methods were not as systematic or widespread as the printing age, these forms of communication and discussion were crucial in shaping social understanding and influencing the evolution of customs and practices over time.

Answer: Over the years, discussions on the worth of women have evolved, and contemporary arguments often reflect a more nuanced and egalitarian perspective. Here are some contrasting viewpoints that might be heard today:

Earlier Views:

  1. Traditional Roles: Women were confined to traditional roles, primarily as homemakers and caregivers. Their worth was often measured by their ability to fulfill domestic responsibilities.
  2. Limited Educational Opportunities: Earlier, there was a belief that educating women was unnecessary, as their primary role was seen as managing the household.
  3. Gender Stereotypes: Stereotypical notions of women being emotionally weak or intellectually inferior were prevalent. These stereotypes influenced perceptions of women’s worth.

Contemporary Views:

  1. Equal Educational Opportunities: The importance of education for women is widely acknowledged today. There is an emphasis on providing equal educational opportunities for both genders.
  2. Career and Professionalism: Women are increasingly recognized for their contributions beyond the domestic sphere. Their worth is not solely tied to traditional roles, and there is a growing acknowledgment of women’s achievements in various fields.
  3. Gender Equality: The discourse has shifted towards advocating for gender equality. The idea that women are inherently inferior has been challenged, and there is a push for dismantling gender stereotypes.
  4. Empowerment and Agency: Contemporary discussions focus on empowering women to make choices about their lives. The emphasis is on recognizing and respecting women’s agency in decision-making.
  5. Legal Rights: Legal frameworks have evolved to ensure women’s rights and protection against discrimination. Efforts have been made to address issues such as dowry, domestic violence, and workplace harassment.
  6. Intersectionality: There is a growing understanding of the intersectionality of gender with other aspects such as race, class, and sexual orientation. The discourse recognizes that women’s experiences and worth are diverse and multifaceted.
  7. Representation: There is an increased emphasis on the representation of women in various fields, including politics, science, and technology. Efforts are being made to break gender barriers and promote inclusivity.

While challenges persist, contemporary discussions generally strive towards fostering a more inclusive and equitable society that recognizes and appreciates the worth of women beyond traditional stereotypes.

Answers: Questions Arising in the Mind of:

  1. Why are we not allowed inside the classroom?
  2. Is it because we are different from the upper-caste students?
  3. What did we do to be treated like this?
  4. Why are we considered polluting?
  5. Do the teachers think we are not capable of learning?
  6. How can we prove ourselves if we are not given the chance to study inside the classroom?
  7. What are they teaching inside that we are not allowed to learn?
  8. Is this fair?
  9. Will we ever be treated equally?
  10. How can we change this situation?

Answer: We can consider Different Perspectives here:

  1. Agreeing with the View:
    • Some might argue that sitting on the veranda, even if not ideal, is still better than having no access to education at all.
    • Education, even in a restricted form, could be seen as a step towards breaking the cycle of ignorance and improving the future prospects of untouchable individuals.
    • Limited access to education might be viewed as a starting point for potential change and improvement.
  2. Disagreeing with the View:
    • Others might argue that any form of segregation based on caste is inherently discriminatory and unjust.
    • Sitting on the veranda still reinforces the idea of untouchability and perpetuates social divisions.
    • Education should be accessible to everyone without discrimination, and this compromise does not address the root issue of caste-based discrimination.
  3. Seeking Systemic Change:
    • Some might advocate for systemic changes that address the root causes of discrimination, rather than settling for incremental improvements.
    • The goal should be to eliminate untouchability and ensure equal opportunities for education for all, regardless of caste.
    • Advocacy for policy changes and social reform may be seen as essential for long-term progress.

Answer: Interpreting Jyotirao Phule’s Statement:

Jyotirao Phule’s statement “me here and you over there again” suggests his skepticism about the intentions behind the unity advocated by upper-caste leaders in the anti-colonial nationalist movement.”

Here are possible interpretations:

Division and Deception:

  • Phule is expressing concern that the call for unity is a deceptive tactic employed by upper-caste leaders, particularly Brahmans, to serve their own interests.
  • The phrase implies a hidden agenda where, once the immediate goal of anti-colonial struggle is achieved, the divisions and hierarchies within Indian society will be reinstated, with the upper castes maintaining their privileged positions.

Superficial Unity for Self-Interest:

  • Phule may be highlighting the superficial nature of the unity advocated by the upper castes, suggesting that it is a temporary alliance to address the common external threat posed by colonial rule.
  • Once this external threat is removed, the internal divisions and social hierarchies will resurface, with the upper castes continuing to dominate and exploit the lower castes.

Distrust in Nationalist Leaders:

  • Phule’s statement reflects his distrust in the nationalist leaders who, according to him, are concealing their religious and social prejudices for the sake of the anti-colonial cause.
  • The division mentioned could refer to the caste-based hierarchies that existed in Indian society, and Phule is cautioning against blindly trusting leaders who might not be genuinely committed to dismantling these hierarchies.

Warning Against Caste-Based Discrimination:

  • Phule might be warning against the perpetuation of caste-based discrimination even within the nationalist movement.
  • The phrase suggests a fear that, despite the common goal of gaining freedom from colonial rule, the internal divisions based on caste will persist, leading to unequal treatment and opportunities for different social groups.

Advocacy for Genuine Equality:

  • Phule may be advocating for a more genuine and inclusive unity that addresses the deep-rooted social inequalities within Indian society.
  • The statement implies a need for comprehensive social reform that goes beyond the anti-colonial struggle and encompasses the eradication of caste-based discrimination and exploitation.

Understanding Phule’s historical context and his critique of both colonialism and caste-based discrimination can provide a nuanced interpretation of this statement.

Answer: Understanding the Contemporary Controversy around Caste:

Caste remains a controversial issue today for several reasons:

Deep-Rooted Social Structure:

  • Caste has been an integral part of Indian society for centuries, influencing social relationships, economic opportunities, and political dynamics.
  • Despite efforts at social reform, the hierarchical structure of caste continues to shape interactions and relationships in various spheres of life.

Social Inequality and Discrimination:

  • Discrimination based on caste, often leading to social and economic disparities, persists in many parts of the country.
  • Marginalized communities, particularly those belonging to Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and Scheduled Tribes, continue to face discrimination and exclusion.

Reservation Policies and Backlash:

  • The implementation of affirmative action policies, such as reservation in educational institutions and government jobs for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, has been a source of debate and contention.
  • Some argue that these policies are necessary to address historical injustices, while others view them as reverse discrimination.

Interplay with Politics and Elections:

  • Caste often plays a significant role in Indian politics, with political parties aligning themselves along caste lines to secure electoral support.
  • This politicization of caste can perpetuate divisions and hinder the establishment of a more inclusive and egalitarian society.

Social Identity and Discrimination:

  • Caste-based identity continues to shape social relationships, influencing marriage patterns, social interactions, and community dynamics.
  • The social stigma associated with certain castes persists, leading to discrimination and exclusion in various social contexts.

Economic Disparities:

  • Caste-based economic disparities contribute to social tensions and inequalities.
  • Access to resources and opportunities is often influenced by one’s caste background, leading to unequal distribution of wealth and socio-economic status.

Most Important Movement Against Caste in Colonial Times:

  • Identifying the most important movement against caste in colonial times is subjective, as different movements addressed various aspects of caste-related issues.
  • However, movements led by social reformers like Jyotirao Phule, who challenged caste hierarchies and advocated for social equality, were significant.
  • Phule’s Gulamgiri and his efforts to promote education and upliftment of the marginalized sections challenged the oppressive aspects of the caste system.

Understanding the historical context, the social reform movements, and the ongoing struggles against caste-based discrimination provides insights into the complexity of the issue and the need for continued efforts toward social justice and equality.

Textbook Questions & Answers

Let’s imagine Imagine

Answer: As a teacher in the school set up by Rokeya Hossain, a day at the institution would have been filled with engaging and empowering discussions aimed at broadening the horizons of the 20 girls in my charge. The school, founded by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, was known for its progressive approach to girls’ education and its commitment to challenging traditional norms.

Morning Assembly:
The day would begin with a morning assembly where we gather to discuss important topics related to education, empowerment, and breaking societal norms. I would encourage the girls to share their thoughts on various subjects, fostering a sense of community and open dialogue.

Subject Discussions:
In the classroom, we would delve into various subjects, including literature, science, and mathematics. I would incorporate teachings that challenge gender stereotypes, showcasing the achievements of women in different fields. Literature discussions might include works written by Rokeya Hossain herself or other influential women authors, emphasizing the power of education in shaping perspectives.

Empowerment Sessions:
During special empowerment sessions, we might discuss the importance of education in transforming lives. I would share stories of inspirational women who overcame societal barriers through education and knowledge. These sessions would also provide a platform for the girls to express their aspirations and dreams.

Critical Thinking Exercises:
Engaging in critical thinking exercises would be a regular part of our curriculum. We might analyze societal norms and stereotypes, encouraging the girls to question and challenge these ideas. This approach aligns with Rokeya Hossain’s vision of creating independent thinkers who contribute to societal change.

Interactive Activities:
To make learning more interactive, we would organize activities like debates, presentations, and group discussions. These activities would not only enhance their academic skills but also build their confidence to express their opinions on various issues.

Cultural and Artistic Expression:
Recognizing the importance of holistic development, the school would also focus on cultural and artistic expression. Girls would be encouraged to explore their creativity through art, music, and drama, allowing them to express themselves freely.

Closing Reflection:
At the end of the day, we would gather for a closing reflection, providing an opportunity for the girls to share their insights and reflections on the day’s discussions. This reflection time would reinforce the idea that their voices matter and that education is a powerful tool for personal and societal transformation.

In this imagined scenario, the school set up by Rokeya Hossain becomes a vibrant space where girls not only acquire knowledge but also develop critical thinking skills, self-confidence, and a sense of empowerment to challenge societal norms.

Let’s recall

  • Rammohun Roy
  • Dayanand Saraswati
  • Veerasalingam Pantulu
  • Jyotirao Phule
  • Pandita Ramabai
  • Periyar
  • Mumtaz Ali
  • Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar


Rammohun Roy:

  • Social Ideas: Advocated for social reforms and modernization.
  • Reforms: Opposed sati, advocated for women’s education, and worked towards the abolition of social evils.

Dayanand Saraswati:

  • Social Ideas: Emphasized a return to the Vedic values and rejection of idol worship and caste distinctions.
  • Reforms: Advocated for social equality, education for all, and the promotion of Vedic knowledge.

Veerasalingam Pantulu:

  • Social Ideas: Supported social reforms, particularly focused on the upliftment of women.
  • Reforms: Advocated for the abolition of child marriage and promoted women’s education.

Jyotirao Phule:

  • Social Ideas: Focused on social justice, equality, and the upliftment of the lower castes.
  • Reforms: Advocated for the eradication of untouchability, promoted education for all, and criticized Brahmanical dominance.

Pandita Ramabai:

  • Social Ideas: Advocated for women’s rights, education, and social reform.
  • Reforms: Worked towards the empowerment of women, supported widow remarriage, and founded a widows’ home for their welfare.


  • Social Ideas: Advocated for social justice, eradication of caste distinctions, and self-respect for marginalized communities.
  • Reforms: Worked towards the upliftment of the Dravidian people, opposed Brahmanical hegemony, and promoted rationalism.

Mumtaz Ali:

  • Social Ideas: Advocated for the modernization of Islam and women’s education.
  • Reforms: Reinterpreted Islamic texts to support women’s education and equality.

Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar:

  • Social Ideas: Advocated for social reforms, particularly focused on the improvement of women’s status.
  • Reforms: Supported widow remarriage, worked for women’s education, and campaigned against social evils.

Each of these individuals played a crucial role in advocating for social reforms and challenging traditional practices in 19th and early 20th-century India.

(a) When the British captured Bengal, they framed many new laws to regulate the rules regarding marriage, adoption, inheritance of property, etc.
(b) Social reformers had to discard the ancient texts in order to argue for reform in social practices.
(c) Reformers got full support from all sections of the people of the country.
(d) The Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed
in 1829.

Answer: (a) True, (b) False, (c) False, (d) True

Let’s discuss

  1. How did the knowledge of ancient texts help the reformers promote new laws?
  2. What were the different reasons people had for not sending girls to school?
  3. Why were Christian missionaries attacked by many people in the country? Would some people have supported them too? If so, for what reasons?
  4. In the British period, what new opportunities opened up for people who came from castes that were regarded as “low”?
  5. How did Jyotirao, and other reformer justify their criticism of caste inequality in society?
  6. Why did Phule dedicate his book Gulamgiri to the American movement to free slaves?
  7. What did Ambedkar want to achieve through the temple entry movement?
  8. Why were Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker critical of the national movement? Did their criticism help the national struggle in any way?


3. Reformers, such as Rammohun Roy and others, used the knowledge of ancient texts to challenge and reinterpret traditional practices. By finding verses or sentences in ancient sacred texts that supported their points of view, they could argue that the prevailing customs were against the true spirit of early traditions. This strategic use of ancient texts helped reformers convince both the British authorities and the people that social practices needed to be reformed.

4. Several reasons contributed to the reluctance to send girls to school:

  • Traditional Gender Roles: Deep-rooted beliefs about gender roles and the perception that a woman’s place was in the domestic sphere.
  • Fear of Corrupting Influence: Concerns that education might expose girls to public spaces, corrupting influences, and challenging traditional norms.
  • Safety Concerns: Apprehension about girls traveling to school through public places, which could be seen as unsafe or inappropriate.
  • Cultural Norms: Cultural beliefs that did not value female education and, in some cases, perceived educated women as a threat to existing social structures.

5. Christian missionaries faced opposition for various reasons:

  • Perceived Cultural Threat: Many saw their activities as a threat to traditional cultural and religious practices.
  • Conversion Concerns: The conversion of individuals to Christianity was viewed with suspicion and resistance.
  • Colonial Associations: Missionaries were sometimes associated with the colonial regime, leading to resentment.

However, some people supported missionaries for reasons such as:

  • Access to Education: Missionary schools provided education, and some communities appreciated this opportunity.
  • Social Services: Missionaries often engaged in social services like healthcare and charity, earning support from those who benefited.

6. During the British period, new opportunities emerged for people from lower castes:

  • Employment Opportunities: The establishment of factories and urbanization created job opportunities for people from lower castes in cities.
  • Military Service: Some found employment in the army, providing economic and social mobility.
  • Migration for Work: People from lower castes moved to cities for jobs in various sectors, escaping the oppressive conditions in villages.

7. Reformers like Jyotirao Phule criticized caste inequality by:

  • Challenging Brahmanical Authority: Questioning the legitimacy of Brahmanical authority and exposing caste-based discrimination.
  • Advocating for Social Equality: Promoting the idea that all individuals, irrespective of caste, should be treated equally.
  • Educational Empowerment: Emphasizing the importance of education as a means to challenge and overcome caste-based prejudices.

8. Jyotirao Phule dedicated his book “Gulamgiri” to the American movement to free slaves as a symbolic gesture of solidarity. By drawing parallels between the condition of the lower castes in India and the enslaved African Americans, Phule aimed to emphasize the universal struggle against oppression and exploitation. It highlighted the shared goal of seeking freedom, justice, and equality for marginalized communities worldwide.

9. Ambedkar aimed to challenge and eradicate untouchability by leading the temple entry movement. Through this movement, he sought to establish the right of Dalits (considered untouchables) to enter Hindu temples and participate in religious practices. The movement aimed to break down social barriers, challenge discriminatory practices, and assert the equal rights of all individuals, irrespective of their caste.

10. Jyotirao Phule and Ramaswamy Naicker were critical of the national movement for several reasons:

  • Dominance of Upper Castes: He criticized the dominance of upper-caste leaders within the national movement and felt that the concerns of lower castes were being neglected.
  • Caste Inequality: His criticism was rooted in the perceived continuation of caste-based discrimination even within the nationalist struggle.

While such criticism may not have directly contributed to the national struggle, it did draw attention to the internal inequalities within the broader movement. His voices highlighted the need for social justice alongside political independence, contributing to a broader understanding of the complex challenges facing Indian society.

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