Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Indian Society- History): Justice Party and Self-Respect Movement

justice party


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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Indian Society)


Elucidate with examples how Justice Party and Self-Respect Movement exhibited alternative political traditions with distinct proclivity to empowerment of lower classes. Elucidate. (15 Marks)



Two movements, one in the political field and the other in the social sphere emerged in the Madras state spearheaded with the aim to uplift the socio-political status of the backward and the down trodden communities during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Since there was no justice in the Tamil society, there arose the necessity of the emergence of Justice Party which fought for social justice. The year 1916 is a turning point in the history of Tamilnadu for the first time the domination of the Brahmin was challenged which directly paved the way for the decline of that community, gradually in the later days.


Justice Party

The Justice Party was a political party in the Madras Presidency of British India. It was established in 1917 by T. M. Nair and P. Theagaraya Chetty and was the first backward class mobilization which created social change and political empowerment.

 High-caste dominance in education and in the new occupations provided the reason for the backward caste movement. Only one caste, the Brahmins, enjoyed preponderance in higher education, the professions and government services. It was also an area where, social and cultural gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins existed. the British administration in India gave a greater role to Indians in administration which benefits mostly the Brahmins. The extension of governmental control in all holds of social life gave the officers of the government tremendous powers over the lives of the common people. These factors aroused the feeling of resentment among the high – caste non-Brahmins. This took the shape of non-Brahmins movement in the early years of the twentieth century. To oppose this tradition the justice party was established .justice party opposed the following

  • It opposed Brahmins in civil service and politics, and this anti-Brahmin attitude shaped many of its ideas and policies.
  • It opposed Annie Besant and her Home rule movement, because it believed home rule would benefit the Brahmins.
  • The party also campaigned against the non-cooperation movement in the presidency. It was at odds with M. K. Gandhi, primarily due to his praise for Brahmanism.
  • Its mistrust of the Brahmin dominated Congress led it to adopt a hostile stance toward the Indian independence movement.
  • By petitioning the imperial administration which was more than willing to oblige they got reservations for the non-Brahmins through the Government of India act of 1919.
  • This attitude of justice party gave it a pro colonial tinge.
  • The Justice Party was able to secure enough majorities in the provincial Legislature to form the ministry to work the transferred half of the Dyarchical System of Government envisaged in the Government of India Act, 1919 in the Madras Presidency. This fact shows that the movement enjoyed the support of the majority of the non-Brahmins. 

Empowerment of lower classes:

  • Gave reservations to various communities in government jobs.
  • Legislation that allowed Dalits to use all the public space without discrimination.
  • Temple entries to non-Brahmins were allowed.
  • Marriages without Brahmin priests and increased acceptance of inter-caste marriages called self-respect marriages.
  • The abolition of Devadasi system.
  • The party also played a vital role in allowing women to contest elections paving way for Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy to become the first woman legislator in India.
  • Initiating the mid-day meal scheme.

Self respect movement

A movement that took place in southern region of India to uplift the backward classes from the oppressed level and to bring them equal with the high castes in the society, who were enjoying all the privileges, can be proudly said as self-respect movement. This movement led by Periyar E.V.Ramaswamy in Tamil Nadu.


  • To demand more concessions and privileges in form of sanctions and reservations to surpass Brahmins in education and social status by the ‘backward classes’
  • To achieve “Swayam maryada” or “Self-respect”
  • To inculcate and disseminate the knowledge of political education
  • To abolish the existing evil social practices
  • The movement was started as a backward class movement but in course time it also looked at women’s liberation and emancipation and self respect marriages (marriage without mangal sutra and Brahmin priest and rituals). Foundation of religion should be shattered to wither away the caste from the society


Empowerment of lower classes:

  • Periyar Movement rejected the services of the Brahmin priests in marriages. In such Self-Respect marriages an elderly or a local dignitary will conduct the function without any religious rituals that normally go with the Hindu marriages.
  • Periyar considered the tali a symbol of slavery of women and he wanted to give up the custom in the Self – Respect marriages.
  • The bill validating the Self-Respect marriage was passed unanimously in both houses of the Tamilnadu Assembly in 1967 and it is a measure remarkable with changes which the Self-Respect propaganda has brought about.
  • As the marriage of this pattern was a revolution against the accepted dogmas, traditions and dharma sastras, it raised the status of women and created equality of sex.
  • Periyar Movement championed for the cause of women. It believed that in the society women were subjected to severe restriction’ that prevented their legitimate place in society.
  • The movement denounced child marriages, the dowry system, the prohibition of widow remarriage and the devadasi system.
  • It upheld the women’s right in the spheres of property and inheritance, divorce, practice the modern methods of birth control and marry outside their caste group. Further Periyar was committed to do away with the child marriage system existing in the society.


Justice party is based on respect to cultural pluralism and the guiding ideal of Indian constitution being unity in diversity the nation was able to absorb these pressures without any violence.

The self-respect movement had positive social change in Tamil Nadu. Some of them being: removal of caste surnames, encouraging inter-caste marriages and self-respect marriages, importance to language than to religion, atheism was openly accepted, third gender was officially recognized, and women empowerment and above all reservation was sanctioned to the backward class people.


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