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Social Structure in Chhattisgarh PDF Print E-mail

Women in Chhattisgarh have traditionally enjoyed a kind of freedom denied to women elsewhere in the country. This position of women continues to be very much the same even in modern times. This comes out strongly from available data and from the general Development index in the Human Development Report (1998) of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. The districts of Chhattisgarh fare much better and rank higher in the Gender Development Index than most other districts of Madhya Pradesh. The relative freedom to women is evident in the local traditions and customs. The Pardah system, present in one form or the other in many parts of India is not present in Chhattisgarh except in a few Brahmin and Bania Communities. According to another local custom, women, other than those of these caste can choose to terminate a marriage relationship and through a custom called Chudi pahanana, it she so desires. However, a mention of these progressive local customs, in no way suggests that the ideology of female subservience does not exist in Chhattisgarh. On the contrary, in spite of this male authority and dominance is seen quite clearly in the social and cultural life of Chhattisgarh.

The population of Chhattisgarh is notable for the high proportion of Scheduled Tribes and for specific Sects primarily constituted of Schedule Castes. Of the total population of Chhattisgarh, tribals constitute at least 32.5%, which is a significantly high percentage. In the last few decades, the demographic profile of tribal dominated areas has undergone a change. This is a cause for concern as it represents large-scale intrusion of non tribals in tribal areas. This changing demographic profile is strongly evident in Bastar, where the proportion of tribals has decreased in the last few decades. The tribal areas of Chhattisgarh have witnessed several rebellions starting from 1774 onwards against the intrusion by outsiders, primarily the British, in the domain of traditional rights and the tribal way of life. Interestingly, since the 17th century, the social history of the non-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh has been marked by reform movements such as the Satnam sect. Kabir Panthis and the Movements of share croppers and agricultural labour. Despite presence of a high tribal population and religious reform movements, the region is also the domain of classic Hindu culture (although in some rituals the impact of tribal rituals can be identified), in which the cult of Ram assumes an essential and central role. Impact of this domination in evident and has its manifestations in the growth of sectarian formations is contemporary politics.

In India, the combined population of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes is 23.6% of the total population and for Madhya Pradesh; this figure rises to 37.1%. The combined population of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Chhattisgarh is significantly higher at 44.7% and this is largely due to a high proportion of tribal population, Although the Scheduled Castes do not constitute a very high proportion of the total population they are critical for understanding the social history of Chhattisgarh, which has been deeply influenced and effected by the religious reform movements.