Social Scientist. v 7, no. 78 (Jan 1979) p. 14.

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Responses to Class and Caste Oppression in Thanjavur District: ig^o-^2


THE struggle against oppression in the countryside has been complex and has reflected many aspects of the fundamental questions faced by the rural masses. In its fight against theroot problem— landlordism—a progressive peasant movement in India must face and resolve certain highly specific social problems which compound the weight of landlordism and provide a new dimension to oppression. Springing from a historically primitive social formation, the caste system has developed over time, adjusting to new social structures, transforming itself with everyadaptation and yet retaining constraining and highly retrogressive features of a more ancient social formation.

The caste system imposes ideologically and socio-economic-ally, a rigid structure of divisions among the people, whichtends to obstruct the free association of the working people and therefore poses a serious challenge to the democratic movement. In the countryside it is inextricably bound up with agrarian relations, exercising a yet-to-be-adequately comprehended influence on the organisation of production and the division of labour. By condemning—in a tyrannical fashion—sections of the people to particularly degrading conditions of labour, caste can be seen to provide one of the principal supports to class oppression. The interplay

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