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This article discusses caste reforms, anti-caste ideas, and thoughts on nationalism amongst Ezhavas of South Malabar in the Madras Presidency. The discourses of equality, the right to the public, the process of community formation, ideology, and the mode of struggle for emancipation are examined. The question of caste, by what means the aspirations of the lower castes were addressed in the uniting project of reformed Hinduism and nationalism is addressed. By capturing disagreements, conflicts, consensus, and the politics of ‘sub-nationalities’ within the ‘national,’ the generic view of national movement as a single, homogeneous consensus project is contested. Towards the end, the article contends that Ezhavas’ assertions imply the presence of an “autonomous anti-caste movement” in the South Malabar region. This article also proposes that the dichotomy of colonialism versus nationalism, and the portrayal of South Indian politics as a sectarian competition for British patronage, limits the opportunity to comprehend localised movements and their vernacular expressions.
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