Famous Personalities of India : Mahadev Govind Ranade - Part II
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Ranade's reputation as a social reformer rests on his role in building one of the most important institutions for social reform - the National Social Conference (begun in 1887) - and in his philosophy of social change. Firmly believing India had enjoyed a golden age, when women enjoyed a higher status than in his time, he blamed the smriti ("remembered" religious literature including law books, epics, and puranas) writers for the fall. Only gradual reform, accomplished without radical or wrenching change, could bring about the restoration of the golden age. Ranade argued that evolutionary change was inherently Indian; outside forces could act as a stimulant but the true impetus for change came from "the inner resources of the society itself."

Ranade described the society he hoped to see as changing "from constraint to freedom, from credulity to faith, from unorganized to organized life, from bigotry to toleration, from blind fatalism to a sense of human destiny." He warned his critics that to stand still or work against change would result in decay and possibly the extinction of Indian society.

Every year reformers, working alone or with local organizations, attended the National Social Conference where they learned about initiatives all over the sub-continent. In his role as founder leader, Ranade recommended four methods of accomplishing social change. His favourite method was using argumentation, especially citing examples of past tradition, to convince opponents that many customs were accretions rather than part of true Indian culture. If the appeal of history was ineffective, he suggested the reformer use a moral argument. It was only after trying to persuade people that reformers should focus on legislation. When all else failed, social rebellion was in order. At the second annual meeting of the National Social Conference in 1889 over five hundred people took a solemn vow that they would support widow remarriage and female education, and cease practicing child marriage and the exchange of dowry. This was a significant step, in Ranade's view, towards the identification of reforms for women with an all-India agenda.

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