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The Caste Politics Of Agrarian Neo-Kshatriyas In Andhra Pradesh
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The Caste Politics Of Agrarian Neo-Kshatriyas In Andhra Pradesh

P. Mrunal Kumar Rana

Konaseema region in Andhra Pradesh was set ablaze by dominant caste protestors and arsonists against the Government’s proposal of naming the newly created Konaseema district of Andhra Pradesh after Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. According to the news reports, the protestors have targeted State Transport Minister Mr. Pinipe Viswaroop, who is a Dalit, and local MLA Mr. Ponnada Satish, who belongs to a Backward Caste. When the police attempted to stop a procession organized by the ‘Chalo Amalapuram’ group, which is opposed to the district’s renaming, violence erupted. Earlier in the day, the protesters resorted to stone pelting to attack police officers. During the clash, the SP and other senior officers were hurt. The demonstrators then went to minister Viswaroop and MLA Satish’s houses in Amalapuram and set them on fire. Mr. Vishwaroop’s house and Mr. Satish’s house were both set on fire. Mr. Viswaroop and Mr. Satish, along with their families, were able to flee their homes. The protesters also set on fire a parked college bus, some private buses and police vehicles.

The new district’s creation is justified on the basis of administrative efficiency and better governance. In January of this year, the state government issued a preparatory notification for the establishment of 13 new revenue districts under the Andhra Pradesh District (Formation) Act of 1974. Konaseema is one of these newly formed districts. For some time, numerous Dalit and Ambedkarite organisations have been demanding that Konaseema be renamed after their beloved Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, owing to Konaseema’s long history of anti-caste struggles. The government agreed to their plea and renamed the newly formed district as ‘Dr. Ambedkar Konaseema’ district. Not only Konaseema, the other districts too are named after prominent persons of the state like legendary freedom fighter Mr. Alluri Sitarama Raju, who led ‘Rampa Rebellion’ in the Visakha Agency area, also erstwhile Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao and Mr. Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy and the famous godman Mr. Sri Satya Sai. The new districts that are named after famous personalities are Alluri Sitarama Raju district, NT Rama Rao district and Sri Satya Sai district which have been carved out of the existing districts of Visakhapatnam, Krishna and Anantapur respectively.

The new districts are carved out of existing districts and named appropriately by giving utmost importance to the ethnic and cultural history of the respective region. The caste politics of Godavari belt in Andhra Pradesh are predominantly handled by the dominant agrarian castes like Kamma, Kapu, Reddy etc., who exercise their power over the marginalized by keeping all the resources under their control. The Godavari originates in Nasik and sets its course eastwards, traveling through central Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states and finally empties into Bay of Bengal. The fertile lands of Godavari delta give immense yield of many varieties. The agrarian castes which hold the majority of lands in the state, also hold the capital of the yield; agrarian production is entwined with the power relations of the state. Kancha Ilaiah, in his book Why I Am Not a Hindu argues that, “The surest way of structuring power relations and maintaining hegemony is by acquiring control of cultivable land and by systematically excluding the others from controlling the land and land-related means of production.” Thus, the economic conditions for the agrarian castes got better and so they kept themselves at the highest pedestals of reverence due to their rock-hard social and economic conditions.

When certain places are named after dominant caste identities, they usually are widely accepted across the masses. There was no clamour when the incumbent Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy renamed one of the districts i.e, ‘Kadapa’ as ‘YSR Kadapa’ in remembrance of his father, former Chief Minister, Mr. YS Rajasekhar Reddy. Only when oppressed people seek their cultural emblems, the acts of organized resistance occur. The casteist mobs’ adamant opposition reflects their hate for the marginalized sections of society. To quote Kancha Ilaiah here, it is no wonder to say that neo-Kshatriyas have become the pillars of modern fascism. It does not matter for them even if Dr. Ambedkar is the chief architect of the Constitution but they deliberately ignore this fact and regard him as a mere untouchable who they cannot stand having his name attached to the land where they live.

Although, the violence on Dalits is not a new phenomenon, it is really troublesome to see that even public representatives from Dalit-Bahujan commuities are neither exempted from the violence nor provided any immunity. It is no surprise that the opposition leaders who belong to different agrarian dominant castes, condemned this heinous attempt of brutality. It is not comforting either to see the authorities stand by as violent mobs from the dominant castes go on a rampage and destroy public property. The protests and arsons in Konaseema should be viewed in the context of similar events that happened in other regions of the country, such as Kapu reservations in Andhra Pradesh, Jat reservations in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and Karni Sena protests, among others. The majority of these protests employ a violent approach, which is unlawful. There is a pressing need to analyze how the mainstream media and the state understand and address such atrocities. It is highly required at these turbulent times to strictly frame and implement anti-caste violence laws to curb the masses. An idea of political reformation representing Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi communities and the minorities predominantly, seems to be the sole solution to fight all odds of vile casteist forces.

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P. Mrunal Kumar Rana, from Hyderabad, is currently pursuing research in English literature at University of Delhi.