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Caste Dominance and Territory in South India: Understanding Kammas’ socio-spatial mobility

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2018

DALEL BENBABAALI
Affiliation:
School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford Email: dalel.benbabaali@area.ox.ac.uk
Corresponding

Abstract

This article argues that taking territory into account is essential to understand the change in the scale and nature of caste dominance in contemporary India. The demonstration is based on an analysis of the socio-spatial trajectories of the Kammas—a dominant caste from Coastal Andhra, where they continue to own most of the land, even though they have migrated in large numbers towards the interior and southern regions of the Indian peninsula, both to newly irrigated areas and to the cities. The key positions they occupy in the politics and economy of Andhra Pradesh confer upon them a hegemonic character. However, this hegemony is threatened by the growing resistance of Dalits to caste and class oppression, while Kamma cultural domination, long contested in Telangana, is now challenged by the formation of the new state.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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Footnotes

*Fieldwork for this research was funded by various grants and scholarships from the University of Paris-Nanterre, the Fondation Thiers (Institut de France), the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient (Pondicherry), the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (Delhi), and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). A seminar version of this article was presented at a workshop organized by Alpa Shah and Jens Lerche in the Department of Anthropology of the London School of Economics in April 2014. I am grateful to the discussants Barbara Harriss-White and Geert De Neve for their comments, as well as two anonymous reviewers for this journal.

References

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ibid.

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62 Most tenancy contracts are oral to avoid the transfer of land to the tenants after many years of cultivation as per the law.

63 One British pound sterling is approximately equal to Rs 100.

64 ‘One member of the dominant caste is to split the village into two rival groups. But both the groups are led by members of the same caste. Whatever be the party, rival candidates are from the same caste, and one of them wins. Anyway, they take care that political leadership does not slip out of their hands into those of the lower castes’ (Padma Rao, K., 1995, Caste and alternative culture, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, Madras, p. 17)Google Scholar.

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74 ‘I was offered a 20 crores dowry [Rs 200 million] by Andhra Kammas who wanted their daughter to marry my grandson, but their culture is different. So I chose a girl from Coimbatore who studied medicine, from a respectable family though not as rich as us’ (interview with Genguswamy Naidu, industrialist and president of the Tamil Nadu Kamma Naidu Mahajana Sangham).

75 Interview with Jagadish Chandran, CEO of Premier Mills.

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78 A similar analysis can be found in 1969 already in Economic and Political Weekly: ‘In a given caste structure the poorer castes do not seem to resent the traditionally rich castes becoming richer, particularly if their own conditions have also meanwhile improved. What has happened in Telengana is that to this situation a new factor was introduced of the migrant Andhra. The migrant Andhra very often certainly made spectacular progress in terms of agricultural prosperity. But he, being an alien to the local social structure, was not protected from the normal jealousies of the less well-to-do among the local people . . . . The general situation was further aggravated by the fact that, very often, the migrant Andhra belonged to the Kamma community which is not of any great significance in the caste configuration of the Telengana region. Had the migrant been a Reddi, the reaction would not have been so severe, and it is even possible that by this time he would have been assimilated into the local caste structure’ (EPW, 1969, ‘Telengana and caste’, Economic and Political Weekly, 4 (10), 455–6Google Scholar, p. 456).

79 ‘The concept of modern cultivation hasn't caught up yet there. They are still stuck with the age old idea of millets and rotis. Not yet gone to modern methods of increasing the produce. Many lands are still lying as waste lands. At some places the land is limited to fodder. One feels an endless sense of loss looking at them’ (Chandralata, 1997, Regadi vittulu, Pravardhana Publications, Hyderabad. English translation provided by the author after an interview with her).

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94 Ibid., p. 368.

Ibid.

95 ‘It is claimed that cultural domination by coastal Andhra has affected the development of distinctive Telangana culture . . . . The following grievances have been voiced: . . . “Coastal Andhra elites and the ruling classes show a negative attitude towards the folk art of Telangana . . . . The entertainment industry has been used as a means to ridicule Telangana culture. Films and television channels use Telangana dialect to portray criminal or comical characters”. They claim that although the film industry has been located in Hyderabad, the local people are discriminated against and not given any employment opportunities in the film industry’ (ibid., pp. 398–9).

96 Ibid., p. 319.

Ibid.

97 O'Hanlon, R., 1988, ‘Recovering the subject: Subaltern Studies and histories of resistance in colonial South Asia’, Modern Asian Studies, 22 (1), 189224CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 191.

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