a non-antagonistic contradiction

the mala-madiga divide in andhra pradesh in many ways mirrors the andhra-telangana divide: both the divides have been assiduously built over most of the post-independence period by certain very narrow-minded elements to play up the minor differences, rather than focus on the huge commonalities. another common trait among both kinds of divisive elements is their excessive reliance on selective data, in very select areas, to wrangle over some small issue, the whole picture be damned. distribution of jobs in government is one favourite area of contention. should this issue have consumed so much time and passion? s.r.sankaran, an ex-bureaucrat with an impeccable work record (especially among disadvantaged sections) in andhra pradesh raises the same question in an attempt to look at the larger picture in this old epw article (january 31, 1998 issue) on the mala-madiga issue:
Based on the information supplied by different departments of the government, it is understood that the Ramachandra Raju Commission found that the vacancies reserved for the scheduled castes in public employment and the seats in higher educational institutions have been availed of between malas and madigas broadly in the ratio of 64:36. As the population is almost equal between malas and madigas, the madigas would appear to have received less than the proportionate share. There are a large number of historical reasons as a result of which such a situation has emerged. The reasons would perhaps include the comparatively faster growth of coastal Andhra, better educational opportunities, spread effect of education and first generation employment, missionary activities and a host of other factors; but the present position is one of imbalance and needs appropriate correctives. Availment of whatever job opportunities that arise in proportion to the population may not place anyone at a disadvantage and may serve to correct the imbalance.

It is to be appreciated that those employed in public services are less than 4 per cent of the population, though they may be the most visible particularly in urban areas and more articulate. They are a small if not minuscule minority. With liberalisation and the shrinking public sector, not many job opportunities in the state sector are likely to emerge in future. The categorisation orders issued by the state government, even if they are upheld by the courts do not apply to the posts under the central government or central public undertakings which account for the larger proportion of the jobs in the public domain. It is also to be noted that a large part of the jobs in the state sector will be in clerical or lower categories which do not substantially enhance the social status. While not underrating the importance of public services, its significance in relation to the scheme of reservations seems to be limited in the coming years. Looking to all these factors, the virulent fight about the government jobs does not seem to be worthwhile for either side. In fact the problem itself has arisen as a result of some gains to the scheduled caste community as a whole from the policy of reservations. At a period of time when there was no representation at all or negligible representation in services, there was perhaps nothing to quarrel about or to share; but when there is something gained after a combined struggle for decades, the relative shares have become the subject of dispute. One wishes that such a situation had not arisen at all. These conflicts are bound to arise in a differentiated and segmented society like ours. Whatever course the cases in the courts take, the responsibility for finding a solution will still rest with the society as a whole and more specifically on the scheduled caste community.

Another point needs to be stressed. Other than employment in services and admissions to technical courses like medicine and engineering, generally described as statutory benefits, other facilities and schemes like hostels, scholarships and other educational facilities, provision of housing or drinking water supply are unlimited and universal as far as all the scheduled castes are concerned. They need not become issues of controversy at all. So far as political representation is concerned, that will be decided by the balance of political forces at any point of time and surely no government order can decide such matters.

The most unfortunate development is that the debate is being carried on in antagonistic terms and in an adversorial manner. There have been extreme demands by some sections that malas should be removed from the list of scheduled castes which, to say the least, is ridiculous. Similarly, the statements that the madigas could not avail of the job opportunities because of their caste based occupations or lack of education will be going counter to the spirit behind the principle of reservation which is essentially to assist those who are left behind.

The mala community, particularly those who are articulate and their leadership should realise that the madigas are a few steps behind and they do need and deserve a special support. The madiga community on their part should understand that if they are relatively less developed, it is not the malas who are responsible for it. Both should appreciate that lasting damage will be done to the community of scheduled castes by hostility and acrimony, particularly in the villages where they have to live together and work together. Any diminution in the strength and unity will have economic, social and political consequences. Both the communities should recognise the need for securing equality among themselves and strive for equality with the rest of the society. The equitable sharing of jobs or seats can become a part of the process of strengthening the unity. They should sit together and evolve a consensus. It is imperative that the masses of the labouring classes should stand united. To emphasise the point, the issue is not at all a mala vs madiga issue, but one arising from the differing levels of development of the two communities at a particular historical moment and the efforts needed to reduce the differentials and to bring about equality. There is no doubt a contradiction that has emerged and given rise to conflicts but it is not an antagonistic contradiction but a non- antagonistic contradiction that can be resolved by mutual understanding, recognising the fact that both malas and madigas are bound together by the common suffering and common bond of untouchability and that indeed is their togetherness in history. [emphasis mine].
now, i'd say, all the people from the different regions of andhra pradesh could benefit from following that sane counsel, not just the malas and madigas.


Reality said...

@ Kufr

I would like to add my views on Mala -Madiga divide in AP . Dalits were at the bottom of society both in Telangana and Andhra regions at the time of independence, but what prompted coastal dalits to move ahead of their telangana peers by 90's. The reason lies once again in the so called 'DORA' culture of Telangana. Dalits were treated as slaves , their children forced into 'vetti' instead of being sent to schools . The real independence for dalits in Telangana came only after the abolition of Patel-Patwari regime.

While in coastal andhra also dalits were treated shabbily they were atleast not treated as slaves , they were treated like poor labourers. They definitely were looked down upon by the landlords , but they didnt try to stop them from entering schools or developing on their own. there were the massacres of chundur ,karamchedu but they were more abberations than the general trend.

This is what created the gap between andhra dalits and telangana dalits. While one generation of dalits in telangana wasted away under the vetti of doras , many dalits in andhra managed to go to schools and some into colleges also.

browsekid said...

I can't believe I have never heard of your blog before (got it thru an orkut link from a friend). I think your analysis is quite fair and intelligent. I hope to follow and look up more interesting articles from your blog - I've never seen any other informative blogs like this before related to AP. A lot to read and get up to speed on - will try to contribute something meaningful in the comments.

kuffir said...


yes i agree with most of what you say on the gap between the malas and madigas. but caste is an illness, a virus that adapts itself to new environments very easily..the transition of all regions of andhra pradesh from feudal to a very tentatively modern age hasn't dampened the dominance of caste.


thanks for the appreciation, and welcome:)

Kiran said...

If economic equality between malas and madigas and between kostha and telangana and r.s is so important why is there no increase in support to communist parties - the only party which has economic equality as a goal and some sort of commitment to work towards it.

Is it the equality between peoples they seek or as I suspect equality between elite sections of various groups ?

Sridhar said...

I wonder if the development of dalits in the Andhra region over the years is actually in trend with all other castes in the region. I mean if dalits in Andhra have developed better than their Telangana counter parts it probably is due to better economic/resource opportunities in the region that have favoured all the castes alike (more or less). Probably has nothing to do with the possibility of 'vetti' practised in Telangana.

One other factor that could have helped dalits in Andhra region is the active of role of Christian missionaries in uplifting dalits spiritually, culturally, and educationally.

Echo said...

Are you suggesting that separate state formation is not a solution? That Telangana and Andhra should remain `united' inspite of several agitation from one section of the population to stay divided? I don't think one should limit oneself to the divide between Telangana and Andhra dailts while studying the demand for separate state formation. `T' struggle is also about upper caste settlers from Andhra exploiting Telangana resources while Telangana dalits shrink in poverty. The movement has a strong hold among Telangana dalits because of this percise reason.

Add to Technorati Favorites