lessons from paramakudi for telangana

does anyone seriously believe that the telangana agitators now pleading/begging/cringing before the congress brass in delhi are liberators? do they seem to be upholding telangani self-respect? or that they care about decentralization?

their actions disprove all three claims.

why do all those valiant 'revolutionaries' from telangana seem like so many unctuous petitioners outside a high powered public official's office? because they are exactly that: petitioners seeking recognition.

this is no revolution. it's something that has happened many times in the past, across many regions.

every major state in india has 100-300 castes. at the top of this pyramid are around 10 castes, on an average, who are always over-represented in the houses of legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, media, education and academia, industry, trade, cinema etc. their presence in all those fields helps them dominate the field of culture and ideas too. all the rest are under-represented in all fields.

in the north, castes identified with the top three varnas are a natural part of the top layer of the pyramid. other castes like the kayasths, khatris, jats etc had to fight for a place in those top ten. and colonialism helped them, through building more democratic public institutions and providing them employment in the bureaucracy and the army. after independence, a few more upper obc castes joined the empty spots in the top ten, and are still trying to consolidate their position. though they've managed to increase their presence in houses of legislature, they haven't been able to make much strides in other fields. meaning: they're under-represented in all other fields associated with wealth and power and hence still sound very subaltern. the continuing hold of the yadavs and nitish kumar on large sections of people in those states is proof of this.

outside the north, or u.p-bihar specifically, the top three varnas are sparsely distributed, so it's the shudras who form a overwhelming majority of the top ten. the three states where the british had presidency towns, witnessed a quicker spread of education among the shudras which led to the first major non-brahmin assertion movements. the top ten spots were quickly filled in tamil nadu by the time the dmk first assumed power, the marathas, kunbis and other associated peasant castes who form more than one third of the population in maharashtra also managed to fill all spots in that state.

this process was as fast in some princely states like mysore and baroda etc, but much slower in hyderabad state. so slow that it is happening only now in telangana, one century late. almost.

the rise of all those shudra castes-- from jats to gounders to nadars to ezhavas to kammas to vokkaligas to yadavs -- were revolutionary movements too. but they failed to fulfill their promises because the pyramid democratized itself a little at the top, partly in response to their struggles, co-opted them, and managed to retain its character. moreover, it had managed to increase the number of loyal defenders guarding it, more sentries to pour hot oil on those wishing to ascend to the top, or even bring down the pyramid.

now this process of efforts to expand the top layer of the pyramid, to create the top ten spots, is happening in telangana. the elite in telangana, which was only brahmins, reddies and velamas for too long (the muslims having been dislodged by 'independence'), wants to consolidate its own position, expand its influence outside politics, agriculture and government. even in those three fields it feels severely constrained by the stronger position of the much advanced andhra elite. so it's come around to  making a little space for a new set of aspirants among the obcs-- the goudas, munnuru kapus, yadavs especially-- who had risen since the emergence of the telugu desam, so that they could help in its struggle with the andhra elite.

more than a year ago, someone had asked me: why do you oppose this process? if it accommodates a new set of players, even if very few, at the top, doesn't it mean one more progressive step towards democratization of society?

that's the problem with the pyramid. it seems to be expanding its top layer a little, but that's always an illusion. it's only responding to changes in population growth, which has been higher in the last one century than any other time in history.

one reason why i want andhra pradesh to remain united: it'll keep the elites of all regions, and new aspirants,  always engaged in a struggle with each other. that would open up more cracks in the pyramid.

but the major reason is that the assertion movements of ambitious shudra castes until now have only meant the rise of those castes, a strengthening of the elite and the caste order. caste assertion movements have been anti-caste only in initial stages and have inevitably become caste-reinforcing movements.

and the expansion of the elite club has also, inevitably, meant more atrocities on the dalits, adivasis and the religious minorities.

paramakudi has strengthened my convictions.     
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