ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Joining the Debate on Caste

I enjoyed reading Sumit Guha’s article, “States, Tribes, Castes: A Historical Re-exploration in Comparative Perspective” (EPW, 21 November 2015). The overall argument of the article is fine. However, there are some issues with it that need to be addressed more clearly. The formation of janapadas/nadus or agrarian localities is a continuous process through Indian history and led to the making of mandalas/desas or sub-regions/regions, different from the linguistic regions of today, at different locations and junctures. Gana Sanghas like the Sakyas, Lichhavis and Yaudheyas were alternative forms of sociopolitical organisations compared to monarchical formations, but they too changed over time and got integrated with mainstream or dominant ways of life. We need to also look for alternative terms to capture the Sabaras, Pulindas and Bhils that one encounters in literary and inscriptional material all through to explain what is often represented as vanakshetra or tribe-caste continuum. Finally, caste and its consciousness might not have been as ubiquitous in traditional India as is usually assumed, but it was certainly not an invention of colonial India.

Bhairabi Prasad Sahu

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