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

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BJP’s Appropriation of Castes in Odisha

In the last budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley surprised the people of Odisha with the following announcement: “Two hundred years ago, in 1817, a valiant uprising of soldiers led by Buxi Jagabandhu (Bidyadhar Mohapaptra) took place in Khurdha, Odisha. We will commemorate the same appropriately.” The political message of this speech was apparent when Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured the descendants of Paiko-Khandayats, the erstwhile peasant militia caste, during his stay at Bhubaneswar in April 2017. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hopeful that its political appropriation of the history, myth, legend and legacies associated with the historically martial castes would enable it to defeat the regional ruling party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the 2019 assembly elections as these castes form the main support base of the ruling party.

The textual and uncritical academic history of ancient, medieval and modern Odisha (starting from primary school textbooks) is replete with the heroics of Odisha’s erstwhile peasant militia castes who come under the broad category/rubric of Khandayat, Mahanayaks, Paikos, Chasa-khandayat, Kalingi-khandayat, Chasas, etc, as classified by the Nabakrishna Das Commission on Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC), set up by the Odisha government. There have been no critical studies examining the contribution of these and other castes/communities in Odisha’s vaunted martial tradition, though their heroics and exploits are articulated and embedded in Odia identity and individual and collective imaginations.

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Updated On : 5th May, 2017

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