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

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Caste as Social Power

Sociological Trajectory of an Intermediate Caste

Intermediate caste groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra, Patidars in Gujarat, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, and Jats in Haryana have been up in arms against the state for not being inclusive enough and demanding Other Backward Class status, reservations in jobs, education, and politics, adequate financial allocations to respective caste corporations, and other economic incentives. It is important to understand the dynamics of intermediate castes in its specific context to explain the current moment of its mobilisation, militancy, and political positioning. The intricacies of an intermediate caste called Kapus in Andhra Pradesh are analysed based on several years of field research and doctoral work.

The author would like to thank Purendra Prasad for supervising the thesis and reading this article at the draft stage, Shilpa Krishna for agreeing to read the draft and giving critical feedback. The comments of the anonymous referee are also acknowledged.

Like caste groups in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Haryana, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh (AP) have been militantly agitating against the state. In February 2016, a meeting called by a powerful Kapu leader named Mudragada Padmanabham in Tuni—a small mofussil town which is an epicentre of the Kapu caste—to chalk out political action, turned violent. Protests led to the burning of the Ratnanchal Express train and a police station. Several people, including the police, were injured (Sankar 2016). Similarly, a Telugu film titled Vangaveeti, which typecast a Kapu leader in a particular way, raised a hue and cry among the Kapu caste, leading to protests (NewsMinute 2017). Repeated efforts by Padmanabham to undertake a padayatra (march) to AP’s new capital city of Amaravati have been squashed by the state police by placing him under house arrest (Hindu 2017). These incidents evoke curiosity and raise the following questions: Who are the Kapus? Are they one caste or a cluster of castes? How do we understand them sociologically in terms of the existing caste structure in AP? What is the significance of their current mobilisation?

East Godavari, a district in AP, was selected as the primary field site for the purpose of this study because of the predominance of the Kapus. The Kapus are numerically strong in this district and control its economic resources. East Godavari district is part of coastal Andhra and plays a pivotal role in economic, social, and political spheres. In economic terms, the Godavari delta is considered prosperous for its large-scale production of paddy, horticulture, and aquaculture. In recent times, the pharmaceuticals industry, apart from petrochemicals and other natural resources, has also made the district economically vibrant. The social composition of the district is as diverse as the other districts in AP with different caste groups (upper, intermediary and lower), tribes, occupations, and rural–urban linkages.

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Updated On : 21st Apr, 2020
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