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

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Caste Panchayats

Useful Insights and Inadequate Explanations

Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India by Anagha Ingole, Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021; pp 196, price not available.

The scandalous success of the democratic form of government and adaptability of caste to the democratic processes are perhaps the two central phenomena of the post-independence India that have troubled the social scientists the most. This success can be called as scandalous as caste and democracy are premised on the antithetical principles of hierarchy and equality, respectively. Caste and its encounters with democracy are the standard site to understand both the peculiarity of Indian sociopolitical scene and challenge the unilinear and universal conception of modernity, which has informed much of the Western political thought. The book, Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India by Anagha Ingole, which revisits these debates through a detailed study of one of the neglected themes in academic discourses, namely the caste panchayats, needs to be situated in this broad intellectual context.

The book under review is the outcome of the authors quest to come to terms with the salience of conservative institutions, such as caste panchayats, in an era of mandalisation of politics. The author is intrigued by the fact that even after facing harassment and expulsion from their respective caste panchayats, people are not appealing to the state to punish these panchayats, but are asking for their readmission back to their respective castes (p 1). Ingole has extensively studied the phenomenon of intra-caste panchayats among the Jats of Haryana and Marathas of western Maharashtra and was part of the process of framing the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, which the Government of Maharashtra later adopted. The book revolves around the following issues. Why are caste panchayats salient despite the mandalisation of politics in contemporary India? Has the mandal phenomenon revitalised the caste panchayats? Does it signify the failure of secularliberal institutions in India? And, what implications does it have for our understanding of caste and modernity in India? The book is divided into four chapters, apart from the introduction and conclusion. Chapters 2 and 3 are in the continuum. While the former underscores the transformations in caste panchayats throughout Indian history, the latter focuses explicitly on its concrete functioning in todays India. Chapters 4 and 5 provide a detailed account of two central armouries in the hands of caste panchayats, namely social ostracisation and caste endogamy. 

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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