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

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Cultural Ecologies of Urban Lakes

The Bathukamma Festival, Caste Associations and Resource Claims in Hyderabad

The Bathukamma festival, historically observed by Telangana-based Other Backward Classes and Dalit communities with traditional connections to waterbodies, has since 2014 become a state festival and a platform for political claim-making. This state-making project has had ripple effects revealing the everyday entanglements of caste associations, urban state–citizen relations, and the political ecology of urban waterbodies, in the capital city of Hyderabad. The paper sheds light on how competition between different caste groups, with distinct cultural ecological claims, shapes urban political ecologies. Urban communities mobilise narrowly defined caste associations to strategically make claims to place, and lobby for resources and recognition. Such claim-making exists even in slum settlements consisting of new migrant communities. We argue that attempts to gain recognition of caste-based claims for water-linked resources are an indirect articulation of belonging and connection to the state and the city.

The authors thank Anant Maringanti, Priti Ramamurthy, Bhashwati Sengupta, and Arvind S Susarla for encouraging and supporting this research. The suggestions from the RUA editors and anonymous reviewers helped the paper greatly. Karan Misquitta, Gaurav Mittal, and Vanshika Singh gave insightful comments that have shaped the paper.

On 16 July 2014, the Telangana state government declared Bonalu and Bathukamma as state festivals, as they represent the unique culture of the region (Times of India 2014), and extended financial and logistical support to all such celebrations (New Indian Express 2014a). The government, led by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi party, appealed to all its citizens to celebrate the new state festivals. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) was made responsible for providing resources for the festival celebrations (New Indian Express 2014b). The governments call was taken up fervently in the various neighbourhoods of the city. Bathukamma, in particular, emerged as a platform to articulate belonging in the new state of Telangana, wherein the local caste associations and resident welfare associations lobbied for organising the festivities, thereby making them the conduits for resources from the state and the political parties.

This democratisation of the Bathukamma festival had many subtle and significant effects on the everyday social relations in the urban localities, even beyond the project of state-making. In this paper, we track these transformations by focusing on local networks of actors who have been coordinating and organising the annual fesitivities since 2014. The paper draws from extensive fieldwork conducted in Hyderabad 2013 (Vidyapogu 2017, 2018) and 2014 (Jonnalagadda 2018, 2022) onwards. Based on observations collected over time, we show that caste-based identities have been specifically mobilised by communities in making claims over local resources and in lobbying for state resources and recognition.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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