Seminar #450, Fberuary 1997, "The State of Bihar," p. 47-52

Changing images of caste and politics

Walter Hauser

From - SEMINAR #450, February 1997, "The State of Bihar," p. 47-52. (See also a Book review.)

THESE brief reflections on caste and politics in Bihar are meant to reinforce the recent and particularly sensitive observations of Ashis Nandy and Dipankar Gupta on the meaning of caste in the social and political calculus of late 20th century India. I will do this by appealing to a remembered past, of conversations with Shri Krishna Singh, Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan, and Karpoori Thakur, each of whom in their own ways were prominent players in the history of Bihar and of India in this century. It is a history which can only serve to illuminate the present, hopefully to give it a broader and deeper meaning than the accepted wisdom images of the moment. Or so at least the historian likes to think.

Those meanings imply almost as a given that in matters of caste and politics, which by definition express relationships of hierarchy, status, and power, we are treading on contested terrain. This is as true in our images and perceptions of the past as it is in the experience of the present. There are in effect many pasts just as there are many presents, inevitably depending on who is making the observation. This is another way of saying that there is no absolute truth in the gloss which appears on these pages or any other. Indeed, it is the very ambiguity of image and perception which makes these issues of status and power worthy of debate in our efforts at understanding the phenomenon. And it is precisely these ambiguities and the permutations we employ in defining our individual and collective goals and identities which give to the political experience of India, or any true democracy, its fascination and richness in 1997.

Before turning to that past I will draw briefly on the 1996 observations of Gupta and Nandy as points of departure. Referring specifically to electoral politics, Gupta tells us that 'caste alliances appear to emanate from secular and political factors and do not spring full-blown from primordial loyalties.... What brings about such horizontal solidarities between castes, is the extent to which their secular interests coincide, which in turn depends on their structural location in society.... If anything, caste alliances are shorthand ways of signalling a coalescence of secular interests. What needs to be appreciated is that these interests must really be powerful enough for castes to overcome their natural repulsion towards each other (in order to) form united fronts.' [1]

What this means in practical terms in the 1990s, Ashis Nandy argues, is that the political and economic growth of the middle and lower castes has changed 'polities beyond recognition.' Nandy is cited in the New York Times recently as observing that 'caste is now a principal of political mobilization rather than a matter of ritual distance.' [2] Indeed it is a process that has been at work for many of the years since Independence in 1947, and one might argue, as I do here, that the transition from the late 19th and early 20th century politics of culture, in fact began with the Council and Assembly elections of the 1920s and 1930s. It is a process obviously in constant flux and change.

This suggests that in this context, caste is neither unique, as the popular western press sometimes has it, nor is it static, unchangeable, and immutable as is also often assumed. It is rather the fluid and mutable qualities of caste, or more accurately jati, that make it one of the vital and dynamic identity markers of Indian society and politics in 1997. To assume otherwise in a cultural setting in which the idea of sanskar is a central element of the very being of vast numbers of Indians individually and collectively, is to effectively deny one of the core elements of what it means to be Indian. [3]

The point is not that caste is the sole identity marker in Indian polities, but precisely the opposite: it relates to and interacts with many different kinds of identity interests - religious, sectarian, ethnic, racial, agrarian, class, and I would add personality. and that it is these various combinations and re-combinations, which over time define the Indian social and political experience. If one looks at the world of politics beyond India, it would not be difficult to argue that this is not simply an Indian but a human phenomenon: witness the most recent evidence from eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, central Africa, the Middle East, or as I will suggest at conclusion of these remarks, the United States.

Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, writing in 1940 about the Provincial Council elections of late 1926, and the Legislative Assembly elections of early 1937 in Bihar, commented on the role of caste and factionalism in the polities of those decades in terms that appear entirely familiar today. He writes 'that there is very little difference between nationalism and casteism, and it is a difference which disappears at a certain stage.... The only real difference is that caste covers a relatively smaller field whereas nationalism functions in a wider arena.' [4]

I cite Sahajanand here both as a comment on his prescient sensibilities about caste and politics in India then and now, but primarily because he, in his own career and in his participation in the cultural politics and freedom movement politics of the 1920s and '30s, symbolizes the qualitative transition occurring in that politics. While that transition may have been gradual between then and now, it is nevertheless true that the political and social alliances which were to emerge full-blown in an environment of universal adult suffrage after 1947, were already apparent in the cultural and colonial electoral experience of the 1920s and 1930s.

The cultural politics obviously took many forms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But for the upper castes, now denominated forward castes. the caste sabha or caste association was one of the most common. And here the issues of 'natural repulsion', and 'ritual distance' among and between castes as described by Gupta and Nandy were very much at work. Put in its simplest terms. these caste associations were designed to define and articulate status identity and ritual distance by utilizing Indian cultural categories. Notwithstanding the Indianness of the phenomenon, as its elaborate vernacular literature testifies, it was at the same time concerned with defining its role visa-vis the colonial state, most often in terms of a loyalist political posture in the emerging Constitutional environment of the early decades of this century. [5] I would argue that the 1910s and 1920s were the high water-mark of the phenomenon and that 1929 might well be taken as the turning point to what was to become the politics of democratic mobilization.

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Sahajanand's role in this political history effectively began in December 1914 with his active involvement in the social reform movement of the Bhumihar Brahman Mahasabha. Indeed, for eleven years he was its chief protagonist. The issues were essentially those of self respect and status recognition of Bhumihars as true Brahmans in the eyes of the wider Brahman world of eastern U.P. and Bihar. [6] But Sahajanand's political horizon was far broader than that of caste and status among Bhumihar Brahmans.

That politics (of culture) would Soon overlap with his activism as a Gandhian Congressman from 1920, including membership in the All Indian Congress Committee and then the Working Committee of the Bihar Provincial Congress Committee. By 1926 those overlapping interests came into conflict when Sahajanand prevailed in having a nationalist Congressman named as president of the Mahasabha at its Patna session. This conflict finally resulted in the dissolution of the Bhumihar Mahasabha at its Monghyr session in the summer of 1929 when Sahajanand refused to accept as president of the Sabha the loyalist Sir Ganesh Dutt Singh. He was Minister for Local Self Government of Bihar and Orissa, one of the major public figures of the province and arguably the most influential protagonist of Bhumihar interests in the province, if not in all of Gangetic north India. [7]

It is perhaps not surprising therefore that Shri Krishna Singh, himself a leading Congressman of Monghyr and the chairman of the Reception Committee attempted to avoid the break with Sir Ganesh which Sahajanand precipitated at the 1929 Bhumihar Sabha meeting in Monghyr. This despite the fact that Sir Ganesh had opposed Shri Krishna Singh and other Swaraj Party members on numerous policy issues in the Legislative Council. The irony of this politics is that it was in the same year that the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha was formed, at the behest of number of prominent Swaraj Party activists and Congressmen, in order to repel the efforts of government to introduce an amendment to the Bihar Tenancy Act, considered to be seriously unfavourable to the peasant tenants of the province.

The venue for this founding meeting of the Kisan Sabha was the popular Sonepur Mela in Saran, the home district of Rajendra Prasad and of Jayaprakash Narayan, later to be active in the Kisan Sabha, the Congress. and of course the Congress Socialist Party. Shri Krishna Singh was named General Secretary. Sahajanand was proposed as president, but he demurred, suggesting instead the name of Rajendra Prasad, already at that time the most prominent Congress activist in Bihar. History records that Sahajanand finally did accept the nomination as president, proffered insistently by leading Congressmen of the province. This was clearly Sahajanand the moderate activist at work within the Gandhian framework of Congress agrarian reform.

The economic and political clouds then already on the horizon would see a shift on Sahajanand's part to a militant class based kisan activism, and in 1934 and 1938 serious splits with the Congress both as organization and as government. [8] But in the 1920s and specifically in 1929, Sahajanand and many other Congressmen had started moving away from a cultural politics defined in terms of sectarian and caste sabha interests.

There were of course other events to mark this 1929 transition to a new and more open-end politics, not the least of which was the Lahore session of the Congress in December of that year. Sahajanand, a member of the AICC at the time, noted that the zeal and enthusiasm at Lahore was almost beyond description. 'When the resolution on full and complete Independence was passed, it seemed as though a new world had come into being.' [9] But as Rajendra Prasad and Sahajanand would reveal, this did not mean that caste and jati were no longer factors in the body politic, but rather that they would be employed in new and more complex ways as instruments of cross cutting political mobilization. As we know, this was a significant factor in the electoral politics of nationalism before 1947, just as it would be in the democratic electoral environment of a free India.

These images were only vaguely apparent in April 1959, when, as a post

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graduate research student. I met Shri Krishna Singh at the chief minister's residence in Patna. I had spent much of the preceding year working in the State Central Records Office examining the historical record of Congress and Kisan Sabha activism in the 1920s and '30s. I knew that Shri Babu had been one of the main players in Bihar politics and from 1937, the Congress chief minister. His insight and remarkable recall of the events of two and three decades before was no surprise. It was only later, when I returned to the State Archives. that I learned that Shri Babu had in fact requisitioned some of the very files I had been consulting to refresh himself in preparation for our meeting. This struck me then as it does now as a remarkably sensitive act of political and intellectual generosity. It also served to reaffirm for me, the substance of what Shri Babu had revealed in our interview.

At this distance in time. several things stand out about that 1959 encounter. Shri Babu's respect for Sahajanand, for his integrity, his commitment to the nation, and his determination on behalf of the peasants of Bihar. For Shri Babu, Sahajanand's commitment and determination took two forms. First, in his nationalist efforts at the 1929 Monghyr Bhumihar Mahasabha, and second, that despite all differences with the Congress, it was Sahajanand's militant peasant activism in the 1930s which ultimately created the political climate that made zamindari abolition possible in the years after Independence. I should note here that barring the war years, Shri Babu was chief minister of Bihar from the time of the first Congress Ministry in 1937 until his death in 1961.

The respect the major Congress players in Bihar had for one another whatever their political differences, is important in assessing what they were saying to me in 1959 and after. Also what this tells us about the politics of the 1930s and the 1990s. I say this because Sahajanand in his 1940 reflection on these events was brutally frank about the politics of the '20s and '30s, and none of my informants - whether Shri Babu, Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash, or Karpoori Thakur - took issue with Sahajanand's argument while always conceding his candour.

For example, I refer to Sahajanand's comments on the 1926 Council elections: 'I can never forget the highly improper behaviour I witnessed at the time of that election. Among other things, factionalism of the most blatant kind characterized all party politics. Even the most prominent Congress leaders were talking and mobilizing themselves in terms of caste. This could not have been done openly but that it was happening quietly and behind closed doors was apparent to all. Based on my experiences not only of that election, but of all other elections since, I must say with due apologies for this apparent impudence, that most nationalist leaders of Bihar are fundamentally casteist." [10]

Observing the 1936 ticket allocation process by the Provincial Working Committee, Sahajanand writes even more pointedly: 'There seemed to be no basis or principle on which candidates were being nominated. At some places faithful Congress workers who had suffered severe loss in the movement and had been imprisoned were left out and in their place big zamindars and their friends who had neither been imprisoned nor wore khaddar until yesterday were nominated. At other places persons who were well known among the kisans for their oppressions were offered Congress tickets. And there was wide reliance on groupism, casteism, personal relationships and friendships in naming candidates. I had never seen such manoeuvering and manipulation. I was amazed. I wondered to myself whether these were the people who would set the country free and who called themselves nationalists?' [11] It is following this reflection in his memoirs that Sahajanand observes that there is little difference between casteism and nationalism, and that it was a difference which would in fact gradually disappear.

In August 1959, at the conclusion of a two year period of research and on the eve of my departure from India, I was privileged to meet Dr. Rajendra Prasad at Rashtrapati Bhavan. There I heard a remarkably similar, if more measured and qualified report on the same election. I was given fifteen minutes to pay my respects to the President, though my interest was of course in knowing more about his role in the freedom movement and more specifically in the political history of Bihar. Rajen Babu determined my interest with his very first question. The fifteen minutes soon became ninety as he responded at length to all of my queries. Rajendra Prasad was equally a man of candour and while less critically pointed than Sahajanand on the events of 1936, made many of the same points.

He had made these a matter of public record in his Autobiography less than two years before our meeting. For example: 'Another peculiar feature of the nominations were considerations of caste. The Congress abhorred the idea but local circumstances compelled it to submit to it. It is a matter of shame that in Bihar, the PCC had to take caste labels into account in certain constituencies because the success of candidates there depended on such considerations. Further, we had to give adequate representation to all prominent castes. It is disgraceful for an organization like the Congress to do so but success in the elections was our first objective and secondly, it should not be overlooked that the Congress is a widespread organization consisting of people of all castes. The fact, however, remains that though from the point of view of practical politics our nominations proved a great success, we ought not to have even thought in terms of class or caste distinctions.' [12]

While the President was warm in his praise for Sahajanand as a patriot and spokesman for the kisans and while in his Autobiography he had conceded the differences that surfaced between them in nominating candidates, he said little about the split that emerged once the Congress ministry assumed office. For our purposes the issue is not that Sahajanand and the Kisan Sabha campaigned

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campaigned vigorously on behalf of the Congress, or that there was ultimately a break between them, but that caste was a key element in mobilizing support in that election in Bihar as it was elsewhere. It might also be noted that while Sahajanand shared Rajendra Prasad's anxieties at what was happening, he too recognized this reality. Commenting on the group rivalries among Rajputs, Kayasthas, Bhumihars, and Maithils, Sahajanand notes that 'these factional rivalries, though they function below the surface, are nevertheless exceedingly intense. All of this is a great misfortune for us, for our province, and for the nation. But these are the realities and no honest person can deny it if he is at all familiar with the inner workings of the system, even though casual observation from the outside makes it difficult to cite specific examples.' [13]

But we cannot thereby presume that only high caste players, whether Bhumihar Brahmans, Rajputs, Kayasthas, or Maithil Brahmans were active in the politics of freedom or the politics of caste identity which preceded it and overlapped with it. Rather, we need to be aware of a more inclusive and deeper history which was equally important at the time and would come to dominate Bihar politics and much of Indian politics in the later decades of the century. Commenting on the politics of culture defined by the middle cultivating castes of eastern U.P. and Bihar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the historian William Pinch observes that 'the shift from the cultural politics of the early 20th century to the political culture of the 1990s is not one that occurred as a sharp break at Independence in 1947 but has been much more gradual, indeed almost imperceptible. The implications of that shift are profound, signaling the demise of a political culture based on an ideology of martial power and the rise of politics based on democratic, demographic realities.' [14]

Pinch goes on to note that the distinctions between these colonial and post-colonial realities had to do with achieving an identifiable measure of social and economic justice in a free India. 'For Kurmi, Yadav, and Kushvaha leaders, this would represent a sea-change in Indian political culture, since (the) Kshatriya identity (to which they had aspired) only had meaning in the context of a colonial political system crafted around visions of martial grandeur. In independent India politics would be predicated instead on universal adult suffrage and a commitment to the welfare of the nation's citizenry and would be played out by Indian party politicians seeking Indian votes.' [15]

As we know the way in which these groups came to define themselves in the social democracy of a free India was through mechanisms expressed in terms of backward class interests, reservations, and the Mandal phenomenon with which we are all familiar. It is precisely this set of issues and the process by which they have surfaced to which Ashis Nandy refers.

I will cite two brief vignettes from 1978 and 1979 to show that by the end of that decade the emerging political and economic influence of the middle and lower castes was indeed beginning to change 'politics beyond recognition,' to use Nandy's apt phrase. It was December 31, 1978, new year's eve in Patna. A mutual friend asked if I wished to join him in paying our respects to the ailing Jayaprakash. We proceeded to JP's residence in Kadamkuan and though he was unwell and heavily wrapped against the winter cold, he was in a reflective mood. He and I had first met at his Shekhodeora Ashram in Gaya in 1958,more regularly in Patna between 1963 and 1965 discussing his Socialist and Kisan Sabha activism of the '30s and only occasionally thereafter. But this reflection turned to mild agitation when I raised questions about the reservations policy being pursued by the then Chief Minister, Karpoori Thakur. 'He is moving too fast. These things will all come in good time. We Socialists have been pushing these social interests for many years, and will continue to do so.' But the days when a backward caste political leader would accept that logic, even from the venerable and respected Jayaprakash were past, as Karpoori made pointedly clear when I met him later that night. This was a new and different day in the political history of Bihar and of India.' [16]

Karpoori too was agitated at the claim made in the cover story of a bi-weekly newsmagazine that 'Bihar Is Burning'. My travels in Bihar had shown me that it was not, which Karpoori also knew and asserted. And he spoke with confidence, not because he was from the numerically small nai or barber caste but because he was a man of impeccable integrity. He spoke for and on behalf of the majority backward and scheduled caste population of the state by the force of his personality and by his commitment to a day of equity and justice for the marginal poor. Karpoori Thakur was succeeded briefly in 1979 by a scheduled caste chief minister from his own Janata Party, and then by a succession of five Congress chief ministers, all Brahmans and Rajputs. The current incumbent, Laloo Prasad Yadav is now completing his seventh year in office. In terms of longevity. this makes him second only to the first Chief Minister, Shri Krishna Singh.

We may infer from this fact and this history that politics has indeed changed

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beyond recognition in India and Bihar. But we must also note that these changes have not emerged from a changeless past but rather one that has been culturally and socially interactive for many years and political generations. We may also infer that the appeal to justice, equity, and self respect of the backward and depressed sectors of society, which Laloo Yadav has employed so effectively to sustain his populist agenda, is not new. Those appeals too have a history and notable spokesmen. That makes their representations in the 1990s by Laloo Yadav no less important or meaningful, but places them in the larger history of social experience of which they are a part.

It is that history and the images and perceptions of the major players and the people themselves with which I have been concerned in these reflections. It is a history which has served the identity interests not only of social, cultural, and political activists in this century, but of the people, the peasants and the villagers who were and remain to a very significant degree the primary constituents of that history and of the present to which we have now come. It is this reality, Ashis Nandy reminds us, which has receded in the mind's eye of most urban Indians. 'Our vision of India no longer involves the imagination of a village. The village for us now is primarily a place where strange people live, where sati and untouchability are practiced, where Hindu-Muslims riots have been taking place for centuries, where the inhabitants continue to pursue the sports of homicide and robbery.' [17]

The reality of which I write is not meant to romanticize caste as an element of political mobilization in Bihar and India, nor to identify what might be perceived as its invidious influences. The effort has been rather to recognize the presence of caste and jati as active and dynamic elements in the cultural and political lives of the citizens of the state and nation. We have been concerned with the forms and transitions of these identity markers over time and the ways in which they have influenced social and political experience in this century.

I began this essay as I conclude it, by suggesting that issues of social and cultural identity take many different forms in the human experience and that among these caste is one. Race and ethnicity, as we in the United States know well, are others. That issues of affirmative action and immigration were central to the political debate in 1996, as they are to the judicial process in 1997, makes this point well. And while the term sanskar is not widely known in the American lexicon of social experience, we do presume in our more reflective moments that 'blood is thicker than water.' This permits me to say as I did at the outset of this essay that it is not entirely accurate to suggest that caste is uniquely Indian. Indeed, we think what we believe about our respective identities, our own and those of our neighbours with whom we share the same social and cultural space.

And it is the politicizing of that process with which I have been concerned. The inevitable question of course is where do we go from here, what processes of change are now at work, what is the transitional stage in which we now find ourselves? Or put another way, are the scams and corruptions of Patna, Delhi, or Washington, and the judicial activism which they have generated, emerging though not fully understood reflections of the transitions in which we are presently involved? For the historian these questions must remain no more than questions. There are, however, two certainties in the democracies that are the United States and India. First, that government and politicians, and some would say the press, are under a large cloud of suspicion. And second, as H.L. Mencken reminded us, the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. It is after all true that whether their names are Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, or H. D. Deve Gowda, Laloo Prasad Yadav, or Sitaram Kesri, their place and position is held at the will of the people. It is their image of equity and justice which will ultimately be served.

*Footnotes -

1. Dipankar Gupta, 'Caste Chemistry', India Today, 30 April 1996, p. 41. Back

2. New York Times, 20 October 1996, p. E3. Back

3. I use the term sanskar here not in some formal, textual, intellectual sense of sacrament or ritual but rather as a kind of shorthand for the lived social and cultural experience of those Indians whose roots are grounded in the village atmosphere of their birth or their ancestors. In this sense it has to do with the values, beliefs, and practices across all caste boundaries whether Brahman, Yadav, or Chamar, as example. The definition which conveys these meanings most explicitly is that appearing in the Meenakshi Hindi-English Dictionary (new Delhi: Meenakshi Prakashan, 1980), p. 692: 'cultural) tradition, which becomes part of one's being.' My point clearly is not to essentialize the concept and practice of caste and jati, but as I imply throughout this essay, precisely the opposite. Back

4. All Sahajanand citations in this essay an taken from the original edition of his memoirs, Mera Jivan Sangharsh (My Life Struggle), (Bihta, Patna: Shri Sitaram Ashram, 1952), here pp. 480 and 296. Sahajanand was writing in 1940 during the early weeks and months of his imprisonment in the Hazaribagh Central Jail. It is useful to note that he was making these observations more than a half century before the current round of Mandal Commission and reservation politics in India and its multiple permutations in Delhi, Patna and elsewhere in the 1990s and well before the reflections of the political scientist Benedict Anderson on the subject. See Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983 and 1991). Back

5. It is also the case that this element of loyalty was a reflection of the prominent presence of dominant land controllers and urban professionals in the cast sabhas. These memberships of course varied from one sabha to another, as for example between the Bhumihar Brahman Mahasabha or the Kayastha Sabha, another of the early caste associations in Gangetic North India. But the presence of Sri Ganesh Dutt Singh in the bhumihar Sabha and Sachchidananda Sinha in the Kayastha Sabha makes my point nicely. I use the case of the Bhumihar Sabha in what follows to show what this membership and these policies meant in the political context of colonialism and nationalism. Back

6. Sahajanand was a Dandi Swami of the Dasnami order. He took the vows of sannyas in 1907 at the Aparnath Math in Kashi and assumed the dand in 1911. His family background was that of the Jujhautiya Brahmans who in the Ghazipur village of his birth in 1889. had both commensal and marriage relations with the more numerous Bhumihar Brahmans of the area. I touch on the specifics of this history in 'Swami Sahajanand and the Politics of Social Reform, 1907-195', The Indian Historical Review 18: 1-2 (1991-1992), pp. 59-75. For a Hindi translation of this essay see Itihas 3 ( 1994), pp. 143-162. Back

7. There is a substantial literature on the caste association phenomenon which fall well beyond the scope of this reflective essay. However, Sahajanand's view from the inside so to speak, provides a compelling comment on the changing nature of caste and politics in 20th century India. He writes that 'caste sabhas were originally set up to present welcome addresses to officials of government and to pass resolutions of loyalty to the Raj. In fact what was happening is that the more clever among the wealthy were serving their self interest by making these appeals of loyally and doing so in the name of particular castes. But with the changes which were taking place in the country this became less and less possible, and these people then sought to gain votes and electoral support through the caste associations. It is personally gratifying that I have been able to end both these practices through my involvement with the Bhumihar Brahman Sabha. It was at Monghyr in the summer of 1929, that the possibility of using the Sabha in these ways was given a final burial.' Mera Jivan Sangharsh, p. 302. Back

8. Sahajanand's transformation to an explicit commitment to peasants and the poor of all castes is graphical reflected in his rhetorical query, 'Where is the God of the poor? I will give my life serving the poor. Apart from them there is no other God in my heart. They are my God!' Mera Jivan Sangharsh, p. 429. For his more extended examination of these issues see Sahajanand's Khet Mazdoor, especially Chapter 3. This text is available in the original Hindi and in my edited translation in Sahajanand on Agricultural Labour and the Rural Poor (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 1994), esp. pp. 72-89. Back

9. Mera Jivan Sangharsh, p. 346. Back

10. Mera Jivan Sangharsh, p. 295. Back

11. Mera Jivan Sangharsh, pp. 479-480. Back

12. Rajendra Prasad, Autobiography (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1957), p. 429. Back

13. Mera Jivan Sangharsh, pp. 296-297. Back

14. William R. Pinch, Peasants and Monks in British India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, pp. 142. See especially chapter 4 and the Conclusion for more detailed comments on this transitional phase of the politics of caste identity, especially as it relates to the middle cultivating castes, and the earlier chapters for the history of these identity movements. For more specific elaboration of one aspect of that history see Pinch's recent essay, 'Reinventing Ramanand: Caste and History in Gangetic India,' Modern Asian Studies 30:3 (1996), pp. 549-571. It is useful to note that when Sahajanand refers to political factors in the 1920s and 30s he factors in not only the four upper castes but also Muslims, Gwalas, Kurmis, etc. Mera Jivan Sangharsh, p. 296. Back

15. Pinch, Peasants and Monks, p. 143. Back

16. It is perhaps appropriate in this context to note that B.P. Mandal, Chairman of the Mandal Commission was from Madhepura in Saharsa district and briefly the Shoshit Dal chief minister of Bihar in February 1968. See Backward Classes Commission Report, 1980 (New Delhi: Controller of Publications, 1981). Back

17. 'The village: Its Decline in the Imagination', The Times of India, New Delhi, 18 March 1996, p. 10. Back

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