Seminar: "Dominant castes, from bullock capitalists to OBCs? The impact of class differentiation in rural India" by Prof. Christophe Jaffelot, King’s India Institute, London
Dominant castes such as Patels in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh have demonstrated in 2015-16, asking for quotas in the public sector. This demand was not on their agenda before. When they referred to positive discrimination previously, these caste groups claimed that this system should be abolished instead. This changing attitude is due to the socio-economic differentiation of these large caste groups: while those who are still living in villages as farmers are lagging behind, those who have migrated to the city and found a job are benefiting from the economic transformation of India. Also, the rural India has experienced a new form of differentiation along caste lines in the wake of positive discrimination schemes benefitting the Dalits and, after Mandal, the OBCs. These groups have started to catch up precisely at a time when urbanization made the ruling parties less responsive to kisans’ (“bullock capitalists”) demands. While sociologists tend to dismiss the dominant castes’ demand for reservations by considering their socio-economic conditions vis-à-vis OBCs and Dalits as an average, these dominant castes, given their heterogeneity, need to be disaggregated from their socio-economic differentiation.
The question we shall explore in this context pertains to the resilience of caste as an “association” and as a “demand group” - to apply categories of the Rudolphs. The acid test will be their election behavior: while OBCs tend to vote for different parties according to their socio-economic status(measured by their locality - urban, semi urban or rural - as a proxy for class), we will examine whether the same thing happens with the dominant castes.
About the speaker:
Christophe Jaffrelot is a French political scientist specialising in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. He is senior researf fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris and Professor at King's India Institute, London.