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

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Agrarian Class and Caste Relations in 'United' Andhra Pradesh, 1956-2014

This article traces the trajectory of agrarian relations in terms of class and caste in Andhra Pradesh from 1956 to 2014. The analysis shows that land remained in the control of upper castes in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, in Telangana landownership came into the hands of Other Backward Classes primarily due to peasant movements. The contradictions of agricultural workers, tenants, and the landless with the rich peasant class led to intense caste confl icts in coastal Andhra, factional violence in Rayalaseema, and struggles against the state and propertied classes in Telangana.

How did class–caste dynamics change in (erstwhile) united Andhra Pradesh (AP) between 1956 and 2014? Is there a significant difference in the agrarian structure of the two states (Telangana and (residual) Andhra Pradesh), and if so, what are the implications for agrarian change in these two new states? What is the correlation between the changing landownership patterns and the eruption of caste conflicts, caste violence, and other such manifestations?

The discussion on class–caste relations was well articulated in the “mode of production” debate that took place in the 1970s in India. Several scholars argued that the Indian agrarian economy in its contact with capitalism led to the emergence of a capitalist class—one that was independent of caste identities. Hence, class-based exploitation was mediated through caste identities (Omvedt 1978; 1982; Rudra 1978; Gough 1980). Similarly, subaltern studies scholars such as Ranajit Guha (1983), enriched our understanding by questioning nationalist historiography by emphasising the narration of social history from below. Extensive debates indicated that caste does perform certain crucial economic functions—caste determines access to land (the principal means of production), control over the labour process, and the forms of exploitation (or the manner in which surplus is appropriated from direct producers). Indeed, Irfan Habib (1995: 176) has shown that in medieval India the caste system was an important pillar of the system of class exploitation.

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