Thursday, 28 July 2016

Kammas of Andhra Pradesh, Dominant Caste in AP & South India

KAMMA's - A Dominant Caste and Territory in South India
Ms. Dalel Benbabaali, Postdoctoral Researcher, 
Department of Anthropology of the London School of Economics and Political Science

KAMMA's - A Dominant Caste and Territory in South India - Telugu Version

Dominant caste and territory in South India: The case of the Kammas of Andhra Pradesh
In the existing literature on caste, the concept of territory, which can be defined as social, economic and political appropriation of space, is very often absent. My argument is that one cannot understand caste dominance without taking into account territorial control. This argument is all the more relevant in the case of Andhra Pradesh, where the demand for a separate Telangana State is partly related to questions of caste domination. Traditionally, the Kammas are dominant in Coastal Andhra, whereas the Reddis are dominant in the interior regions of Telangana and Rayalaseema. These two castes have been controlling the politics of Andhra Pradesh since the formation of the State in 1956, and even before, since they were at the forefront of the movement for a linguistic Telugu State.
Both these castes are originally farming communities – in varna terms, Shudras -, which means that their ritual status is relatively low. However, they claim that they are Kshatriyas (the traditional warrior varna), because some of their ancestors were local kings or army commanders under the Vijayanagar empire. They are not commonly perceived as Shudras because of their upward social mobility in the last century, which explains that today they are not entitled to « backward caste » or OBC reservations, unlike other agrarian castes of North India like the Kurmis.
Both Kammas and Reddis are landowning communities. The main difference is that Kamma property is concentrated in the agriculturally rich Krishna and Godavari deltas, where land is fertile and irrigated, whereas Reddis own land in the arid Deccan plateau, where irrigation is rare. In terms of assets, Kammas are therefore more prosperous, but in terms of political power, Reddis have been dominating the State through their control of the Congress Party since Independence. It’s only in the 1980s, with the creation of a regional party called the Telugu Desam Party (the TDP), that the ex-movie star N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) became the first Kamma Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, followed by his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu.
Kammas have a very high propensity to migrate, wherever they see investment opportunities, whether in new irrigation projects, or business and real estate in the cities, especially in Hyderabad. They also migrated to other South Indian States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and abroad, mostly to the United States. Since we are in Princeton, I should mention that New Jersey has the highest concentration of Kammas in America, along with California. In the US, they are mostly entrepreneurs or work in the IT industry, and they are dominant among the Telugu diaspora. They control the Telugu Association of North America (TANA). The Reddis resented this domination and created their own organization, called American Telugu Association (ATA). This shows that the rivalry between these two dominant castes of Andhra Pradesh exists even in the US.
What I’d like to talk about today is the link between migration and upward social mobility, but also the power mechanisms that prevent the mobility of the castes dominated by Kammas in the territories they control. The aim of my research was to re-define the concept of dominant caste, which was first studied in 1950s by M.N. Srinivas at the village level, to make it relevant in contemporary India by taking into account the rapid urbanization and increased social and spatial mobility of the elites. According to Srinivas, “For a caste to be dominant, it should own a sizable amount of the arable land locally available, have strength of numbers and occupy a high place in the local hierarchy.”
Kammas form only 5% of the population of Andhra Pradesh, but more than 20% in the Krishna delta where they own 80% of the agricultural land. Despite their relatively small numbers at the State level, they occupy key positions in the politics and economy of Andhra Pradesh, and to a lesser extent of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Taking territory into account is essential to understand the change in the scale and nature of caste dominance and to study its regional variations. When the Telugu Desam Party won the elections in Andhra Pradesh, the Kamma control over State power helped them consolidate their influence. They also dominate the Telugu media and cinema, which gives them sociocultural preeminence. These new attributes of dominance, which are ideological and not only material, have a hegemonic character. However, this hegemony is challenged by the growing resistance of Dalits to caste and class oppression. Kamma cultural domination has also been contested by the supporters of a separate Telangana State. Now that the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has been announced, Kammas’ interests are likely to be harmed, at least in Telangana. Before trying to examine whether the creation of Telangana will lead to a decline of Kamma dominance, I’d like to go back to the history of this community to trace both their spatial and social trajectories.
Kammas’ early history is associated with buddhism, which was very influential in the Krishna valley in the 3rd century. According to epigraphical records, the Krishna delta area at that time was known as Kammanadu, and the main farming community living there was called Kamma. But it is only after the 10th century that the name Kamma started referring to a specific Hindu agrarian caste. Most Kammas were small farmers, but some of them worked as soldiers for the Kakatiya kings of Warangal. The Kamma historian K.B. Chowdary tries to prove the martial origin of his caste based on matrimonial alliances between Kammas and members of the Kakatiya dynasty. It is based on his book that Kammas continue to claim Kshatriya status, although traditionally their main occupation is agriculture. During the Vijayanagar empire, more and more Kamma farmers were employed as soldiers, and even as army commanders, to participate in the conquest of the Tamil country. At that time, war was the main migration factor, and this explains the presence today of a large Kamma community in Tamil Nadu, which is the consequence of military migrations from the 15th century onwards. In times of peace, the Kamma settlers engaged in agricultural activities on the conquered territories of South India. Since they needed manpower to clear the forest lands, and service castes to take care of so-called “polluting” tasks, they brought with them Telugu speaking untouchable communities, known today in Tamil Nadu as Sakkiliars.
Along with this process of military conquest in the South, Kammas also acquired land in the interior regions of the Deccan Plateau. Agricultural colonisation was another major factor of migration for the dominant castes, and it led to the dispossession of tribals and smalls farmers from their lands. The Telangana region at that time was under the control of Muslim rulers who collected taxes through members of the dominant castes that were given the title of chowdharis. Muslim princes thus played a role in reinforcing caste hierarchy because they saw it as a guarantee of social order among their Hindu subjects. Kamma chowdaris used their title to consolidate their holdings in Telangana, while a few became zamindars or big landlords in Coastal Andhra. The Nizams of Hyderabad even called Kamma farmers from Andhra to develop agriculture in Telangana, generously granting them titles to land, since they were considered expert rice cultivators due to their experience of irrigation in the deltas.
In the mid-19th century, the Britishers had built two big dams in Coastal Andhra on the Krishna and Godavari rivers. Kamma farmers benefitted tremendously from the agrarian development that followed the introduction of canal irrigation in British-ruled Andhra. Even the middle peasantry that was paying taxes directly under the ryotwari system became richer thanks to irrigation and the introduction of cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco and cotton. In a context of generalised commodification of land, the value of their properties increased so much that by selling one acre of land in the Krishna delta, they could buy 10 acres in the dry areas of Telangana. The main crop grown in the fertile deltaic lands was paddy or rice, which soon became a commercial crop thanks to the surpluses produced. The commercialisation of agriculture in Coastal Andhra led to the development of transportation infrastructures, urban growth and industrialisation. The small town of Vijayawada became a thriving commercial market and an important railway junction. Kamma farmers diversified their activities by migrating to urban areas while keeping land in their villages. They used their agricultural surplus to invest in bus companies or in food processing industries like rice mills and sugar factories. They also started commercialising their own agricultural production and became moneylenders, thus bypassing the traditional merchant castes and business communities.
This process of capital accumulation by the rich Kamma farmers led to an increased polarisation of the agrarian social structure, with the emergence of a class of Kulaks within the Andhra peasantry. In spite of this class differenciation, the Kammas made conscious efforts to remain united by using caste as a social capital. They created their first caste association in the beginning of the 20th century and used the funds to provide scholarships to children from poor Kamma families and to build Kamma hostels in the cities. Education was seen as a key to social mobility and even small farmers were eager to send their children to study in English-medium schools outside the villages. That’s what M.N. Srinivas calls “westernization”, as opposed to “sanskritization”, which is another way of improving one’s status by adopting the Brahminical rituals. There was a brief attempt at sanskritization by Kammas when some caste members became priests to celebrate weddings within the community, but the rationalist anti-Brahmin movement also had a strong influence on Kammas.
Some joined the non-Brahmin Justice Party which was supported by the middle castes asking for reservations in the Madras Presidency. The Britishers accepted those demands in order to break the hegemony of Brahmins in the administration, because they suspected them of being nationalist. In the 1930s, with the economic depression, and rise in taxes which was harming farmers’ interests, many Kammas shifted from their pro-British position to a nationalist one. The Andhra Communist Party was supported mostly by the Kamma peasantry, who saw in this new party a vehicle for political power, since the Congress Party in Andhra was controlled by the Reddis. Some Kammas took part in the Telangana rebellion against feudal landlords in the 1940s.

One year after India got Independence, Nehru sent the army to forcibly annex the princely State of Hyderabad to the Indian Union. This led to a massacre, affecting mostly Muslim villagers. Telangana was later merged with the Andhra province, and Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh, the first Indian State to be formed on a linguistic basis. The demand for a Telugu State, separated from the Tamil province, was an old demand by the Telugu-speaking dominant castes. Kammas’ support of the Communist Party can also be explained by the fact that the Andhra communists were in favor of Telugu regionalism, against the domination of Tamils in the multilingual Madras State. But the formation of linguistic States mostly served the interests of dominant castes, as the Dalit leader Ambedkar noted: “In our country, linguism is only another name for communalism. Take Andhra. There are two major communities spread over the linguistic area. They are either the Reddis or the Kammas. They hold all the land, all the offices, all the business. The untouchables live in subordinate dependence on them. In a linguistic state, what would remain for the smaller communities to look to?”
After the formation of Andhra Pradesh, the Andhra Communist Party lost one of its main electoral argument and started declining. The Congress won the State elections and remained in power for almost three decades, mostly in the hands of the Reddis, even though some Kamma Congressmen were also present in the State Legislative Assembly, where the dominant castes continue to be overrepresented till today. These territorial recompositions encouraged the migration of Kammas from Andhra to Telangana, especially to Hyderabad. Kamma settlers were educationally more advanced and wealthier than Telangana people who had lived under the Nizam rule, so migration from Andhra was perceived as a threat by the locals. In fact, the States Reorganization Commission was not in favor of the formation of Andhra Pradesh because of the lack of homogeneity between Telangana and Andhra due to their distinct history and geography. Coastal Andhra is naturally endowed with rich plains of fertile and irrigated lands, whereas agriculture in the arid Deccan plateau is not as developed. Under the Nizams, Telangana was characterized by feudal relations in agriculture and a very restricted access to modern education. Even the landlords of Telangana were lagging behind the capitalist Kamma farmers who benefitted from the British rule.
This uneven development continued after Independence, since most of the new irrigation projects took place in Coastal Andhra, where the Green Revolution was introduced in the 1960s. Kammas were the main beneficiaries of the Green revolution, since they had enough capital to invest in the new techniques of production and they were generally entrepreneurial. Their wealth tremendously increased. They resented the Land Ceiling Act which they perceived as a direct attack against their economic power by the Brahmin Chief Minister Narasimha Rao. However, the land reforms didn’t radically change the agrarian structure. The big landlords may have lost some of their property, but the middle peasantry was not really affected because they could manage to divide their lands among family members. The landless farmers, who mostly belonged to the Dalit castes, didn’t benefit from the reforms.

The Green Revolution accelerated the process of economic diversification in the rural areas of Coastal Andhra. The rich Kamma farmers were no longer dependent on agriculture. They invested in agro-industries, transportation business, and they were able to send their children to Hyderabad for higher education. They became more and more urban-oriented, in search of new avenues of employment. When they migrated to rural areas, it was mostly to new irrigation projects, because they knew they could buy cheap lands in Telangana or in the neighbouring State of Karnataka, and then improve their plots once irrigation was available and thus benefit from land appreciation. Even in cities like Hyderabad, when they bought land, it was often speculative as they were very active in the real estate business.
This flow of capital from Andhra to Telangana was not perceived by the locals as a positive sign of economic development for their region, but as exploitation of their poorer conditions. Kamma settlers in Telangana claim that they « turned the desert green », which is a typical colonist narrative. In fact, they were looking for cheaper land and cheaper manpower. When land was not available for sale, Kammas used to practice « reverse tenancy », by taking land on lease from poor farmers and lending them money. When the local farmers became too indebted to their rich Kamma tenants, they ultimately had to yield their lands. In Hyderabad, people coming from Andhra had an advantage to access higher education and employment because they had benefitted from English schooling in their region, which was long controlled by the Britishers. This harsh competition from Andhra migrants led to the first Telangana separatist movement in 1969.
It is only in the 1980s that the number of Kamma settlers in Hyderabad increased significantly. According to some Kamma informants, they felt encouraged to migrate to the capital-city after the Telugu Desam Party came to power in 1983. For the first time a Kamma Chief Minister, N.T. Rama Rao (NTR), was leading the State, and many of his caste fellows felt that this would open new opportunities to them in the capital-city. The victory of the Telugu Desam Party, just a few months after its creation, can be explained by the interference of the central government from Delhi in choosing the Congress Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh. NTR won the elections after a campaign on the regionalist theme of « telugu pride », which was supported by the media, especially by the Telugu newspaper Eanadu, owned by the Kamma billionaire Ramoji Rao, who also owns ETV. The control of the regional media by Kamma businessmen helped NTR to capture State power. His charisma as an ex-movie star and his populist promises like welfare schemes and food subsidies are also important factors behind his victory. On top of his personal fortune, he benefitted from the financial support of big Kamma industrialists who wanted a Chief Minister from their caste to serve their interests. Before NTR’s election as the head of the State, there was a discrepancy between Kammas’ economic wealth and their lack of decisive political power, since they were sidelined by the Reddis dominating the Congress.
NTR’s trajectory from an agricultural family to cinema and then politics is typical of Kammas pattern of upward social mobility. The Telugu film industry, which is the second in India after Bollywood, in terms of number of movies released every year, is dominated by Kamma directors, producers and actors, with some exceptions like Chiranjivi, the Kapu superstar- turned-politician. Corporate health and education are also major sectors in which Kammas have invested their money. The first generation of Kamma doctors, who migrated to the United States in the 1960s, accumulated capital abroad and came back to Hyderabad in the 1980s, encouraged by NTR, to invest in private hospitals. Apart from medicine, engineering is one of the most common career option among the young Kamma generation, but since they are not entitled to reservations, they generally study in private colleges, generally owned by Kamma businessmen. The cost of these educational institutions is so high that other communities can hardly afford to study there. This corporatisation of health and education in Andhra Pradesh was started by Kammas in the 1980s, even before the liberalisation process that took place at the national level after 1991.
From 1995 to 2004, under the regime of the Chandrababu Naidu, NTR’s son-in-law, economic reforms and the disengagement of the State accelerated this phenomenon. TDP Chief Minister Naidu became the darling of the corporate media and of the World Bank which granted him a loan for the development of his. It was the first time that an international institution like the World Bank gave a loan to a subnational entity. Naidu made Hyderabad a showcase for his neoliberal policies. He focused on urban infrastructure and global growth sectors like Information Technology. He decided to develop HITEC City in the western periphery of Hyderabad, near the residential areas of Jubilee Hills and Kukatpally, were most of the Kamma settlers live. This led to a tremendous appreciation of their properties. Kamma businessmen who benefitted from political patronage and privileged access to information for real estate speculation could make a lot of profit by investing in those areas. Chandrababu Naidu was accused of corruption, nepotism and casteism since his development choices clearly benefitted to his own Kamma community. In 1999, a post-electoral survey showed that 87% of Kamma voters re-elected him for a second mandate.
It is under Naidu’s regime of almost one decade that the Kamma caste really became hegemonic in Andhra Pradesh. I borrow here Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, which refers to a kind of domination that is not only material, but also ideological. By migrating to urban areas, Kammas started enjoying new attributes of dominance, not based on landownership alone, but on control over the media, culture and politics. After seizing State power, they were able to impose on the rest of society the neoliberal ideology which served their capitalist interests best. This led to a lopsided type of development which increased social and spatial inequalities, by affecting poor farmers and rural areas most. Between 1997 and 2004, more than 3000 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh, especially in the less developed regions of Telangana and Rayalaseema. The liberalisation of agriculture led to an increase in production costs, so even in Coastal Andhra, agriculture is not very profitable anymore.
However, Kammas generally don’t sell their lands when they migrate to the cities. For them land is an important symbol of prestige and power, therefore they prefer to give it on lease to tenants because they know that the value of land is not going to decrease, and agricultural incomes are not taxed anyway. The land around Vijayawada in the Krishna delta has appreciated tremendously since the formation of the Telangana State because of the speculation on the future status of Vijayawada as a possible capital-city for Andhra. Even Kammas living abroad are sending remittances back to India for their families to buy more land in the Krishna delta, as a purely speculative investment. Land is also used as dowry. Kammas are known in Andhra Pradesh for having the most conspicuous weddings and for giving the highest dowries to their daughters, especially in the form of land and gold.

Though Kammas have retained their economic power, they have lost some of their political influence after the Congress party came back to power in the 2004 State elections. The formation of Telangana might harm their economic interests in Hyderabad, but if Vijayawada becomes the new capital of Andhra, they might very well repatriate their investments and make them thrive there as well. Kammas may also capture State power in the new Andhra State. The decline of Kamma dominance therefore is not so much economic or even political, but mostly social and cultural, because of the increasing resistance to their cultural hegemony in Telangana, and the social contestation of their caste domination by the Dalits, whom they have used as agricultural labour and oppressed for centuries.
The Dalit movement in Andhra Pradesh started organizing after a massacre perpetrated by Kamma landlords in 1985 in a village called Karamchedu, one of the richest and most developed village of coastal Andhra. This goes against the argument that caste atrocities happen only in backward regions. The two main Dalit communities of Karamchedu, the Malas and Madigas, benefitted quite early from the Christian missionaries’ activities, and then from the reservation policy. They started sending their children to school, getting employment outside agriculture, and becoming politically aware. This is precisely what the dominant caste had a problem with. Dalit assertion meant that Kammas could no longer control their votes and transform their economic dependence into political loyalty. After the creation of the Telugu Desam Party, the Dalits of Karamchedu continued to vote for the Congress, against their Kamma employers who supported the TDP. This Dalit resistance was perceived by the Kammas as a dangerous sign of rebellion and contestation of their traditional dominance, so they decided to attack them to “teach them a lesson” (which is the expression they use). The pretext for retaliation was an incident that opposed a Kamma boy to a Madiga woman who scolded him for washing his buffalo in the pond used by Dalits for drinking water. This was seen by the Kamma landlords as a sufficient provocation to plan a punitive expedition to the Madiga hamlet, burn down their huts, rape three women, beat up men with axes, leaving many terribly injured and six murdered.
As a response to this event of extraordinary violence, a strong mobilisation led to the creation of the Dalit Mahasabha that soon spread across the entire State. This organization fought for the culprits to be punished, but NTR, who was then the Chief Minister, had Kamma relatives in Karamchedu, one of them directly involved in the massacre, and whose name was not even included in the list of the 92 accused. 23 years after the killings, only one accused was condemned to life emprisonment, and 30 others to 3 years in jail. The victims consider that this judgement didn’t bring them justice. NTR’s relative, who premeditated the massacre and escaped from the court, was later killed by Naxalites. The Peoples’ War Group was the main naxalite organization in Andhra Pradesh at that time. They were very active in Telangana, where the struggle took shape along class lines rather than caste. The Maoists consider Kammas and Reddis as “class enemies” more than “dominant castes”. There is a very strong correlation between caste and class and it is often difficult to disentangle both. The big landlords and the ruling class of Andhra Pradesh mostly belong to the dominant castes and they used State power to crush the Naxalite movement which was threatening their interests.

Let me quote here the human rights activist Balagopal: “After the Telugu Desam party came to power, the ruthlessness of the repression on Maoists has increased manifold, and its class content is clearly revealed in the exchanges in the State Legislative Assembly, which is populated by the cream of the absentee landlords, contractors, financiers, businessmen and brokers. Suppression of the rural poor is an important requirement for the strengthening of the hegemony of this class. It is not just that payment of higher wages would affect its accumulation, or that the demand for land redistribution would affect its property; it is a political requirement, too.” Both under NTR and Chandrababu Naidu’s regimes, the paramilitary forces killed hundreds of Naxalite guerillas as well as un-armed tribal sympathisers in fake encounters. This is why the Maoists have moved from Andhra Pradesh to the neighbouring State of Chhattisgarh.
It clearly appears that caste dominance has to do with territorial control, and that access to State power is essential to promote specific caste and class interests. This is why the Kammas of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are not as hegemonic as the Kammas of Andhra Pradesh, because outside their State of origin, they are considered a Telugu linguistic minority and they don’t have so much political power. However, they are locally dominant in some pockets of north Karnataka, where they have become very rich after migrating to buy lands in the new irrigated belt of the Tungabhadra river. They are also dominant in cities of Tamil Nadu like Coimbatore, where they own most of the textile factories and other industries.

I have conducted fieldwork in all these places, to compare the nature and level of Kamma dominance depending on the territory they live in and how much control they have over it. My methodology was mostly qualitative, based on interviews and ethnographic studies, but I have also used a questionnaire to do a survey among a sample of 200 Kamma households, one hundred in a village of the Krishna delta, called Godavarru, and another hundred in a suburb of Hyderabad, known as Kukatpally, so that I could make a quantitative analysis and compare the socio-economic profile of Kammas both in rural and urban areas.
The questionnaire was about their migration patterns, educational levels, family structures, professional mobility, economic position, social and political participation. Migration was found to be an important aspect of Kammas social mobility. Even in rural areas, 20% of Kamma households had a family member abroad sending remittances that improved their economic status. The educational level of Kammas in Hyderabad was obviously higher than in the surveyed village, but in rural areas too, Kammas invest a lot in their children education so that they can move out of agriculture to enter urban professions. Most live in nuclear families and have no more than two children to avoid the division of property. Endogamy is strictly respected with a very few exceptions. Subcaste doesn’t matter anymore: Kammas belonging to different subcastes don’t mind intermarriage. Though the socio-economic status of Kammas in Hyderabad is far higher in terms of incomes and assets, the Kamma rural elites enjoy a stronger dominance over the backward and dalit castes.
Kamma dominance in urban areas is of a different nature. To understand what caste dominance means in the cities, I did a comparative study of two regional towns, Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. In Vijayawada, Kammas form a class of bourgeois neo-rich who acquired their wealth in a short time by doing all kinds of businesses, including illegal activities. In Coimbatore, Kammas have built their wealth in the textile industry over a long period of time, since they first migrated there as cotton farmers. Some belong to old aristocratic families who settled in Tamil Nadu a few centuries ago as army commanders or big landlords. Their culture is totally different from Andhra Kammas and they rarely intermarry. They speak a Telugu which is mixed with Tamil words, and they are much more cultured and well-read. That doesn’t make them any less exploitative of their manpower in the textile factories, where they generally employ lower caste girls who migrate to the mills, sign a 3 year contract, at the end of which they get married with the little savings they could gather for their dowry. The short contracts are favored by the Kamma bosses to avoid the unionisation of their workers who keep changing and have no time to organize. That’s how they have put an end to the strikes that were common in Coimbatore textile industry. This extremely wealthy capitalist class tries to improve its image through philanthropy. They fund hospitals and educational institutions through their trusts, whereas in Vijaywada, both health and education are a business only aimed at making profits, owned by very aggressive Kamma entrepreneurs. In Coimbatore, Kamma dominance is less political than in Vijayawada, where business, caste and politics are very much intertwined. A violent rivalry opposes Kapu and Kamma politicians in Vijayawada, which led to political murders and riots between the two communities.
Apart from these two cities, I also conducted fieldwork in rural areas of Telangana and Karnataka where Kammas have migrated in search of « greener pastures ». In Telangana, they were attracted by the Sriram Sagar project in Nizamabad district, and in Karnataka, they went for the Tungabhadra project in Raichur and Bellary districts. Kamma farmers claim that they brought development to those areas by « teaching » rice cultivation to the locals, but their arrival was perceived as a form of internal colonisation, especially in Telangana, where the best lands were acquired by the settlers.
Recently, there was a controversy over a Telugu novel by a Kamma writer, Chandralata, whom I interviewed in Hyderabad and who told me that her book was partly autobiographical since she tells the story of her father who migrated from Coastal Andhra to Telangana in the 1960s to buy land in black cotton soil areas. That explains the title of her novel, Regadi vittulu, in Telugu, which means « Seeds of black soil ». Kammas claim to be experts in the cultivation of this type of soil that can give good yields if water is available. This book was awarded the « best Telugu novel » prize by the Telugu Association of North America (TANA). This prize was contested in Telangana. TANA was accused of caste favoritism since the association is dominated by Kammas living in the US, and the novel was criticized for portraying Telangana people as unable to develop their own lands, and for presenting Telangana culture in a negative light, as backward. This controversy over the book shows that the regionalist sentiment which led to the creation of a separate Telangana is not only about economic domination by Andhras, but also about cultural domination. For example, many people resent the fact that the Telugu film industry, which is controlled by Kammas, makes fun of the Telangana dialects, which are generally spoken in the movies by the villain, under- class or criminals characters.
To conclude, caste dominance can take many different forms: its nature and degree vary according to the territory observed, whether it is a rural or urban area, whether it is a small town or a big city, whether the dominant caste is originally from the place or migrated there. If the concept of dominant caste is still relevant in today’s India, one has to take into account new attributes of dominance which are not related only to landownership, but also to culture and ideology via the control of the media, the entertainment industry and State power. This is why I found the concept of hegemony very useful for my study of the Kamma caste, but it is important to bear in mind that « No hegemony can be so pervasive as to eliminate all ground for contestation or resistance ».

My View:
I do not dispute any of the statements of this article. The rise of Kammas (under 5% of state's population) from nobody in 1850's to occupy the centre stage of truncated AP's political, economic, education, medical, real estate, financial, media, entertainment, industrial, services, govt service,  ... almost in all walks of life is attributable to irrigation facilities associated with Godavari anicut and Bezwada anicut built in 1850's by Sir Arthur Cotton. Vijayawada, present capital of AP and 2nd largest city in AP which was a small town (smaller than Machilipatnam, Guntur, Gudivada, Nandigama, Nuzvid in 1881) rose to prominence with Bezwada Anicut in 1850's and Prakasam Barrage in 1950's. Not withstanding some aberrations, rise of Kamma's is attributable to their hard working nature, propensity to migrate for prosperity, education and entrepreneurship with risk taking tendencies and belief in real estate. Today apart from Krishna & Godavari delta regions they have become formidable forces in Coimbatore, Chennai, Bangalore, Bellary, Davanagere & Raichur districtsHyderabad city, Nizamabad & Khammam districts, New Jersey and Callifornia. The separation of Telangana state adversely stopped their further investments in Hyderabad and the same are diverted to Bangalore and Vijayawada effecting growth and economy of Hyderabad city. While they suffered huge real estate and investment losses and erosion in their property valuations, with their acumen-ship  they would recuperate over time. But the economic damage to Hyderabad city would be felt after self momentum dies down in two years. 

In Krishna delta region Kammas, being 5% of state population and 20% in that region owns 80% of the irrigated land. And that is the strength of their base. 


  1. In real terms they are hard working

    1. Keeping aside negative traits which all have, they are not only hard working but also intelligent, educated, manipulative, tactful, enterprising with plenty of risk taking propensity and no relocation aversion for prosperity. That is their strength.

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