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Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India
 9789811612749, 9789811612756

Table of contents :
Acknowledgments
Contents
1 Introduction: Studying Caste Panchayats
1 Goals
2 Some Elementary Definitions
3 Some Preliminary Points About Method
4 Structure of the Book
References
2 The Caste Panchayat, Caste Governance, and the Role of the State: The Long View
1 Why the Long View?
2 Early Forms of Caste Governance
3 The Centralizing State and Caste Governance
4 British Challenge to Inter-caste Hierarchy and Transformation of Caste Governance
5 Caste Politics and Secularization of Caste Governance in Postcolonial India
6 Concluding Remarks
References
3 Caste Panchayats Today
1 Claims and Rationale
2 Caste in the Study of Politics: The Context of Modernization
3 Present Day Caste Panchayats from Haryana and Maharashtra
4 Conclusions: Caste Politics and the Politics of Governmentality
References
4 Intra-caste Purity and Social Ostracization
1 Intra-caste Pollution and Social Ostracization
2 The Social Meaning of Ostracization
3 Social Ostracization as a Tool of Inter-caste and Intra-caste Governance
4 Concluding Remarks
References
5 Caste Endogamy
1 Background and Goals
2 Recovering the Religious Roots of Caste Endogamy
3 The British Engagement with ‘Hindu’ Law
4 Caste Endogamy in Post-independence Intra-caste Panchayats
5 Caste Endogamy and the Political Role of Caste
References
6 Conclusions
References
Index

Citation preview

Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India Anagha Ingole

Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India “Scholars have waited long and keenly for a book-length treatment of the subject of caste panchayats. Their expectations could not have been more substantially fulfilled. This is a work that combines real historical depth of learning with acute theoretical analysis. It is highly instructive and illuminating not only on the nature and function of caste panchayats, but on the wider details of caste’s relation to politics and, quite generally, on the claims of Indian political modernity.” —Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Professor, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA “The volume makes an important contribution in analytical understanding of castes and their historical formation in Panchayats. More importantly, the research work maps out the role these panchayats have been playing in consolidating both property as well political power relations. The author offers a careful account of complex phenomena such as caste panchayats.” —Gopal Guru, Former Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Editor, EPW, India

Anagha Ingole

Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India

Anagha Ingole Department of Political Science University of Hyderabad Hyderabad, Telangana, India

ISBN 978-981-16-1274-9 ISBN 978-981-16-1275-6 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover credit: © Alex Linch shutterstock.com This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore

Acknowledgments

I owe fond gratitude to my all women research team at the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute, Pune and to the then Director of the Institute, D. R. Parihar for understanding my interest in the caste panchayats of Maharashtra and helping me in the initial stages of this project. Special thanks to Rohini, Amruta and Kavita who accompanied me to Mahad to meet and interview the aggrieved members ostracized by their caste panchayats. I believe a sincere thanks is in order to those many men and women who trusted us with their experiences and let us in into their world. I would also like to thank Krishna Chandgude and Avinash Patil from ANIS for agreeing to share their experiences about the institutional aspects of caste panchayats in Maharashtra, often over lengthy telephone calls. I must also mention the help I received from the staff of the Central library at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi as well as the librarians and staff at the Lehman library and the Butler library at the Columbia University, New York. The financial and institutional support extended by the Fulbright Nehru fellowship has facilitated this work. Sarika who dug out and scanned several articles from the Anthropological Survey of India volumes and earnestly sent them to me when I could not travel to Delhi deserves a special mention. I would also like to thank Nachiket for underlining the pervading upper caste sensibility in the critiques of the caste panchayats while commenting on an earlier piece I wrote on the law

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

against these bodies. Sheetanshu’s comments on my work on caste loyalty were timely. The book owes its present form to the considerable revisions that I made to the initial draft in the light of conversations with Prof. Akeel Bilgrami. Some of the most important arguments were developed following his interventions and insistence on clarity of thinking and writing. I hope to have done justice to the time he generously devoted to reading my draft. I must also acknowledge a pervasive intellectual debt to my friends and professors at JNU.

Contents

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1

Introduction: Studying Caste Panchayats

2

The Caste Panchayat, Caste Governance, and the Role of the State: The Long View

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3

Caste Panchayats Today

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4

Intra-caste Purity and Social Ostracization

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5

Caste Endogamy

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6

Conclusions

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References

185

Index

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction: Studying Caste Panchayats

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Goals

In 2015, as part of a research project I attended the ‘Jaat Panchayat Moothmaati Abhiyan’1 organized by the Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti 2 (ANIS) in Mahad, a city in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. The meeting was attended by several people who were facing harassment and expulsion (outcasting) from members of their own caste. This was done on the diktats of bodies called ‘caste panchayats’. They shared their travails with fellow victims from different parts of the state and made appeals to the state officials present, to help them overcome the various inhuman punishments meted out to them by these panchayats. One thing that was common in all of their appeals was that they all wanted to be ‘readmitted’ to their caste. Even after interviewing around 90 people who had launched collective or individual complaints to the police, and discussing the issue at length with activists working in the field, and being involved with the drafting process of the Prohibition of Social Boycott Act which was later adopted by the Government of Maharashtra, I felt my 1 Caste Panchayat Eradication Mission. 2 Translated, Superstition Eradication Committee is a non-governmental group based

in Pune, which actively preaches rationalism and progressive social-scientific attitude to general masses through a network of activists in Maharashtra and some parts of Karnataka through publication of literature, various vigilantism drives against caste and superstition, lectures and legal activism.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 A. Ingole, Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6_1

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scholarly understanding about caste and its workings challenged by these caste panchayats. This book is an exploration of these very challenges that I believe the institution of caste panchayats pose for our understanding of caste and the processes through which it continues to unfold today. The book has two goals. First, to take a long view of caste panchayats, expounding the transformation that these bodies have undergone over time, in order to develop a general framework within which to understand them, their ancient pedigree in the social practices of Hinduism, their co-existence with a modern polity and an avowedly (even if now a precariously) secular public sphere. In doing this, it tries to assess how far they have had to respond to the changing nature of caste over this long period and its relationship to the state. It does so by raising several major issues with the available sociological and political scholarship on caste to argue that the study of the contemporary caste panchayats may have to offer some important insights into how caste loyalties express themselves in the current political sphere. The second goal of the book is to focus on specific characteristics of the caste panchayats such as its deployment of the method of social boycott and the structure of constant vulnerability that it creates, and to expound, in turn, how maintaining caste endogamy through this method is the key to reproducing this system of vulnerabilities. I use these, the long view and the micro view of caste panchayats, thus developed, to show how the present strain of loyalty enforcement by the caste panchayats is related to the current political democratization in a specific manner. I do so to make a claim that this framework of caste-based political democratization in our own time provides a motivation for how caste conservatism is employed by bodies such as caste panchayats today, which is in some striking ways continuous with their extended history of loyalty enforcement mechanisms.

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Some Elementary Definitions

Let me, for the sake of clarity from the outset, begin with some very rudimentary points of definition about the concept of caste. As is well known, it is a birth-based system of social and occupational stratification which, as scholars have long noted, has taken three forms over time. First is caste as varna or the four-fold division of society into the priestly class of Brahmins, the warrior class of Kshatriyas, the traders called the Vaishyas and the manual labourers or the Shudras. The varna is a system of graded hierarchy—with Brahmins at the top and Shudras at the bottom—based on

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principles of pollution and purity. The Untouchables or Ati-Shudras are left out of this four-fold system and are considered maximally polluting. In the second sense, caste exists as jati, an endogamous subgroup of a varna or varnas with similar commensality practices, and in which intermarriage is almost always permitted. In the day-to-day lives and experiences of ordinary people, it is caste as jati that is primary. Finally, a third form that must be listed is caste as jati cluster, the collection of sub-castes or jatis (in the previous sense) into a larger caste cluster, which allows inter-dining but not intermarriage. Over time some meanings of caste and their prominence in society have waned, whereas some others have not only become more prominent but have also evolved and been reified. Some of this semantic evolution is a result of what scholars have called the decline of caste as hierarchy but the strengthening of caste as difference. Increasingly, studies of caste in India show that the acceptance of caste as hierarchy has undergone a serious challenge with the attack on occupational rigidities around caste that has diminished economic dependence on upper castes. Democratization of education, legal constitutional protections and political decentralization, have also given the lowest castes the political capital to challenge this vertical element of hierarchy and, as a result, some of the fixtures of caste as hierarchy have somewhat diminished. This is not to overlook the physical violence against and social discrimination of the lower castes that still persists. Neither can one deny that caste hierarchy continues to be reflected in economic differences among castes. But today, this hierarchy is more likely to be challenged and repudiated than it was in the past. Moreover, as hierarchy has come under some challenge, the mobilization around caste as jati has strengthened in the period immediately after India achieved independence from British rule. This had led to an increased tendency of horizontal affiliation of jati allegiance in the jati cluster. Thus, the stress on difference rather than (the vertical element of) hierarchy, in the studies of caste. Over recent decades, however, within this horizontal plane, there has been a reversal and a return to fragmentation of the jati cluster, a sort of declustering of jati clusters back into jatis, and there is, as a result, an increasing recognition of the phenomenon of single-caste loyalty taking prominence in Indian politics ever since the 1980s (Carroll 1978; Corbridge and Harris 2000; Michelutti 2008; Deshpande 2019). The current highly active phase of loyalty enforcement by caste panchayats that has been much in the news must be understood in this context.

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Next, some similarly preliminary defining points about the topic of this book, caste panchayats. These bodies, as they are described in the documentation of the dispatches of journalistic reporting from different parts of the country in the past as well as in our own time, are known by different names in different regions. Reporting had made clear that they are most active in the present time in Haryana, Gujarat, Western Maharashtra, Orissa, Karnataka, Delhi, and some parts of Andhra. These panchayats are known as gaavkis in Maharashtra, daiva in Karnataka, khaps in Haryana, jaat panchayat in Gujarat, and biradari panchayat in Delhi. Caste Panchayats3 are councils that provide a localized and informal form of governance of a jati. These councils are unelected, with caste ‘elders’ calling and leading the meetings. Women cannot be participants, direct complainants, or witnesses, in these bodies. Given these deeply patriarchal governance structures, they cannot today be said to reflect at the local level (in the way that institutions of municipal governance, for instance, might be expected to do) the nation-wide commitment to a liberal-democratic polity in India after its decolonization. In fact, caste panchayats have no official status in the democratic system of federal, state, or municipal governance. They are understood to be parallel justice dispensation bodies through extra-legal means. But even as these, they must not be confused with other organizations which similarly dispense justice based on caste decreed laws such as, for instance, the ‘mahila panchayats’ which also at times may 3 Unlike what is often believed, caste panchayats do not always have a village as its

location or sphere of organization and influence. Their influence often existed and, in some cases, continues to exist over its members across a group of villages and even in the cities. These panchayats move with their populations and have persisted uninterruptedly among the nomadic castes/tribes (Chavhan 2013; Hayden 1999). They have had textual sanction and sanction through religious and state practices since early times, and evidence suggests their prevalence in most parts of India from the south to the north (Altekar 1927; Gnanambal 1973; Chowdhry 1997; Gune 1953; Jha 1970). The most conclusive records for caste panchayats are found in Yajnavalka Smriti written around 1st c. CE, which mentions three tribunals of puga, sreni and kula. It describes the puga as the village court and the sreni as the guild court (Altekar 1927: 47). The third and most prevalent was the kula—translated as ‘family court’—an assembly of the caste and kin. This caste court was the most accessible and popular court. As centralization of power for revenue collection increased among the kingdoms, the caste panchayats were given state legitimacy by bringing them formally under the higher courts—the religious court, the Brahmasabha and the royal court, the Rajasabha. These bodies today exist in reformed avatars retaining and revising the details of caste loyalty and its enforcement.

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base their dispute resolution in family matters on conservative caste and gendered rules, but are not caste panchayats. What differentiates ‘caste panchayats’, and defines that term as it is used in both non-academic and most academic literature today, is the feature of loyalty enforcement through the very specific method of social ostracization. Social ostracization has for long been and continues to be an important definitional marker of the caste panchayat, and this shall be central to some of the main analyses that I present. Caste Panchayats are also defined, by a variety of functions, over and above the resolution of disputes as and when they are brought to them. They undertake continuous and ongoing regulative measures for their caste and enforce collective obedience to these measures. Furthermore, they also perform a political role. This aspect of caste panchayats is not as frequently discussed as it should be and I will be drawing attention to that role in this work, showing that though they are, as their very name suggests, situated in Hinduism, their work spreads to the political and public sphere of an entirely secular domain. I am deliberately not singling out any one of their functions as a defining feature of the caste panchayat. Their functions, as we will see, are various and complex, and part of what I would like to provide is a clarifying taxonomy for these functions. A caste panchayat carries out these functions often by enforcing obedience across the members of its caste through coercive methods such as, what I already have mentioned, social ostracization, but also monetary fines, confiscation of property, brutal gendered punishments steeped in notions of chastity and purity of women, social ostracization, and sometimes even murder. In the course of our discussion, I will spell out the relation between these functions and these methods of caste panchayats. One additional expository point to be made is that alongside the intracaste governing councils that I have expounded so far under the name ‘caste panchayats’, there have also for long been multi-caste panchayats in each village in which there is more than one caste co-habiting, usually headed by the dominant caste of that particular village. This last observation was made central by an eminent scholar of caste in India, M. N. Srinivas (1978), and I will return to its influence later in this chapter.

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3

Some Preliminary Points About Method

Having stated the overarching goals of this work and given a very rudimentary defining background of the basic terms, I turn now to some extended preliminary remarks about the book’s dialectic and method. I will pursue the twin goals of the book that I mentioned earlier in the order in which I stated them. It is important to get the historical evolution of caste panchayats properly understood before presenting a detailed (or even a broad) characterization of their functions and methods in our own time. This prior clarification of the abiding yet changing character of caste panchayats as they evolve over time is specially needed for various reasons. One reason is because there has sometimes been a tendency, especially in the political scholarship on caste today, to ignore caste panchayats simply because of the large changes in these organizations over historical time—prima facie, what are called ‘caste panchayats’ today seem to have little in common with, for instance, the caste panchayats of the Maratha period. This has led some scholars to think that they are no longer centrally active or important today as they once were. The neglect of caste panchayats is also partly due to the lack of an exact picture of their magnitude and prevalence. Because of their extra-legal status, these bodies are never registered, have no or rare written records of their meetings and laws, and therefore it is difficult to draw a clear picture of how deep their influence runs. Only recent spectacular events brought them to the public light and prompted scholarly attention. Before ANIS began to dig deeper into a case of a murder reported in Nasik in 2013, the media, administration, academic scholarship, and even activists were not fully aware either about the extent of the presence of caste panchayats or their entrenched power in large areas of western Maharashtra. Similarly, till the Manoj–Babli murder4 came to light in Haryana, the horrors of the diktats of Khap panchayats never managed to come to the surface of public consciousness, nor were they taken up by scholarly inquiry. Today, we know through organizations like ‘Honour Based Violence Awareness Network’, which documents honour-based crimes across the globe, that 4 The Manoj–Babli murder case took the country by storm in 2007 when mutilated bodies of a young couple who had consensually married were found in a water canal in Hissar district of Haryana. It was later found that the couple was murdered at the orders of the Khap panchayats of the Jats of Karoda village of Haryana with the complicity of the policemen assigned to protect them.

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some 1000 such crimes are reported every year in India.5 In the year 2015 an increase of 796% in incidents of honour killings backed by caste panchayats was reported in the five states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.6 It should be emphasized that most of these cases are never reported and thus the actual incidents are likely to be measurably higher. Finally, sociological scholarship on caste in India has, through extensive field studies, argued—and to some extent demonstrated—that there is no one uniform caste system in India and that each region may be said to have its own caste system. This may give the impression that caste panchayats, as they exist, in different parts of the country, lack any uniform features. However, though they do seem to vary considerably—changing the scope of their functions and reach across time and regions—we can nevertheless identify an overarching commonality, especially of the method of enforcing allegiance of caste members through social boycott in order to preserve caste endogamy. Despite multiple local and state-level factors and/or their combination, the caste panchayat emerged as a fairly common institution, which has preserved itself in a variety of forms through time. For all these reasons, it will be good to first get clear on the changes and the continuities of the caste panchayat in its long history and expound how the interaction of the state and the governance of caste has shaped it. Once these continuities through the changes have been specified, we will be in a better position for the pursuit of the second goal of the book, the elaboration of the details of what has been preserved in them over time as enforcers of caste allegiance. But quite apart from motivating, as I just have, the order in which I will proceed, I would like, in the rest of this long section of the Introduction, to present a broadly brushed theoretical framework for the details in the chapters to follow. This framework is intended to present the grounds for claiming that the book’s topic of caste panchayats is a significant one, if we are to understand the nature of caste in the past and the present. As I said, the topic of caste panchayats has been a neglected one in the scholarly literature of the past few decades and it only came to wide

5 http://hbv-awareness.com. 6 Times of India, September 22, 2018. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/hon our-killings-more-than-300-cases-in-last-three-years/articleshow/65908947.cms.

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public and popular attention very recently as a result of certain spectacular acts of violence. This neglect owes to a variety of rather specific theoretical assumptions (and biases) in the long-standing scholarship on caste. And even when caste panchayats were discussed in the literature, these assumptions and biases tended to distort a proper understanding of them. For this reason, any theoretical framework that tries to reveal their importance and present their real nature without distortion would have to be methodologically and dialectically developed via a critical engagement with some of the assumptions of the influential scholarly studies of caste in the past. I will proceed to do that now by discussing and criticizing seven different (though sometimes related) assumptions that may be found peppered over past as well as ongoing scholarship on caste, assumptions which have sometimes become orthodoxies, and each of which has very specific limiting or distorting effects on the understanding of caste panchayats. In each case, I will state the assumption in italicized form as a thesis, briefly expound it, and then briefly say something by way of discussion and criticism of it. The cumulative effect of the criticisms I offer of these seven theses over the next several pages will implicitly convey the theoretical frame or frames within which I want to present the evidence and argument of the subsequent chapters to establish the nature of caste panchayats and their importance in the study of caste. 1. The first thesis is that caste panchayats and their activities are not systematic symptoms of Hinduism, they are not fundamentally to be characterized as features of the Hindu caste system—that is to say, they are community bodies whose emergence and existence has always been a contingent and arbitrary accrual to primordial groups such as castes (Altekar 1927). This view is echoed in much of the recent historical narratives around caste in the subcontinent that looks at these bodies as manifestations of the ‘rankboundary’ mechanisms7 present in most primordial groups (Guha 2013). I would argue that this is a slightly simplistic view of the caste panchayats and does not keep faith with the course they have taken in India. Though I am not of the view that caste panchayats are defining of ‘Hinduism’ (a 7 Rank-boundary mechanism may be understood as a way of social organization in a society where cultural difference is ranked across a hierarchy of status and honour. These rankings then take different systemic forms (caste understood as one of them) when enmeshed with occupational, kinship and ‘loosely religious’ codes Guha (2013: 2).

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concept which is itself a subject of immense scholarly debate and investigation), understanding caste panchayats in India without keeping in mind the context of the practical influence of doctrinal elements in Hinduism such as the varnashrama dharma is telling only half the truth. Another strand within this first view characterizes caste panchayats as an aspect of the state with the rulers having complete control over its functions, even the explicitly religious functions such as expiation. This view thus denies any religious decree or principle that may underlie these bodies and sees them instead as a function of mere secular power (Hutton 1946; Bayly 2000). I will argue that the religious sanctions for ostracisation in the dispensing of intra-caste justice, which finds mention in the early Vedic canon, must be recognized as still relevant. These sanctions targeted violations of caste norms and principles, and over the centuries, as these principles were increasingly institutionalized in the period between 1300 and 1600 CE, a complex range of power and authority structures became relevant to their implementation. Thus, various states in this period gave authority to important religious centres to act as dharmasabhas, allowing them to interpret religion for the caste panchayats and to declare the granting of expiations.8 In several kingdoms of this period we see a development of a three-tier system with the state at the apex, the dharmasabha or brahmasabha (as it is called in some regions) in the middle and the caste panchayats at the bottom. The dharmasabhas played a crucial role in bringing the caste panchayats under a Hindu religious code with principles of purity, pollution,9 and expiation

8 Expiation was a grant of pardon or atonement which was mandatory for any caste member who was ostracized by their caste panchayat to be accepted back into the caste. The grant of expiation was often granted in written after the concerned individual had performed the penance as directed by the brahman guru. 9 It might be useful here to state in more detail the way in which purity and pollution feature at the inter-caste level as well as at the intra-caste level. Inter-caste pollution occurs when there is transgression by touch, exchange of food, bodily substances, etc., of the hierarchical boundaries of caste. This is a very familiar and well-known aspect of caste because there is no understanding what the caste hierarchy is without understanding this point. Intra-caste pollution is a much more theoretically interesting phenomenon. It arises when caste members do not practice their caste code properly. It may be easiest to explain it with examples. So take, for instance, a codified requirement within a caste, of a certain ritual to be followed by family members when there is a death (or indeed, a birth) in the family. Episodes of death and birth upset the equilibrium of the caste’s ecosystem, as it were, and the code requires a ritual restoration of the equilibrium. A family’s failure to carry out those rituals renders the family polluted. In general, breaches of everyday caste

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becoming part of the administration of caste—both at the lowest level of the caste panchayat as well as at the highest level of the state. Once this point (about how caste panchayats were in this way integrated with the normative practices of Hinduism) is properly understood, it is not really possible to subscribe to this first point I state above—that caste panchayats and their activities lack a religious grounding. 2. A second thesis may be found in another prevalent claim that Caste panchayats are merely dispute resolution bodies that were part of the village system in which populations resided (and not intrinsic to the caste) and that the philosophy behind their adjudicatory practices, in its most benign form was to maintain amity within the group and, and in its least benign form, to facilitate the domination by higher castes, in those cases where the panchayat was a multi-caste panchayat. The logical implication of this view is that caste panchayats would dissolve if and when the village system

norms, renders the offender polluted. It is polluting for a Brahmin, for example, to return to the life of the household (grihastaashrama) after having taken the vow of abstinence (sanyasaashrama). It makes a potter (khumbhar) equally polluted if he fails to perform a proper ritual before he begins making a pot. In both cases, these caste men would become outcasts in their respective groups and would be ostracized until the prescribed penance and expiation is granted. When it comes to intra-caste purity, therefore, it is not the purity that is limited to the exclusivity of the caste gene pool. Rather purity and pollution are constituted by the everyday and lifelong normative practices of a caste. What makes this notion of purity/pollution theoretically extremely interesting is that the normative principles which practices must confirm to constitute what will count as pure and what will count as polluted. Unlike as in the inter-caste case, it is not as if there is a pre-given notion of purity and pollution (a notion that is constituted by the fact that caste is an exclusivist hierarchical system) and the norms are tracking this pre-given notion of purity and pollution. Rather the norms dictate what is pure and polluted because the norms dictate what caste members must do and failure to do it generates the pollution. This contrast is a bit like the famous contrast in Plato’s Euthyphro when Socrates asks ‘whether the gods love the pious because it is pious or whether the pious is pious because it is loved by the gods. The point is that in the intra-caste case something is polluted because it is declared to be polluted by the caste’s norms. It is not as if pollution is defined by something other than the intra-caste norms (like the exclusivism of the stratified gene pools that is inherent in the idea of caste hierarchy) and the norms are merely tracking that already understood notion of purity and pollution. Scholarship on caste has not sufficiently noted this important and interesting contrast. I will return to it later in the book.

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increasingly passes on into urban formations of small and larger proportions. Such a view might be thought of as falling within the general outlook of what is called ‘modernization’ theory. I would contest first that caste panchayats were always tied to the village system. There is much evidence that caste panchayats among nomadic castes and even nonnomadic castes which, for one or other reason, were forced to migrate from one region to another, continued with their caste panchayats in the new region of migration, showing thereby that it was the caste and not the village which was the unit to which these panchayats were attached. Furthermore, though they certainly did adjudicate disputes, caste panchayats have performed a variety of other related (and quite unrelated) functions in the past, which they continue to perform even today. These functions were and are determined by a host of socio-economic and political factors and their combination. For example, caste panchayats were enforcers of the village servant system10 (Dumont 1980: 175), they mobilized caste groups against the power of the state (Abbe Dubois quoted in Dumont), opposed custom where it came to be considered dishonourable, mobilized caste members to resist increase in tax revenue, enforced sanskritization; it also directed caste members to depose to the caste census11 (often with the threat of social boycott). It is the diversity of these functions that demonstrates why caste panchayats could not simply be replaced by the development of other forms of pre-modern judiciary or even by the modern state judiciary. Once the lens of viewing these panchayats is shifted from dispute resolution bodies (tied primarily to the village system and only contingently related to castes) to seeing them as solidly caste-based organizations, drawing their logic from pre-modern world views even in modernity, it becomes possible to explain their recalcitrance to being wiped out by the development of modern social and political institutions.

10 The village servant system was a system organized around the dominant cultivating caste in a village which would act as a patron (jajman) caste whereas all the other castes were to provide services specific to their castes as servants of the dominant caste. The servant castes were typically those of the carpenter, smith, barber, the scavenger, etc., who served the needs of the jajman households throughout the year in exchange of a small share of produce of grains and crops during the harvest. The share and quality of produce was determined by the rank of the caste in the hierarchy. 11 For a brief exposition of such depositions, see chapter 2.

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3. Third, one of the most influential scholarly angles on caste panchayats today derives from sociologists who focus exclusively on the patriarchal nature of caste panchayats, leading to the impression that caste panchayats would be undermined to the extent that patriarchy has come under question. But, in fact, as might be guessed, quite the opposite has also happened. The fact is that concerns about caste endogamy is as central to caste panchayats as it is to caste itself. As an increasing challenge to caste endogamy emerges due to modernizing influences upon younger generations, which are now less under patriarchal authority than in the past, especially on the matter of marriage outside one’s caste constrictions, the reactionary relevance of caste panchayats in controlling and curbing these modern tendencies continues to keep them active on this front. However, the meaning and scope of caste panchayats today, I would argue, stretches well beyond this function of preserving caste endogamy to preserve patriarchy. Important as it to stress this reactionary patriarchal motivation of caste panchayats to preserve caste endogamy, one must factor in additional motivations for this preservation that are made exigent by the post-Mandal governance of caste. I discuss these present-day political motivations of preserving caste endogamy in detail in the fifth chapter. The next four theses are somewhat more complex in their pedigree and, to even state and motivate them with clarity, we need to be fully clear about their origins in the most fundamental and well-known theoretical writings on caste. So, I will briefly provide a very brief sketch of the background of the relevant scholarly literature to bring out their force and the effects they have in sidelining the importance of or distorting the nature of caste panchayats. 4. The fourth thesis cannot be understood without first understanding that the longest and most familiar tradition of scholarly literature on caste in India has been in the disciplines of Sociology and Anthropology. This literature has rich insights and it has been a site of highly instructive intellectual debate regarding the defining characteristics of caste. The central debate in these scholarly endeavours around the study of caste is often described as ‘the book view vs. the field view’. It may be attributed largely to the interest in the works of Louis Dumont and M. N. Srinivas

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respectively (Dumont 1980; Srinivas 1987). What follows is the briefest of expositions. Caste first became a subject of social scientific study in the British colonial period. The British set themselves to study Indian society through religious texts. But, given the sheer fact of their colonial interests, they also went on to re-shape it by manoeuvring power equations in the society to further their own interests vis-a-vis the local rulers and the dominant caste groups. Their studious and scholarly endeavours were, thus, inseparable from these worldly aims. In the process of balancing the power of different groups from the point of view of their own colonial interests and to ensure its effectiveness with the groups concerned, they often drew on Hindu religious texts; as a result, the very meaning of caste as a phenomenon belonging to a religious tradition, was deepened and given a pronounced systematic character under the British. Ironically, the theory of caste that emerged from this view found its articulation most prominently not in a British but a French sociologist, Louis Dumont, who propounded this theory of caste based on what he described as ancient and unchanging religious principles of purity and pollution. Describing Indian society as the traditional Other of the modern West, Dumont argued that Indian social life was governed by the social principle of hierarchy and the system through which this hierarchy was organized was caste. This view of caste came to be challenged by the ‘field view’ through which anthropologists countered what they saw as a much too conceptually restricted Dumontian framework. On this view, whose focus was on field studies, with the Indian village as the unit of focus, the operation of caste was found to be regionally varied and often not abiding strictly to the textual sanction. The village view of caste saw a pattern of reciprocal obligations in which different castes were weaved together in an economic, social, and ritual pattern sustained by accepted, but not necessarily unchanging, conventions. The village servant system, called the jajmani system or the balutedari system, became the measure by which caste came to be interpreted as a relationship of mutual dependence (Wiser 1969). Two very important concepts emerged from this scholarship in the work of M.N.Srinivas. The first of these was ‘Sanskritization’, a term used to describe the phenomenon whereby a caste group adopts practices of higher castes and gives up on practices considered as ‘low’ or ‘polluting’ in order to seek access to education, temples, social acceptability, or other means of climbing the socio-economic hierarchy. In short, the process of sanskritization sought the possibility of upwards mobility

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in caste whereby the lower caste could climb up the caste hierarchy. The second concept was the concept of the ‘dominant caste’, which was used to describe the economically and politically strong caste that wielded local power, often defying the varna ordained hierarchy. Srinivas pointed to the authority of the dominant caste to demonstrate that ritual status was not always fixed along the varna hierarchy. Economic factors, especially ownership of land, was seen as a determining factor in how hierarchical relations flowed often in contravention to the ritual hierarchy. Sophisticated scholarly interventions have been made to both substantiate and give support respectively to each of these broad claims about whether caste is, and always has been, an essentially religious-ideological system or whether it is a system that is based on material and social power in the village society of India. I have deliberately emphasized the word ‘or’ in my last sentence. This is because the fourth thesis I want to define my theoretical understanding of caste panchayats against is precisely the claim that caste panchayats should be understood within this foregoing deep disjunction (Dumont vs. Srinivas). The phenomenon of caste panchayats, properly understood, is a good site through which to see the limitations of the parameters fixed by this debate and this disjunction in the literature. The facts are far closer to a conjunction than a disjunction, i.e. the earliest scholarship has recorded that in the period (1300–1600 CE) they strongly exhibit both the ritual aspect of caste and the material aspect of caste, thus showing that what the Dumont versus Srinivas debate presents as a disjunction is perhaps more properly to be seen as a conjunction. Speaking to the religious and ritual side first, it is worth recording that some states played a crucial role in enforcing the ritual aspects of caste by granting authority to religious and caste institutions. As explained earlier, caste panchayats were often part of a three-tier system of adjudication and religious consultation. The brahmasabha had the power to grant expiation and collect fines, lay down rules for caste behaviour; and often caste gurus were present in the judicial process and initiated the process of punishment in panchayats. The royal court, though the highest, rarely overruled the decisions of the lower panchayats and limited its role to collecting a section of fines obtained by the brahmasabha. By taking the brahmasabha into the fold of its own authority the state extended its authority in the religious domain and also gave legitimacy to the religious aspect of caste. Caste panchayat and caste governance thus became a subject of both the religious and the state authority.

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Even as the structure of brahmasabhas began to dissolve in the secular postcolonial state, most caste panchayats continued to perform functions of sanskritization within the very logic of the religious varna hierarchy. They therefore collectively enforced practices considered as ‘higher’ and ‘purer’ as prescribed by the religious code ascribing to the brahmanical ritual ideals. Consequently, in this process even where the caste panchayat became an institution through which new functions that seemed relevant for the respective castes came to be enforced or adopted, it never really challenged the hierarchy of ‘higher and lower practices’. Caste therefore never came to be just a matter of practice readily malleable by the rise of new castes to power, so long as the legitimacy of the religiously ordained varna system remained an ideal. If we were to accept the power that Srinivas sees in Sanskritization and the dominant caste over the religious sanction of varna, it would seem completely counterintuitive that the castes such as the Marathas, or Rajputs who became rulers in north-western India and some parts of Rajasthan took the pains to fashion themselves as the martial race of Kshatriyas. It would not explain why these dominant castes had to seek legitimacy from the sastras and the Brahmins, something that would surely be unnecessary if they could just subvert the hierarchy with their acquisition of temporal power. This is true, for instance, for one of the most discussed examples of King Shivaji who went to considerable lengths to obtain the Vedokta rights even after having acquired the territories and establishing his sovereignty as a ‘rightful king’ of western parts of the Deccan. The fact that the resistance from some of the Brahmins did not stop him from seeking this religious legitimization goes on to say something about the larger understanding of the religious significance of varna hierarchy which must have characterized the psyche of the contemporary public. The caste hierarchy and the place of the Brahman within it, as part of the everyday life of the people, thus did have a considerable force which, even if subject to some appropriation by state governance, could not be completely subverted. The caste panchayats too, in their functioning, reflect this limit to what sanskritization can achieve for a caste independently of its religious and ritual rank. Thus even as late as the postcolonial period, the material dominance of a caste does not give it status of the sort that affects many aspects of life, unless it gets some ratification or sanction from considerations of religion and ritual. This is all evidence that suggests that a conjunction has been distortingly presented, in the most familiar debates on caste, as a disjunction.

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The last three theses flow from a more recent scholarly development. After the issues around the Dumont–Srinivas dispute, another important way of reading caste developed in the scholarship of the 1960s–1970s. It signaled a shift away from caste conceived as a purely social phenomenon, to be studied by disciplines such as sociology and anthropology, to caste conceived as a political phenomenon, with a topical position now in the emerging subject of ‘political science’. Indeed this scholarship has been called the ‘Politicization of Caste’ literature (Rudolph L. 1965; Rudolph and Rudolph 1960; Kothari ed. 1970). It is this literature that is the theoretical source of theses 5, 6, and 7. 5. Caste, so long as it has conserved the aspect of systemic domination and exploitative exertion of power by groups over each other has always had a political aspect in a very general sense of the term ‘political’. But, this new scholarship captured a very important and quite different and specific development. The political assertion of caste in the 1960s and 1970s (usefully traversed in Kothari 1970), which took the form of demands of democratization of power by lower castes, really was tantamount to a sort of social assertion of caste; social assertion in the sense that it amounted, in effect, to an attack on the very system of organizing society along the lines of a caste (varna) hierarchy. This, in turn, had a further consequence. As I said, at the outset, caste conceived as varna is to be distinguished from caste conceived as jati and the day-to-day lives of ordinary people have always experienced caste primarily as jati. And these developments of political assertion amounting, in effect, to a social assertion by castes, which I have just mentioned, that had the effect of weakening the hold of caste conceived in hierarchical terms (varna), therefore shifted the meaning of caste—not just in quotidian life experience, but in the political and public sphere as well—more towards caste as ‘jati’. This ‘jati’ was to be conserved and reimagined in the increasingly political space in which castes now found themselves. Such stress on jati over varna, shifts the focus from inter-caste matters (which speak more to hierarchical relations) to intra-caste matters. It is to be expected, therefore, that the role of governing councils within a jati (i.e. caste panchayats) would now be even more central. But this is precisely what did not happen in the scholarly literature, and it is important to diagnose exactly why. It is a

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result of a very specific bias in focus that goes back again to the scholarly contributions of M. N. Srinivas. In order to understand this bias, one has to understand first a point I made early on when introducing the idea of caste panchayats. I had pointed out there that, apart from intra-caste governing councils, there were multi-caste governing councils in many villages as well and in these, the more powerful castes in the village were dominant. Because Srinivas emphasizes much more relations of power and material domination among castes over religious and ritual themes in caste, he brings these castes (which he labels ‘dominant castes’) to centre stage—in my view, too much to centre stage, giving rise to the bias I want to expose. The plain fact is that caste panchayats have been an institution through which caste elites have channeled their power over the group for a wide range of functions and this has been true for both the inter-caste and intracaste exertion of power. The failure of a lot of the scholarly literature to stress caste panchayats is really a failure to attend to the intra-caste case of such an exertion of power. And one of the major reasons for this distortion has been what I will present now as the sixth thesis that I resist: the ‘dominant caste’ paradigm (owing to Srinivas’s great influence) must be the lens with which these panchayats are to be studied. This lens gave rise to an overemphasis of focus on the multi-caste caste panchayat (within which the dominant caste exercised the most elite power). As a result, attention on the single-jati and intra-caste panchayat went missing. 6. The sixth distorting thesis can be formulated as follows. There is a distinction to be drawn between caste bodies that draw on caste loyalties in the British period and the caste loyalties which preceded this period. In this dichotomous understanding of these organizations, it is believed that caste panchayats vanished gradually as new institutions of governance developed in the British period quite generally, and in the domain of caste, in particular, more voluntary associations emerged, for which this scholarship coined the term ‘caste associations’ (distinct from caste panchayats), which performed secular functions through voluntary membership and democratic methods (Sheth 1999; Rudolph and Rudolph 1960). I would argue that this De Tocquevillian turn in the scholarship ignores an important transformation that caste panchayats undergo in the British period and one cannot understand the persistence of caste panchayats today, or

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the nature of caste loyalty that translates into political loyalty via what the Rudolphs call ‘caste associations’, unless we take this transformation into consideration. To put it more specifically, caste panchayats did not disappear with the emergence of the so-called ‘caste associations’ in the period of British colonial rule, but rather morphed and persisted in transformed configurations—even sometimes as the very configurations that the Rudolphs came to call ‘caste associations’—carrying out functions continuous with their past, while also acquiring new functions. 7. The seventh thesis is closely related to the sixth and brings out some of the underlying presuppositions of the latter. The ‘Politicization of Caste’ literature as I have been presenting it in the previous two theses presupposed a disciplinary shift, the shift from viewing caste as a topic in sociology and anthropology (represented in the Dumont-Srinivas scholarly period) to a politically inflected topic. And as I said, in expounding the sixth thesis above, the shift was said to have come about in the colonial period. One feature of this period responsible for the shift, it was claimed, was that a challenge to caste hierarchy found its source in the readiness of the British colonial government to listen to and engage with the demands of the lower castes. The British census thus became an important location for the exercise around which caste solidarities and caste claims came to be reasserted. However, the bodies through which castes approached the census came to be seen increasingly as a new caste organization that had emerged in the colonial context. This caste organization which, as I pointed out in my discussion of the sixth thesis, was configured in the scholarly literature, as a modern form of association labelled ‘caste association’. I would argue that these bodies which made representations to the census office were, in fact, not new forms of association, but, in most cases, the erstwhile intra-caste panchayats carrying out new functions. What this view I am opposing seems to think is that caste panchayats should be seen as performing social conservative functions in the preBritish era and the organizations that perform political reform functions in the British era are wholly different voluntary associations, deserving a new name. It thus not only relegates caste panchayats to the past but it fixes their function to be exclusively and merely that of a cultural code enforcer. Defined by contrast with caste association, caste panchayats

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never qualified as a subject of political analysis because, by their nature, they could not evolve to supplement traditional functions with new political functions. They were restricted in conception to a ‘regulative sanctimonious’ organization of the past—unlike the caste association, which was the ‘political/mobilizational’ body more relevant to modern political life (Such a distinction, made with this terminology, may be found in a more recent work by Deshpande 2019). This conception of the political modernization of caste blinded one to the possibility of taking a different, more plausible view—that caste panchayats survived and acquired new political functions. I say this is more plausible because of the fact that since caste continued to exist as ‘jati’, caste panchayats, for all their new-found political activities of the modern period, continued with their socially conservative functions of pre-modern times. The records show that they continued to enforce solidarity through traditional methods of social boycott to keep the primordial identity of caste intact. It is only a dogmatic insistence that by their nature they are frozen in some kind of ‘stasis’ and could not evolve, which prevents one from seeing that, for the most part, what happened was that these very same bodies acquired new political functions when jatis found themselves as groups in an emerging modern polity. Even as I say this, I must, in order to avoid misunderstanding, also clarify that, in saying this about the survival of caste panchayats, I am not falling into a Dumontian claim that caste is an unchanging social, anthropological phenomenon. I would rather argue that the socially conservative streak of caste is given a new motivation and form by modern democratic politics. This process of translation of caste conservatism into political loyalty—whereby political loyalty of caste members was shaped or even demanded, can be traced to the colonial period. But, the postcolonial strategies around quotas and the Mandalization of Indian politics further strengthened this development. I trace this long process in the second chapter to conclude that caste as a social conservative force is not eliminated by modernization but rather preserved by its politics of governmentalizing caste. Caste solidarities persist and coexist along with the liberal categories of universal citizenship and Marxist ideas of workingclass solidarities. In fact, caste solidarities, I will argue, in a majority of cases explain a wide range of political behaviour better than the liberal or Marxist categories. Caste panchayats are not the only but a very clear location where caste solidarities come to be shaped and thus deserve to be given a quite central place in the scholarship on caste politics. I believe

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that such a study of caste panchayats might reveal important lessons on how we understand and assess the appeal and limitations of caste assertion in politics in the modern period. These critical remarks I have made on the seven theses that I see as theoretical obstacles to a clear understanding of the nature of caste panchayats, are my efforts, from a variety of different angles, to claim a central place that these organizations should have in our intellectual efforts to come to grips with the incredibly complex phenomenon of caste in India’s past and present. Each of these angles will surface as relevant frames for one or other detail that I present in the pages ahead about the nature and history of caste panchayats. Empirical details do not wear their significance on their sleeves. They are instructive only when and only insomuch as they are framed to reveal the lessons they provide. My task in the rest of the book will be to fit those details into the frames that have emerged from this varied set of disagreements I have just registered in the last many pages with the assumptions of conventional scholarship on my theme(s). I then use the emerging inferences to reflect upon the relationship of the current politics of caste-based democratization (both electoral and legal constitutional) to the persistent caste-based conservatism.

4

Structure of the Book

I turn, finally, to giving a brief set of signposts for the rest of the chapters in the book. The book’s structure, reflecting its twin goals, is divided into two parts. The first part consists of two chapters (Chapters 2 and 3) and takes what I will call a long view of these caste panchayats. It tries to trace the evolution of these panchayats from their earliest available records to the present. What I present is not a picture sans temporal disjunctures, nor an all-India level narrative, but a timeline of the character of these bodies that can be recovered from the available records in particular regions where they can be found. I rely on the information about the early period on the Vedic religious texts, later written records from the Bahamani Kingdom, the Maratha Kingdom, and the Vijayanagara Kingdom, actual documents of the cases tried by these panchayats or their records present in the Mughal arhsattas , the Maratha mahzars and nivadpatras and the pothis of the religious Mathas in Southern India. For the British period and immediately after, there are extensive records in

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the Census and other anthropological records compiled by both English and Indian anthropologists. The works published in the Anthropological survey of India are used by me to analyse caste panchayats in the immediate post-independence period. The records of caste panchayats as caste panchayats become rare since a parallel recording of these bodies as caste associations begins to take place. Hence, at that point, I turn away from primary sources to my own analysis of the secondary literature, relating caste associations to caste panchayats in order to present my analysis of the latter in postcolonial and contemporary India. All this comprises the second chapter. The third chapter assesses in detail the assumptions of modernization theory which were brought to bear on the study of caste organizations in Indian politics, their largely uncritical internalization by these studies (even those studies that claimed to be critical of modernization theory), and the ways in which it preempted an alternative, more plausible way of understanding how caste loyalty continues to function in Indian society and politics. Many of the theses expounded in the previous section of this first introductory chapter will surface again in this discussion of the long legacy of modernization theory in the study of caste and caste panchayats. I proceed, then, to an empirical grounding in evidence of these more critical points by looking at the cases of caste panchayats in Haryana and Maharashtra in particular, which have very different trajectories but increasingly similar methods of loyalty enforcement employed in the service of not just social conservatism but both coercive and non-coercive political mobilizational functions thrown up by democratic politics. The second part of the book focuses on what, I argue, are two central characteristics of caste panchayats which have been conserved through their long evolution—social ostracization and caste endogamy. I focus on each of these aspects in Chapter four and five, speaking to the nature of the relation between the changing functions of caste panchayats over different periods down to the present day and the relatively unchanging methods they deploy to carry out these functions. It is a proper elaboration of this relation that addresses, in turn, the larger issues of the relation between modernity and tradition that these caste organizations reflect. The last chapter briefly summarizes the book and reflects in some detail on the uncomfortable question of the persistence of caste-based conservatism despite the current dominance, so to say, of caste-based

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democratization in the Indian polity. It tries to make visible the limitations of ‘caste politics from below’,12 as it is being imagined today, a politics that remains arrested in the mentalities of the governmentality of the state on the one hand (which defines caste as a biopolitical category that must retain its primordial customs if it is to obtain state-sponsored ameliorations) and the neoliberal structure of the same state on the other hand (that continuously creates a crisis of resources that can be sought for caste ameliorations, as it shifts them out of the public sector). It makes a plea for a radical reimagination of caste as an identity that does not require a self-perpetuation of the primordial aspects of caste to pursue the opportunities offered by modern democracy, but one that can facilitate the empowerment of caste through the pursuit of the ameliorations on offer as well as the annhilation of caste, as eventually mutual goals.

References Altekar, A. S. (1927). A History of Village Communities in Western India. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Bayly, S. (2000). Caste, Society and Politics in India. Delhi: Cambridge University. Carroll, L. (1978). Colonial Perceptions of Indian Society and the Emergence of Caste(s) Associations. The Association of Asian Studies, 37 (2), 233–250. Chavhan, R. (2013). Bhatkya Vimuktaanchi Jaatpanchaayat (Vol. 5). Pune: Deshmukh and Company Publishers. Chowdhry, P. (1997). Enforcing Cultural Codes. Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 1019–1028. Corbridge, S., & Harriss, J. (2000). Reinventing India Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. Oxford: New Delhi. Deshpande, A. (2013, October 5). A Sarpanch an Outcast in His Own Town. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Deshpande, R. (2019). Caste Associations in the Post-Mandal Era: Notes from Maharashtra (CAS Occasional Paper Series, No. 2). Pune, India: University of Pune. Dumont, L. (1980). Homo Hierarchus: Caste System and Its Implications. London: University of Chicago Press. Eastern Quarterly, 15(4), 481–496. Gnanambal, K. (1973). Religious Institutions and Caste Panchayats in South India. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey, Government of India. Gokhale, G. K. (1909, February 28). Indian Social Reformer.

12 A phrase used to describe the rise of lower castes in Indian politics since the 1980s.

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Guha, S. (2013). Beyond Caste: Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and Present. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Gune, V. T. (1953). The Judicial System of the Marathas. Poona: Sangam Press. Hayden, R. (1999). Disputes and Arguments Amongst Nomads: A Caste Council. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hutton, J. H. (1946). Caste in India Its Nature, Function, and Origins. London: Cambridge University Press. Jha, V. N. (1970). Varnasamkara in the Dharma Sutras: Theory and Practice. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 13, 273–288. Kothari, R. ([1970] 2010). Introduction: Caste in Indian Politics. In R. Kothari (Ed.), Caste in Indian Politics (pp. 3–26). New Delhi: Orient Blackswan. Michelutti, L. (2008). The Vernacularisation of Democracy: Politics, Caste and Religion in India (1st ed.). Routledge India. https://doi.org/10.4324/978 0367817732. Rudolph, L. (1965). The Modernity of Tradition: The Democratic Incarnation of Caste in India. American Political Science Association, 59(4), 975–989. Rudolph, L. I., & Rudolph, S. H. (1960). The Political Role of India’s Caste Associations. Pacific Affairs, 33, 5–22. Sheth, D. L. (1999). Secularisation of Caste and Making of New Middle Class. Economic and Political Weekly, 34(34/35), 2502–2510. Srinivas, M. N. (1978). The Remembered Village: Reply to Criticisms. Contributions to Indian Sociology, 12(1), 127–152. https://doi.org/10.1177/006 996677801200113. Srinivas, M. N. (1987). The Dominant Caste and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wiser, W. H. (1969). The Hindu Jajmani System. Lucknow: Lucknow Publishing House.

CHAPTER 2

The Caste Panchayat, Caste Governance, and the Role of the State: The Long View

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Why the Long View?

It could be said that the task of the panchayat is above all to settle conflicts, whether by arbitration or by passing sentence. However, this would not be enough, for it is beyond doubt that caste “will keep all its members within the bounds of duty”. (Dumont 1980: 175)

This brief statement regarding caste panchayats to be found in Dumont, based on the fieldwork accounts by O’Malley and Abbe Dubois, is insightful because it does not view the fortunes of the caste panchayats as being separate from that of caste itself. On this view, caste panchayat comes to be seen (and I believe rightly seen) as a body through which a caste demands and enforces allegiance of caste members. I will be arguing that this always has been and continues to be central to caste. But what conceptual explanation accounts for this? It does not need to be reiterated that caste is a hierarchical system. So a question arises: what about the nature of caste as a hierarchical structure makes necessary something like these intra-caste governance organizations? What is the dialectical relation between the two? It is to these fundamental questions that I believe Dumont’s remark above speaks with insight. How so? The existence of such an abiding form of governance through enforced caste loyalty reflects the fact that religious belief and © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 A. Ingole, Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6_2

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conviction in the hierarchies of caste never sufficed—caste status and hierarchy were always maintained by sanction and policing on a wider range of matters such as marriage, occupational restriction, etc., that governance by caste panchayats provided. To maintain a hierarchy among castes, particular castes had to govern in these coercive ways within their fold, maintaining their own internal boundaries—thus the importance of these intra-caste panchayats and the constant coercive function I am insisting on. This chapter studies the caste panchayat in just this sense, i.e. as a tool of caste governance because this appears to be the only way to study a body as mutable as the caste panchayat, over a long period. Why do I say this? Because through all its mutations, this is the one conspicuously constant element in caste panchayats. As I said in the last chapter, various conceptualizations of the caste panchayat in the prominent scholarship on the subject have the effect of obscuring this constant element that I, citing Dumont, have just identified. So, let me begin now by addressing some of these conceptualizations and making a case against each of them. First, the conceptualization that views these panchayats as primarily a phenomenon of Indian village life. This, I had said, has the effect of conceiving of caste panchayats as a village organization primarily and, in doing so, puts the focus on multi-caste panchayats in which the dominant caste has special power and authority. Intra-caste panchayats, with their function of enforcing caste allegiance, thus get obscured from view. For this reason, I will be arguing that this is a distorting framework within which to study caste panchayats and present reasons for why it has dominated the scholarship. A second conceptualization that obscures the constant element in caste panchayats I have identified above owes to the influence of scholars of ‘modernization theory’ (even those scholars sometimes who have explicitly expressed some criticism of modernization theory) which sees caste panchayats as mere caste association of a higher and more politically secularized generality, a result of their being subsumed in the ‘modern break’ that affected hitherto religious institutions (most influentially in Rudolphs 1960). The fact is that the caste panchayat’s function of enforcement of caste allegiance is motivated frequently by the fact that the very idea of caste (to which allegiance is enforced) remains embedded in Hinduism, and its religious ideals of ritual and purity, and differentiation of caste

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in accord with these ideals. The ‘modern break’ may affect our understanding of caste and caste panchayats in various ways, but I will be arguing against this view that none of that should obscure the continuing centrality of the function I have identified; and so none of that should lead to a subsuming of the very idea of such panchayats under a category of higher generality with more secularized political goals and functions, the Tocquevillian ‘association’. Before I give my reasons for repudiating both these conceptualizations and explaining why they came to prominence, let me first give a fuller sense of the historical story (what I have called ‘the long view’) that describes the centuries-long career of the caste panchayat in its relationship to the different rulers and their courts and their approach and attitudes towards caste governance. I will try to show how through this history, the constant element in the function of caste panchayats I have identified remains central to it. Once that is established, I can provide a detailed explanation, over this chapter and the next, of why these two accounts of caste panchayats (the one which obscures the constant function I have identified by ethnographizing it away via the study of village institutions, the other which obscures its religious foundations in Hinduism by assimilating it into more secular political associative functions) ignore or distort the historical record. However, there is a contrasting point that needs also be made here. The importance of situating this function as a constant over a very long precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial period, at the same time reveals that the reasons for such an enforcing function and for holding on to the caste boundary, underwent various transformations, transformations that were not uniform, and often not even very similar across caste groups. Over their long historical unfolding, caste panchayats inevitably found new reasons to maintain caste throughout different periods. As the meaning of caste itself changed what it was about caste that was to be maintained also changed. In turn, this subtly changed the motives for caste panchayats carrying out their enforcing function. These changes were brought about by changing attitudes of the rulers to caste, sometimes by the changing nature of the state and its approach to governing caste. Through these changes, the methods of enforcement employed by the caste panchayats (such as for instance, social ostracization) too changed; indeed, one might say, the very meaning of the key weapon ‘social ostracization’ changed.

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Giving this long view as a background, therefore, provides a deeper understanding in a twin sense—not just of what, following Dumont, I have called the constant functional element, but the changes in the meaning and motivations and methods that surround the constant function.

2

Early Forms of Caste Governance

It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that caste-based self-governance bodies are found under many dynasties in early India. The records establish this. Though most of the scholarship that builds itself on these records acknowledges and documents the fact of caste panchayats (under the diverse terminology in which the documentation describes it), the analyses offered by this scholarship invariably did not give them much centrality and instead makes the village the central focus in the study of caste governance. This had the effect of stressing the village panchayat at the cost of obscuring the caste panchayat. Such a stress highlights the caste-based village-level councils, which were multi-caste panchayats, and not the intra-caste panchayats that is our subject. The primary reason why one should be sceptical of such an ethnographic insistence on the village in this historiography of the caste panchayat is that the early period was hardly a period of stable village settlement. In fact, villages through this period were marked by instability and shifting boundaries of population, territory, and control, and it is hard to see how this did not affect the scope of the authority of village panchayats and the efficacy of their control. Altekar, whose works are a key source of documenting these developments notes that the period, which he calls the ‘Hindu period’ (from 300 CE to 1300 CE) was marked by an extensive exercise of local rulers’ occupation of the forest areas, appropriating the land of the aboriginal population, which then met with continuous resistance; thus conquest and reconquest was a regular feature in the regions of now north-western and central India (Altekar 1927). Even the more permanently settled villages close to the capitals were subject to a certain amount of instability of a very specific form that affected the village level panchayat. These villages were key staginggrounds and sources of personnel to carry out these acquisition missions. The village chiefs of these established villages, thus, had to provide personnel to fight for the acquisition of land for the king. Often, even

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the village chief or headman had to go on these missions. This undermined the stability of the populations and village governance institutions of even these relatively settled villages in early Western and Central India, depriving them of the continuities that make possible village-level panchayati governance. It is this, which induces scepticism regarding the scholarship’s insistence on the centrality of the village-level councils of caste governance.1 The wars and expansions of occupation in the west that led to this instability and informality of the village institutions caused people to turn most often to the more accessible and always available courts of kin and caste. These were of three quite different forms and I will take up their significance a little further below. The instability of the village I have recorded also meant that the everchanging power equations and centres of power required many caste communities to be on the move. This nomadic or migratory movement in caste also has a significance for the question of whether one should stress the village-level councils or the intra-caste councils. There is not much documentation of this earlier historical period, but a look at later records of dispute management by caste-based authority in the context of caste population movements of this kind do not support the idea of an exclusively village-centred caste government framework. One example is the Lohars (ironsmiths) of present-day Maharashtra, who are recorded to have migrated from Rajasthan, and conserved their intra-caste panchayats through these episodes of migration, even as the King in the region who patronized them lost his kingdom (Chavhan 2013). This nomadic life reinforced the need for having an institution, which was not only well versed in one’s own customs and traditions, but which moved with the groups as they often scrambled for new economic avenues. Given, the movement of these caste populations, the village-based panchayat certainly wasn’t a body available to them. Thus the centrality given to the village while studying dispute settlement mechanisms has been a distortion in understanding caste panchayats. Caste panchayats moved with the populations and in fact continue to be deeply entrenched in nomadic groups, in a way that village-level councils simply cannot be. One further feature of the life of castes in the context of this nomadic movement is helpful in bringing this point out. Among other things, the 1 Altekar (1927) does point out that in South India there were more stable and continuous institutions of caste-based village councils than in the west.

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caste panchayats also distributed and maintained watans (land grants). This caste-based revenue system with the caste head as the in-charge of collecting revenue continued till the British period. The watans in the context of the nomadic castes however were royal grants, which assigned part of a region, say a group of villages, to particular families of a caste. Only these families could provide caste-based occupational services in these areas. Sometimes, inevitably there was conflict between caste members over the distribution of watans. These conflicts over watans, by their nature, since they were between members or families within a caste were arbitrated by the intra-caste panchayats as were other matters of marriage, caste customs, etc. The village-level councils were irrelevant to these watan assignments that were made necessary by the movement of caste populations. Interestingly, the reason for attributing this centrality to the village in the analysis of caste governance in early India (which was insisted on by the ‘field’ view in the scholarship on caste in the 1950s) seems to owe to a reliance on the textual evidence. This is understandable as the nomadic castes (which I have drawn on in my own analysis for attributing centrality to intra-caste governance) do not have written records of themselves nor are they recorded as extensively in the royal records. Let me, therefore, summarize the available textual narrative on the village-based caste panchayats that the scholarship relies on (Lingat 1973; Altekar 1927). The mention of the office of the headman or gramini is found in the Vedas, though there is no mention of his caste. The gramini, they state, was responsible for revenue and defence functions. It is the Sukraniti that states the requirement that the village headman must be a Brahmin. Though this may not necessarily always have been the actual case, records suggest that male members of the dominant caste provided for the hereditary office of the village headman from the early period. Lower caste men could only function as witnesses, if at all required. Different records from the first century CE are clear that the upper caste village headman’s estate in Western India was always rent free, and that the office was hereditary. This can be attributed to the Kulvaka Jataka, the records of the king Hala, a Satvahana dynast, and to the Manusmriti. Such an arrangement seems to have been deeply rooted because it continued under the later Muslim rule in western India where the office was then called that of the patel or patil which retained its patronage and lineage in the Maratha and Peshwa periods, to which we shall return later. The supremacy of the office of this dominant caste headman is also

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validated by the records of Valabhi in Gujarat of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-century Kathiawar, in Karnataka under the Chalukyas from sixth to twelfth century and in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka under the Rashtrakutas in ninth and tenth centuries. The Silahara inscriptions of Konkan dated from the eighteenth to thirteenth century and preMohammedan period also record this supremacy. The patil had to serve the functions of revenue collection, defence, settlement of village disputes, and taking care of common village resources such as well, temples, etc. There are, however, more layers and qualification to this system of upper caste governance of castes in the personage of a gramini. That is to say, the dominant caste panchayat may either have been a multi-caste panchayat with its jurisdiction over the dominant and the lower castes, or a single-caste panchayat in the case of a village where only a single-caste population resided. But the textual record, though it provides what I have just summarized, does not uniformly point in this one direction. The dominant caste panchayat was emphatically not the only mode of caste government in multi-caste villages. This is also evident from textual records. This brings us back to the point I made earlier about courts of kin and caste and their significance. Various textual records suggest three levels of tribunals—the puga, the sreni, and the kula and attribute specific levels of operation to each of them. The earliest extensive writings about these are found in Yajnavalka, who wrote in the eighth to seventh century BCE. His work is included in the Upanishads and thus falls within the core Vedic literature. It must be mentioned here that details about dispute settlement are inconclusive in most later inscriptions of the Valabhi, Gujara, Chalukya, and Rashtrakuta period, which lay stress only on the office of the gramini, and prescribe that he be from an upper caste. Yajnavalka, however, not only describes the three tribunals of puga, sreni, and kula, but also tells us that these are hierarchically related tribunals and the dispute must flow from kula to the higher sreni and only then to the puga. The puga was an assemblage of different castes and professions where the decision-makers always came from the dominant castes. It is these pugas that have been studied as the only mechanisms of dispute resolution in villages in India. They are often called ‘village panchayats’. This village panchayat may be considered a remote early antecedent to the much-celebrated later indigenous local self-government institutions in the modern period, widely described as ‘panchayati raj’. Whereas the British

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viewed them as a system similar to the jury system in England and were eager to give it some measure of state authority, some Indian nationalists, especially Gandhi, looked at them as age-old instruments of village self-governance. The puga was not free of caste hierarchy or rules of pollution; they in fact ruled based on these and in order to preserve them. It had its jurisdiction over more than one caste and though village elders of different castes were considered members of the council it was always the village officers who came from the dominant caste (especially the patilheadman from the dominant caste and the Kulkarni, a Brahmin) who were permanent members of the puga. Next in the hierarchy is sreni, a guild court or the court of artisans to decide upon disputes emanating from professions. The Smritis are categorical in stating that ‘the guilds, merchants, and foresters must be tried by their own courts’ (Altekar 1927: 47). These groups were thus excluded from accessing the puga or the village panchayat and remained on the periphery of the village system in all respects. The third and most prevalent was the kula (translated as ‘family court’), which was an assembly of caste and kin. This was the most accessible and popular court. The decisive point to be noted is that both srenis and kulas were intra-caste panchayats. Though the puga was hierarchically placed above these and it was ruled over by the dominant castes of a village, it was only the cases that involved multiple caste members that would go to the puga. The textual record is clear about this point, relegating them to just that limited role. As I said, the most prevalent court remained the kula and that was intra-caste. Moreover, in the scholar Yajnavalka’s scheme, observance of respective caste discipline within castes is central to the observance of dharma and he extends a categorical instruction to the kings to enforce it: ‘King should punish and bring to proper path the castes and guilds when they swerve from their dharma’ (Yajnavalka Smriti I. p. 363 quoted in Das 1990). This finds complete resonance in the Nidhanpur copperplate inscriptions2 dated 1300 years after Yajnavalka about the grants of land given to the Brahmins by the King Bhaskaravarnam of the Kamapura dynasty.3 The 2 Excavated from present-day Sylhet district in Bangladesh, these plates are dated as belonging to the seventh century. 3 The Kamapura Kingdom spanned from Guwahati and Brahmaputra valley to Bhutan, north Bangladesh, and parts of west Bengal and Bihar at its peak. The Kamapura kings ruled the region from 350 CE to 1140 CE.

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inscription notes that the ‘King not only protected the kingdom but regulated duties of various castes and stages of life’ (Das 1990: 96). This intra-caste disciplining was an integral part of the discourse of the state (as personified in the king) dharma. And moreover, the methods of such intra-caste disciplining, ostracization, and expiation, also find mention from the very early texts. The Baudhyana sutras—a collection of 16 texts which are dated between eighth and sixth centuries BCE, mention banishment based on caste and for breaching caste discipline. The words for ostracisation and boycott too, like for the caste panchayats, take different names in different regions and find plenty of references in the religious as well as non-religious texts. Thus the textual record, for all its mention of village-level caste governance that is invoked by the scholarship I am commenting on, by no means excludes the centrality of intra-caste governance.

3

The Centralizing State and Caste Governance

The period of Indian history from 1200 CE to 1600 CE (referred to as the ‘late medieval’ era in most standard accounts of Indian history) is considered to be the period where stable states commanding more power than before over their populations emerged. As the power of the state increased, so did its efforts of centralization of governance. In fact, as is usually the case, centralization is just the other side of increased power. The rulers of this period raised huge armies, imposed new taxes, and made the system of record keeping more rigorous. These were by no means small changes and often they were changes that came with a shift in the ruling dynasty, but also a shift in the religion of the ruler. Caste, however, did not cease to be a unit of organization of society, despite these changes, but rather it adapted to the changes that various rulers brought in. For example, intra-caste governance survived the early fourteenth-century power shift in the Deccan from the hands of the Yadava dynasty to the Sultanate rule. In the urban areas of Pune, caste remained the basis of urban residential clustering as well as tax collection, as is recorded by Ibn Batuta in the 1330s (Guha 2014: 32). In the rural regions, Brahmins retained their role as account keepers (Kulkarnis) of the revenue administration and the hereditary rights of revenue collection (Patilki) remained with the dominant caste headman of the respective village. This autonomy of castes to rule themselves and those below them in the hierarchy was left largely undisturbed in the Deccan at

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least until the first half of the seventeenth century (Kulkarni 1992: Deccan Chronicle). It is only with the Mughals that this was sought to be changed. Their attempts, however, had little impact outside the limited areas around the Mughal capital. In the latter, some functions of caste panchayats were taken over directly by the Mughal government. The sphere of functions, which the Mughal state directly took over, was that of the governance of domestic life—concerning family, marriage, etc.; and it also sought to centralize the revenue collection functions, which reduced the role of the caste heads but could never completely diminish their role in this sphere. The centralization of revenue functions and imposition of higher revenue often mobilized caste solidarity actions against several rulers of this period.4 Since it was caste panchayats that were deployed as the channel of revenue collection and the distribution of land grants, even by the Mughal officers, this was not surprising. So, caste-based governance at both the inter-caste and intra-caste level did not go away during this period, despite Mughal attempts at installing changes of the sort I’ve just mentioned; rather the changes produced reasons for both resistance to state authority or, sometimes, accommodation by caste structures and their governing classes to state authority. Which of these it would be often

4 The autonomy assertion can be noted in the caste solidarity mobilisations that came up from several quarters during this period. Protests were organized under dominant caste heads or desais with the caste headmen of all respective castes of the village attesting support for solidarity actions against the state. In the fifteenth century, the Vijayanagara and Bahamani kingdoms were at the receiving end of obstructionist actions by caste panchayats (Karashima 1997: 82). Excessive taxes and fees under the Nizamshahi were protested under caste chief- the Desai in 1575. Historians cite at least three instances of the state actively reorganizing the caste organization in Konkan and Goa regions in the period between sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which resulted in resistance in the form of caste solidarity actions. As a result, the new rulers of the East India company made fresh resettlement with these caste groups to suit the new demands of revenue collection and methods of taxation. In fact, such actions continued in the later British period. The pargana deshmukhs of the Khandesh region launched a massive protest in 1852 in defiance of the British land revenue survey. In reference to the broad mandate that these bodies took upon themselves Guha makes it clear that ‘(caste) adjudication was as much a political process at restoring balance in local society’ and it thereby reinforces the exploitative and unequal aspects of caste (Guha 2014: 86). In other words, the intra-caste actions of these periods hardly ever challenged the hierarchy of caste. Their documentation by the British officers is ripe with such examples (See for example Hutton 1946: 82–83).

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depended on the specific approaches of the local ruler of the dynasty in their region. In the two subsections that follow, I will first discuss (a) the centralization of the more intimate sphere of caste governance such as family, marriage, and religion by the rulers of this late medieval period and then (b) in the subsequent subsection move on to discuss the more public policy sphere having to do with the abridgment of the economic authority of caste. a. (The State and Domestic Governance of Caste: Family, Marriage, and Religion) Two Strategies of centralization: In the period beginning from roughly 1300 CE till about the end of the early modern period, i.e. 1800 CE, there seem to be two broad types of centralization strategies in force in the governance of the domestic sphere that is our focus in this subsection. The Mughals adopted the strategy of directly taking over these functions of internal governing in caste groups, whereas most other rulers (the Marathas, to name just one) seem to have achieved a relatively direct control on caste matters in a quite indirect form. The indirect form of control was gained by institutionalizing the threetier system of the royal court, the brahmasabha and the caste panchayat. In particular, the state in this period forged a special relationship of mutual gain with the intermediate religious courts (brahmasabhas). In exchange for such benefits as the provision of land grants to these courts, the courts carried out functions in the name of the state, and some of these functions had to do with a range of directives on caste matters,5 thus giving legitimacy to these religious courts in caste matters hitherto mostly possessed by caste panchayats. In short, the state gained indirect control by migrating some of the governance functions on caste matters from their location in caste panchayats (the third and lowest tier in the system) to the intermediate tier of the brahmasabha, with which the state had formed structural alliances. Dumont gives a clear statement of such a role for the brahmasabhas: ‘alongside royal control, there are examples 5 As I will discuss later, the brahmasabhas grew to have a special relationship with the state in a relationship of mutual gain for each. The state provided land grants to them for a wide variety of benefits it gained from this relationship.

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of religious control: in Kashmir, the Dharmasabha assembled in the royal temple and judged caste matters, to the extent of decreeing exclusion. A Brahman, a “guru” or a member of a sect often helps or even replaces the caste’s court, the “panchayat”’ (Dumont 1980: 169). For both the Mughals and the Marathas the important and recorded motivation for this centralization of caste governance functions on domestic matters was revenue-generation from settlement of disputes among caste members; whereas, for the Peshwas and the Southern Kings, religious and ritual purity enforcement (considerations more intrinsic to caste than economic motivations) were also major motivations of active centralized state policy. Let me elaborate on the first more direct control strategy of the Mughals. The Mughal administration was quick to realize that the fines that could be generated from everyday dispute resolution for such a large population would be a huge gain for the royal exchequer and, moreover, the centralization of dispute resolution in the direct hands of the royal court’s appointees would make this possible. The administration’s arhsattas (statistical records 1680–1790) record the decrees, which disallowed the settlement of disputes at the local levels and awarded punishment if caste court settled disputes for their members. This has led some historians of Mughal India, including Irfan Habib, to argue that there was no system of panchayats in the regions of north India (Habib 1976). This is contradicted by more recent scholarship. Dilbagh Singh, for example, authoritatively establishes that there were some loose structures of caste-level local governance and adjudication in the Mughal period and that the state in fact took over the functions of these bodies— in not only ensuring revenue collection and administration but also regulation of caste and family disputes (Singh 2003). This seems to be replicated in northern states under the rule of Hindu kings, who had amicable relations with the Mughals. The Kwachwaha rulers of Amber (modern-day Jaipur) in Rajasthan like the Mughal administration took up the resolution of family and sexual misdemeanour disputes into the royal court. Here, as one scholar says, ‘the caste councils worked closely with the state to regulate behaviour and impose fines, or to otherwise discipline people. Individuals faced fines, ostracism and imprisonment irrespective of their caste status’ (Imam 2014: 402). The caste panchayats in these cases helped the state to take over the function of disciplining caste members. Next, the more indirect strategy to be found in a wide range of other state rule in other kingdoms.

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As might be expected, an exposition and elaboration of an indirect strategy is bound to be far more complex than the more direct one, so what follows is a rather more lengthy and complex analysis than the briefer account above of the Mughal case I have just given. The Deccan, most parts of Southern India, and Kashmir seem to have had a different centralization strategy in place, which allowed local and caste-level dispute resolution so long as the royal court received a large share of the fines. This was achieved, as I said, by exploiting the three-tier system in which the royal court placed itself at the apex, the brahmasabha was placed as a middle-level authority followed by the least powerful body—the caste panchayat. As I also said, many rulers in this period granted legitimacy to the brahmasabhas’ oversight of intra-caste governance, in exchange for a share of fines and the support for the royal throne by the religious authorities at the mathas.6 In return, the mathas received royal grants in the form of land and the brahmasabhas came to be backed by the enforcement machinery of the state. I will discuss this relationship in detail below, but what I wish to underline here is that this specific strategy of centralization of caste governance was based on a coalescence of the temporal power of the ruler and the religious power of the brahmasabha. This strategy does not abolish the caste panchayat and its decision-making functions. Rather, it involves a complex process of indoctrination of the normative code of high religion into everyday intra-caste governance. I will try to explain this indoctrination process via a detailed discussion of brahmasabhas. It is a process, which at times involved taking away some of the powers of the caste panchayats or revising their decisions. It was the brahmasabha, which became the site at which the strategy of centralization under discussion was executed and so I will now expound and analyse the motivations and processes involved in this religious court. Before I begin to do that, let me just add that another reason to focus on the brahmasabha is that this body may throw some light on one of the most contentious debates in the caste scholarship relating to the role of religion in maintaining caste. In the discussion of the early period, I had pointed to the textual religious sanction for local inter-caste governance taking a hierarchical form in its line of authority, with Brahmins 6 Mathas or Peethas were the centres of religious learning, which often developed at places of religious importance such as temples, sites of pilgrimage, etc. Most brahmasabhas were part of these mathas.

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at the front. As I said there, I relied on the textual for a very simple reason: actual historical evidence is unavailable. The available records of caste governance from the following period (i.e. from the late medieval to the early modern period), however, seem to support the presence of these sanctions. So my adverting to the textual sanction for the earlier period was a sort of retroactive conjecture based on subsequent records. The record of these sanctions in the later period is available in the records of the brahmsabhas. These records reveal not only that the allocation of authoritative and profitable offices of local administration (say, for instance, the office of village head or judicial officer) were made by the rulers on the basis of caste hierarchy, but the logic of varna-based purity was also reiterated in everyday governance of caste. The records of the institution of brahmasabhas from this period are crucial in grasping this last point. They reveal the anxiety of upholding varna-based caste hierarchy in intra-caste governance and the role of the state in this process. Thus the state was complicit in maintaining a religiously (Hindu) grounded hierarchical system displaying the continuities with the scriptural grounding for that system. How exactly do some of the central features of the brahmasabha serve in the structure of caste governance? I will elaborate how they do so now with each of the central features. I will be drawing these features of the brahmasabha and their role in this indirectly centralized governance with the help of available historical records. As I list them, I will highlight how each of the features exercise this control by expounding the normative codes and also the specific procedures of intra-caste governance that were embedded in deep religious logics to affirm and uphold inter-caste hierarchies. In doing this, I hope to expound the crucial role played by the brahmasabha in bringing the caste panchayats under a Hindu religious code with principles of pollution, purity and expiation becoming part of the administration of caste—both at the lowest level of the caste panchayat as well as at the highest level of the state. Here, then, is a roughly drawn list of the features of the brahmasabha that affect caste governance. —The religious authority of the Brahman in caste governance became central with the prominent role given to the brahmasabha in the three tier system.

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The centrality of the Brahmin’s authority flowed from his exclusive power to grant expiation. It also came from the fact that increasingly from the late medieval period, it was the Brahmin guru under whose directions the intra-caste panchayats were held. There were a few cases where these gurus completely replaced the panchayats. The Brahmin guru in himself, that is to say in his personage, could constitute a caste panchayat and rule as an assembly of caste heads. One such anthropological account of a later period is available from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra where the hereditary office of one ‘daivadhikari’ or caste council head was abolished by the brahmasabha. The Bhandari caste of Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district is recorded to have had two seats (gaadis ) of the caste heads before this abolishment. These daivadhikaris had ruled by the force of a sanad—an order and certification to rule—in the name of the brahmasabha of Shree Shankaracharya of Karvir Sankeshwar Matha. These sanads were the ground of their legitimacy. Though we do not know when exactly the functions of the caste assembly were taken over, in 1965, when Sorab wrote his anthropological account of this sabha, no more sanads were issued by the Math. All intracaste disputes were referred directly to the guru at the Math in Belgaum (Sorab 1965). The presence of a Brahmin guru has also been recorded in the nomadic Nandiwala caste panchayat (Hayden 1999). The guru of the Nanadiwals is not a Nandiwala himself but a Brahmin from Telangana.7 —Brahmasabhas derived their authority from the major Hindu religious centres. All recorded brahmasabhas were associated with the major established religious centres or Mathas (a religious establishment or seat) and used the mathas as the focal point of their activity. It was the established authority of these mathas that facilitated the commanding of religious control over the caste panchayats for the brahmasabhas. These mathas also enjoyed financial and authoritative state support. Paithan, which was the most prominent religious centre in western India was the seat of the brahmasabha under the patronage of the Peshwas. Hiebert (1971) confirms that there was a similar power of the brahmasabha in his caste study of 7 There may, however, be some exceptions. Intra-caste governance in some nomadic castes, for whom the Brahmins declined to serve as gurus, are served by ‘guru castes’ whose hereditary occupation is to serve as gurus to caste panchayats (Hayden 1999: 44).

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the Konduru village in Andhra Pradesh. In another important study of the records of six mathas in southern India,8 K. Gnanambal finds that the caste panchayats worked in a dependent relationship with the brahmasabhas associated with these mathas (Gnanambal 1973). These records of judicial procedures and verdicts establish the absolute authority of these matha-backed religious courts to expiate, to advise the panchayats, to modify the verdicts of the panchayats, and to give a hearing to cases by individuals who are not satisfied by the verdict of the panchayats. These brahmasabhas had the power to overrule the decisions of excommunication by the panchayats and also had the right to ask the caste panchayat to enforce the decisions of the brahmasabha. The power of the brahmasabha flowed directly from the power of the matha with which it was associated and its proximity to this centre of authority. Records also suggest that some mathas and their brahmasabhas served exclusively to the Brahmans whereas some others served to the other castes. All caste groups including the untouchables, however, were clients of the mathas (Gnanambal 1973). The brahmasabhas based in these mathas, which were centres of preaching of high Hindu religion to the Brahmins, came to resolve matters of lower castes on the basis of Vedic and other religious scriptures. This process of extending a normative code of high religion to the caste panchayats of lower castes, which took place over a period of several centuries, developed into a more or less homogenized code for intra-caste governance—turning it virtually into a religious function.9 —The Brahmasabhas and the Mathas worked in close alliance with the state in a relation of mutual support. The history of these religious institutions suggests that they had continuous state support. The Vaishnava Matha at Sringeri, which dates

8 Reference here is to two Saiva mathas in Madras, two Virasaiva mathas in Mysore, and two Vaishnava mathas called the Sankara mathas [one in Sringeri, Mysore, and other in Kumbakonam, Madras]. 9 Holding of a caste panchayat meeting and respecting its decisions as a religious, duty necessary for caste purity is a widely prevalent belief. This is a repeated motivation for caste panchayats activities, given by both caste leaders and people who abide by their rules, and even by those who choose to complain about them. It is common for some caste panchayats to refer to religious texts in their rulings.

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itself back to the life of the Adi Shankaracharya (the proponent of Advaita Siddhanta or the philosophy of non-duality), has continuously held a jagir (land grant) of around 28 districts from 1228 CE to 1959 CE. The grant was renewed and its jurisdiction was recognized by series of rulers in the region from the Raja Harihara of the Vijayanagara kingdom to Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Later the British too endorsed the rent-free grant to the Matha. The authority of the brahmasabha was unchallenged in the Deccan as a result of considerable state support. A record from the Deccan mazhars (judicial records) documented in Gune highlights the extent of power enjoyed by the brahmasabha.10 The brahmasabha, in this particular case, not only took over the caste panchayat completely, but it also seems to have had the authority to declare the offender as the ‘diwanicha gunhegaar’ which means offender of the state (Gune 1953). The brahmasabha, as an institution, thus seems to have prospered only when it was supported and legitimized by the state. In the absence of the state support, they either seem to have lost their significance or not surfaced prominently at all, as with the Mughals. As a point of caution, I should add that there are some cases of other rulers, over and above the Mughals, taking over the authority of the brahmasabhas and the caste panchayats onto themselves, granting excommunication, expiation, and performing sanskritization practices. Hutton records two such examples. The King of Manipur excommunicated his queen from the caste himself on charges of adultery and Ballal Sen, the King of Bengal, prescribed a new order of precedence for the Brahmins in his region by changing their status in the hierarchy (Census 1911: 83–82). These instances, however, were an exception to the rule, and I 10 This case relates to two Yajurvedi Brahmins and a bride and whether she is “properly” married to one of them—a pujari/priest from Karhad—or not. The dispute seems to have arisen because her uncle instead of her father did a particular ritual in her marriage. The interesting facts here are that this case is tried before the brahmasabha at pargana khatan and has in attendance senior state officials (8 watan holding officers from the two parganas or districts of Oundh and Balaghat). The brahmasabha is a gota (lower level) brahmasabha and thus the dharmadhikari is not present at the hearing but the decision is taken on the basis of written depositions by the purohit who administered the marriage ceremony; scrutiny of the rituals is performed in accordance with the shastras and on the basis of previous decisions. Furthermore, the brahmasabha, while declaring the result in favour of Girmaji Lakshman of Karhad, also declared that anybody who questions it is not only an offender of the Brahmasabha but also ‘diwanicha gunhegar’ —offender of the state.

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mention them only to marginally qualify the claim to the Mughals being a unique case—it wasn’t impossible for states to usurp this authority of the Brahmins, but it was rare. What, then, explains this attraction of the state towards the brahmasabha? I began by stating two kinds of state motivations—revenue collection and concerns of upholding ritual purity. But there may be another reason of this support among the newly emerging ruling dynasties. Rulers had to rely on the religious authority of the Brahmins to legitimize their own claim to royalty as Kshatriyas. This might be an important reason why the native rulers valued the brahmasabhas and often even patronized them. Their recognition guaranteed a smooth transition from the assumption of power to the consolidation of legitimate power or authority and, therefore, this version of ‘Sanskritization’ became an important tool in achieving this transition. In a context of constantly shifting scales of power in this period ravaged by wars of conquest, it was necessary for the conqueror to establish himself as a Kshatriya, whatever may be his origins. That is to say, even if he was of a lower place in the caste hierarchy. There aren’t many studies available about the dependence on religious legitimacy of rulers in this late medieval period, but the available analyses point to the fact that the need of this legitimacy could hardly be ruled out, and that, in fact, rulers actively sought the support of the powerful priestly class. Here again a qualification should be made. Records show that in those areas where a bard caste existed, the chief, who came to conquer a region, was promptly provided with a genealogy linking him to a well-known kshatriya lineage, at times relating him to the sun or the moon. Bards were an early professional genealogist caste who could provide such lineages. This was quite distinct from the Brahmin legitimization of a ruler. But in most cases, the authority of the Brahmins was indispensable for state actors. Srinivas captures this well: The indispensability of Brahmins is pointedly seen in the fact that in areas where there was no established Brahmin caste the chief had either to import them from outside, offering them gifts of land and other inducements. (At times) he even had to create Brahmins out of some ambitious local group. (Srinivas 1963: 63)

—Brahmasabhas were tools of sanskritization.

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In elaborating the previous feature of brahmasabhas, I outlined a very specific form of sanskritization in which the object of sanskritization was the ruler or the state itself, i.e. the elevating of a caste to the ruling caste of the Kshatriya. But brahmasabhas were tools of other forms of sanskritization as well. One such was when the state itself was not the object of, but the agent which demanded the implementation of sanskritization by the brahmasabha of given populations. It is not obvious what to call this, so I shall call it ‘integrationist sanskritization’ or more simply ‘Hinduization’. This is bringing into the fold, populations that were defined by customary practices that fell outside the normative codifications and rituals of Hinduism. Often this was done at the behest of the state as, for instance, when a ruler found himself, by conquest, confronted by such anomalous populations. The records of state-sponsored sanskritization of newly conquered populations by rulers who patronized these brahmasabhas suggest a gradual process of religious indoctrination. In such instances, sanskritization may not always be enforced, it may take place over a long period of time, but royal sanction for its religious stances gave the brahmasabha a source of authority to set such a process on its path that they would otherwise not have. This process was often justified as a benevolent paternalistic attempt at improving the economic or cultural life of these ‘uncivilized’ groups but also sometimes as owing to their own attraction for achieving higher group consciousness, resulting from the contact with a source of the ‘Great Tradition’ of Hinduism through a pilgrim centre or a monastery or a proselytizing sect. To quote Srinivas again, In the case of group external to Hinduism such as a tribe or immigrant ethnic body, Sanskritisation resulted in drawing in into the Hindu fold, which necessarily involved its becoming a caste having regular relations with other local castes (ibid.). The Bramhasabha thus may be evaluated as a sanskritization tool that aided the centralization drive of the pre- british native kingdoms. (Srinivas 1989: 63–64)

Another such sanskritization was more purely internal, that is to say, not integrating anomalous populations into Hinduism, but elevating the status of caste populations within Hinduism or, alternatively, maintaining caste hierarchy by complex manouvers. Brahmasbhas enforced these versions of sanskritization and they did so relatively autonomously

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from any demands of the state. In fact, it is more accurate to say that it was enforced via an institutional relation between mathas and brahmasabhas. I had briefly mentioned above that different religious mathas catered to different castes, keeping in mind the need to preserve the ritual purity and higher status of the Brahmins. Of the five mathas, whose records were examined by the scholar Gnanambal, the Sankara matha at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu served only the upper caste Brahmin clients; whereas the Vaishnava matha, the Sri Vaishnava Swayamcharya Purusha Peetha at Kanakgiri in Karnataka, was to be approached exclusively by the lower castes and also had lower caste individuals serving at the matha in nonreligious capacity. The nature of authority of the matha vis-a-vis caste panchayats and their members also changed according to the place of the caste in the caste order. Thus, whereas the matha of the upper caste only served as an appellate authority, in the matters concerning lower caste it was an ultimate authority. For lower castes, the brahmasabhas, through the mathas, performed the function of sanskritization. Even when the brahmasabha took liberties with the sastric injunctions, for example in cases of allowing reconversion to Hinduism or changing the customs of lower castes; all such decisions were taken to preserve hierarchical caste traditions as opposed to reforming or changing them. So, for example, in the matter of changing lower caste customs, the brahmasabhas basically ascribed to themselves the power to not only declare certain customs improper but also introduced new customs to keep up with changing local power equations among castes. The banishing of the custom of shaving one’s head by the members of the Domar caste was declared improper; so also the rules for granting grains for the Valmiki caste were changed (Gnanambal 1973). Another important power of the matha was that they could not only give social mobility to castes, thereby carrying the function of institutional sanskritization, but also overseeing reconversion to Hinduism. There is a case of reconversion documented where the matha declares that reconversion of only a few members (which had already taken place) is not appropriate, nor in the interest of the ‘social order’ and thus the entire village of Christians must be convinced to reconvert. Though it is not clearly stated what role the caste panchayats played in the matter of convincing or ordering members of a caste to convert into Hinduism, it is a matter of record that the mathas negotiated terms through the caste leaders.

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Other instances are documented, where lower castes were accorded a higher status through sanskritization by adopting methods intended to preserve the larger hierarchical framework. In the case of three lower castes—the Upparas, the Bedars, and the Holeyas, the Kamakgiri Vaishnava matha in Karnataka provided a printed pamphlet that laid out a detailed ancestral map for the three castes, establishing their origin as related to some less revered figures in Hindu mythology, who may have assisted or sacrificed themselves for the key figures of the Ramayana or Mahabharata. This meant that when some castes could no more be relegated to the lowest strata, for reasons ranging from their socio-economic progress to their willingness to ‘alter’ their customs for a more brahmanical standard, they would be given a place among the ‘touchable’ castes—but only by establishing a decent connection to an ancestor by birth. The Upparas were thus imagined to have originated from Sagara, Bedars from Valmiki, and the Holeyas from Jambava. These castes were then renamed11 and this manufactured connection with these mythological figures was to gain them more respect from other members of the community. It must be noted, however, that this was done by the authority of a Vaishnava matha, which was open to all castes, including the lower castes. One major function of this matha was to make the lower castes adhere to the pollution and purity principles and prescribe social mobility accordingly. This, at times, also involved a period of scrutiny of the newly converted members or members who were assigned a higher status in the caste order to see they were adhering to the normative demands of their new status (Crooke 1896). —Brahmasabhas developed a close control over the caste panchayats. Some observations regarding the nature of centralizing control of the indirect sort can be drawn from the close association between the brahmasabhas and the caste panchayats. The brahmasabhas became the supreme authority over caste panchayats in two ways. Firstly, any

11 It is useful to make an explicit distinction here, something that is often left only

implicit in the scholarship, that much of sanskritization, i.e. the elevation of a caste in the hierarchy through one or other means, happens without renaming the now elevated caste. Elevation merely amounts to becoming acceptable in ways and in locations, which they were hitherto not. It is only in some cases, as the one I have just mentioned, where the caste actually gets a new name.

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individual dissatisfied with the caste panchayats could appeal to the mathabased brahmasabha. Individuals could also complain to the brahmasabha about the fallacious functioning in terms of procedure or any other lapse of the caste panchayat, thereby giving the mathas an almost complete authority (via the brahmasabha) over the caste panchayat (Gnanambal 1973: 25–26). Secondly, no decision of excommunication or expiation was final without the validation of the brahmasabha and caste panchayats were bound to enforce brahmasabhas’ decisions. This is a point that bears more detailed exposition since it is natural to think that there was a strict division of decision-making labour between the caste panchayat and the brahmasabha. In fact things were not quite like that. That is to say, it may appear that the nature of authority in this three-tier system was divided along the following lines—the right to penalize (usually by exclusion) was with the intra-caste body, the panchayat, and the authority to expiate was with the Brahmins. However, in reality, the Brahmins by virtue of their higher hierarchical religious standing could take over this central feature of the caste as an in-group, to decide over the exclusion of a member from her own caste. The archived judgments of the brahmasabhas suggest that one could be both ostracized and be expiated by the Brahmins. In fact, no punishment could be granted without the intervention of the guru of the matha. This was true even for mathas that had no jagirs nor the explicit support of royal authority. But, in general, this entire structure of authority by which exclusionary punishments and expiations were administered that I have expounded in terms of the hegemonic role of the brahmasabha over the caste panchayat, in the end ties up with the ultimate sovereignty of the state since in expiation one could not be accepted back into the community without having paid the fine to the state. So, even as I underline here the intervention of higher castes in intra-caste governance, I also wish to underline the concurring role of the state as highlighted in a feature of brahmasabhas that I mentioned earlier. After all the centralization of caste governance, which is the theme of this entire section of this chapter, turns fundamentally on that role. This form of control is replicated in the nomadic caste panchayats with some variation, which deserves a brief mention. Among the nomadic Nandiwala caste panchayats, rather than ruling from the seat of the matha, Hayden describes how the guru is present at the site where the caste panchayat meetings are held. It is the guru, who first states what the punishment will be (an amount to be paid by the guilty as a fine, for

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example) and the headman cannot ask for an amount less than that prescribed by the guru (Hayden 1999). Let’s turn now to another important point about the relation between the brahmasabha and the caste panchayat: the attitude of the brahmasabha towards caste customs. Though the brahmasabhas sought to operate in compliance with the local customs of particular castes, they ended up depending heavily on sastric inscriptions. For instance, in a letter written in 1940, the Dharmadhikari (the highest authority of the brahmasabha) of the Sringeri matha decided to expiate a woman from the goldsmith caste, who had been charged with infanticide by her caste panchayat, quoting the Parasana Madhava Dharmashastra. it is also said in the Parasana Madhava Dharmashastra that except in the case of Brahmans, women of all other communities can be purified for expiation. (excerpt from the letter by the Dharmadhikari) (Gnanambal 1973: 21)

This expiation overruled the ostracisation, which her own caste panchayat had awarded her. The brahmasabha, thus, must be understood as instrumental in expanding the normative code of scripture-sanctioned purity and pollution rules to intra-caste governance. In the sometimes conflicting relations between local customs and scriptural command, thanks to the brahmasabha’s controlling status, the former often won out. Overall, all these successive features of the brahmasabha I have briefly recounted give an account of the broad scope of its powers and the complex religious character that the three-tier system of adjudication of domestic caste matters developed in this period. This account contradicts the view that caste governance remained an extra-religious phenomenon once the early efforts for its centralization by the rulers of the late medieval period began. Summing up, the two strategies of centralization, of the governance of the more intimate or domestic elements of caste such as family, marriage, etc. (the Mughal strategy of directly taking over the internal governance of castes and the other strategy of disciplining indirectly through a higher religious authority), amounted to a significant move towards procedural and religious-ideological homogenization of intra-caste governance in the late medieval period. This centralizing move had also made the everyday

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governance of caste a state affair, a move that has had an irreversible impact on the career of caste governance in the periods thereafter. b. (The State and the Economic Governance of Caste): The system of regulation of the domestic universe of caste operated parallel to another important aspect of centralization by the state: one that extended over the economic aspect of caste governance. The system of economic regulation in the caste system was as rigid as the social regulation through principles of purity and pollution by touch, etc. Economic regulation forced a caste-based occupational segregation, which meant that one’s birth in a caste fixed the occupation that could be pursued by its members. Just like the castes in a caste system, these occupations were arranged across the graded hierarchy of castes, and values of purity and pollution were attributed to them in congruence with their position in this hierarchy. Consequently, occupations considered most polluting were assigned to the lowest of castes. The hierarchy also determined the material and social value of what could be earned by performance of these occupations. Therefore, the occupations performed by the lowest castes were assigned least value whereas the services of the higher castes fetched the maximum value. There was virtual coincidence of the social and the material in the hierarchical system. In a typical caste universe, it was counter-intuitive to separate the social value of labour from its material value, as both reinforced and flowed from each other.12 In the discussion of the early period, I have noted the religious authorization of the segregation of these occupations, the insistence on their internal self-governance, and the scriptural directions to the Kings to enforce the strict observance of this segregation. In the period under present discussion, we see the state centralizing the enforcement of this segregation in a very specific way, whereby the rulers methodically lay down the caste-based allocation of land and services to augment and centralize revenue extraction without completely dismantling the authority of intra-caste economic governance or the hierarchical system of 12 Such a correlation has persisted in post-independence India despite social and political caste reforms. Intellectual labour, which was monopolized by the higher castes, remains highly valued both socially and materially as opposed to manual or skilled labour traditionally forced on the lower castes, which is not only considered less dignified but also draws the least remuneration.

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extraction within which it operated. In fact, I will argue now that because the caste-based economic system was retained as the basis on which revenue administration was framed, such attempts at revenue extraction also faced caste-based resistance and this, in turn, motivated intra-caste economic governance. Stronger states that emerged since the late medieval period in India required higher revenues for raising larger armies, which led to the imposition of a more systematic structure of revenue and tax collection. These systems of taxation based themselves on the patterns of land ownership. The administration of land ownership came under direct state control in this period and we see rulers guarding land administration more closely than before. The rulers collected considerable data on land and land produce to develop a system of regular revenue collection. An elaborate personnel system of state officials was chalked out and officials were appointed at each level from the village to the pargana. The offices of the Deshmukh and Deshpande were created under the Sultans of Deccan. These officers were in charge of attesting the deals of transfer and sale of land on behalf of the state. Below them were other offices of the Shete Mahajans and the Kulkarna who served as accountants; the Mokadams and the Patels performed functions of policing and the actual collection of revenue. These officers supervised the cultivating class that consisted of the mirasdars and the uparis,13 and the service castes called balutedars (Gune 1953). A word, first, on the more microeconomic forms of control over the cultivating castes, which was achieved by major changes in land allocation. The officers who were to maintain the accounts and collect tax for the state were granted permanent landholdings by the state under the watan (grant) system. These offices were typically assigned to the higher castes—the Brahmins and the dominant caste headmen. These caste men who had enjoyed traditional dominance were further emboldened by the force of the state behind them. This gave them a position of higher power and often resulted in episodes of abuse of these powers in terms of arbitrarily high extraction of tax by the village-level officers. Though the state did fix a maximum tax level that could be extracted from a landholding according to its size, to counter this particular form of abuse of power

13 ‘Uparis’ and ‘Mirasdars’, as labels, apply both to the cultivating classes involved and to the system of land tenure.

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by the Brahmin village officers (i.e. the arbitrariness of their tax extraction), the deeper abuse and exploitation owed to state tax policy itself. One crucial shift that gave rise to such exploitation was the shift from tax levied on measures of what was produced on the land to tax levied on the size of the landholdings. With this shift, the relative fairness afforded by the variability of tax tracking produce was eliminated and the state could fix high levels of tax on landholdings. In response, the cultivating castes found themselves forced to resist such exploitative revenue extraction by the state system. It is in the service of this resistance that intra-caste governance was motivated in the economic sphere. The Deccan is a good location to come to a more detailed understanding of these issues relating to the state, land, taxation, and caste governance. The relationship of people to the land here was quite differentiated. Neither the Sultanate rulers nor the Marathas dismantled the already prevalent system of land ownership completely. The gota system which was in existence before the period in discussion was retained, but its meaning was transformed under these new rulers. The very word ‘gota’, which means caste kin14 in Marathi, came to signify a type of land grant in this period. Gota traditionally denoted the landholding caste groups in the form of constellations of joint families, described by one scholar as ‘a deliberative body of people holding certain types of tenures ’. Similar systems existed under different names such as daiva in Karnataka and samasta or samasta mandlik in Goa. The term gota was also used interchangeably as ‘baapbhau’ or ‘gharbhau’ (translated as ‘the provider of the house’) and has roughly the same social meaning as the term ‘biradari’ (status group) in Hindi. In the new system of state under consideration in this section, the basis on which land tenures were recognized differed. The watan tenure was land granted under an indigenous hereditary office in the village such as the office of the patil (headman), accountant, etc. The other rights over the land of cultivating castes were recognized under the thalakdari tenure, which referred to the land brought under cultivation by a family and came to belong to that family by virtue of its hereditary right over it. The thalakdari, unlike the watan, tenure finds a mention in the

14 The term ‘nat-gota’ is used to refer to one’s relatives and caste kin in reference to the caste community.

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Manusmriti. This was also called the miras tenure referring to the land that belonged to the free men and could be brought under cultivation. The land of the ‘absent proprietor’ (a new category that surfaced in this period)15 was the third system. It, however, was taken over by the state and a tenure of servitude called the upari was introduced. These constituted a new group of landless cultivators as opposed to the mirasdars, who tilled their own land. The upari gave land under a lease or kaulnama to servants for a fixed period. The top-down system of fixed revenue extraction under the state officers was intended to oversee this differentiated system of land tenures. In the Deccan, there are several important instances where castes, adversely affected by this centralization of revenue, were mobilized by their caste panchayats against the state. It is interesting to note that such actions were not always directed against the local village-level officers. In fact, because these officers were themselves landholders who had to pay high levels of taxation, they often joined the resistance against the state, and often provided the leadership to the rest, in the struggle against the increasingly centralized state-level taxation system. These mobilized assertions of caste solidarity against the state can be found in several regions during this period. Protests were organized under dominant caste heads or desais with the caste headmen of all respective castes of the village offering solidarity in these actions against the state. In the fifteenth century, the Vijayanagara and Bahamani kingdoms were at the receiving end of such obstructionist actions by caste panchayats (Karashima 1997: 82). Excessive taxes and fees under the Nizamshahi were protested under a caste chief—the Desai—in 1575. Historians cite at least three instances when the state actively reorganized the caste organization in Konkan and Goa regions in the period between sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in order to systematize the revenue extraction and this too resulted in resistance forged on the basis of such caste solidarities (Guha 2013). Such actions continued in the Early Modern period. It was a result of such resistance that the East India company made fresh resettlements with the caste groups in Konkan and Goa to suit the new demands of revenue and methods of taxation. In 1852, the pargana deshmukhs of 15 Elphinstone records that according to ‘Hindu opinion’ the land that fell out of cultivation due to excessive taxation by the Muslim rulers led to this development (Elphinstone 1886).

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the Khandesh region launched a massive protest in defiance of the British land revenue survey (Census 1911, Vol 1). Turning from land cultivation groups such as the mirasdars and the uparis to service groups, the balutas or artisans provided ancillary services to the cultivating castes in exchange of a fixed amount of grain. The records from the middle of the twelfth century in the Deccan suggest that the state collected records of these artisan castes from all gotas, kasbaas, and parganas (household, village, and district levels) under its dominion. The extensive corpus of judicial records or mazhars of the period refer to the records of the state which classifies the baluta castes into three groups of castes and fixes their yearly share of the village produce accordingly. This classification changed in different gotas but the state maintained the order of classification and used that while resolving land or other disputes For these lower castes, which provided services to the upper castes but had no access to the land under the upari tenure system, the share of crop they received from the jajman caste in return of services was also often a matter of dispute. Obtaining one’s share from the economic produce of the village as a caste thus necessitated some intra-caste governance. A caste’s governing elders were the agents who demanded the share of the crop. This helps to explain the entrenchment of caste panchayats in the lowest of castes. Records suggest that such demands led to the fixation of the yearly share of some castes by the states, replacing the earlier more arbitrary system at the hand of the dominant caste jajman. In general, it is arguable that this explains the prevalence of caste panchayats wherever there were large populations of service providing castes such as western Maharashtra, where the system of balutedari was more extensive and much stricter than in other regions—of say, Vidarbha, where there were looser balutedari relations and where the records show a lesser presence of caste panchayats. It is the balutedari or jajmani system that seems to have necessitated the economic intra-governance of caste. Dumont hints at a similar analysis based largely on Blunt’s fieldwork on the jajmani relations in UP. In return, the assembly watches jealously over the maintenance of the jajmani relations, both punishing a member who attempts to take someone else’s patron or who has been patently remiss in his professional duties, and boycotting the patron who, without sufficient reason in the caste’s eyes, attempts to put an end to the services of one of its members or replace him by another: the group here is solidly united- one of the rare cases

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in which it is—behind one of its members whose professional rights are threatened. (Dumont 1980: 175–176)

Sumit Guha too points out that the centres of trade and commerce and the centres of high revenue collection of the late medieval period showed more refined and stringent system of balutedari, which must have required maintaining a high degree of caste discipline to demand and administer caste-based occupational rights (Guha 2013). We also see that these were also regions with centres of religious learning and political activity. Thus, religious-cultural and economic disciplining went hand in hand. Whether caste panchayats became and remained stronger in centres of commerce and persisted there remains a credible line of inquiry. So far, I’ve expounded the presence of caste governing councils as motivated by the need for them to resist the state and make demands upon it in the economic sphere. I turn now to explaining their presence due to a quite different aspect of the relation between caste panchayats and the state in the economic sphere, one in which the state explicitly recognized the caste panchayats by delegating to them some governing functions in economic matters. Despite the state’s close control of economic matters, rulers seemed to be content and even at times insistent that many economic disputes be handled by the judicial judgements of intra-caste panchayats. In particular, such a devolutionary step was achieved by giving royal sanction to the lower bodies, including jati sabahas or caste panchayats, for economic decisions. This practice of taking into account the decision of the caste panchayats (both multi-caste and intra-caste) in matters of tenure or baluta, was maintained by both the Hindu and non-Hindu rulers. An example of one such case in the court of Adil Shah in Bijapur (A.D. 1512–1548) is mentioned by Altekar: The case concerns a certain Narsoji Jagdale of Masur village in present day Satara. There was a dispute between this Jagdale and one Bapaji Musalman Musahnan of Karad regarding the patilki watan of Masur. The case was first decided by the gota of Masur (the multi-caste panchayat of the village), which decreed in favour of Jagdale. Being dissatisfied with this decision, the defendant Bapaji Musalman appealed to the District Panchayat at Karad, which however confirmed the decision of the lower gota. Bapaji then went directly to the Bijapur court and complained to the Emperor that the Panchas at Karad were partial to his opponent, being his co-religionists, and, therefore, their decision should be set aside. But

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this allegation of the injustice made by his own co-religionist could not induce the Mahomedan Emperor to order a re- trial of the case at his own court. What he did was to order a retrial of the case by the Panchayat at Paithan or Pratishthana (a Hindu religious centre and a higher assembly than the multi- caste panchayat). The case was accordingly transferred to the Pratishthana Panchas who after examining the evidence confirmed the former decisions. And Ibrahim Adil Shah accepted this decision and enforced it. (Altekar 1927: 44–45)

A similar such case of a certain Ramaji Krishna of Sonai is recorded from 1668 under the Maratha King, Shivaji. When Ramaji appealed to the royal court about some economic injustice done to him by the multicaste village panchayat, Shivaji is recorded to have ruled in the following words, If you so wish, I shall send your case to your own (caste) Panchayat; or I shall transfer the case to another Panchayat if that will meet your desire, or I shall refer it to the District Panchayat if that course recommends itself to you. Let me know what you like. (Altekar 1927: 45–46)

From the Peshwas down to Shahu of Kolhapur the Marathas seemed to have given this autonomy to the caste panchayats. The records presented by Gune (1953) corroborate that the rulers in the western region, even as they concerned themselves with the economic matters, never overruled the authority of the caste panchayats. In the records of over 400 cases or Mazhars and other documents of the period between 1600 and 1800 spanning the rule of Shivaji, the Peshwas, and the Muslim rulers of the Deccan, one finds numerous appeals made to the royal court regarding economic disputes.16 Most records of disputes in these records deal with the allocation of or dispute over caste-based hereditary offices. The number of disputes for lower offices at the village level is higher than those for higher offices. For example, there are 12 cases of disputation over the grant of pargana (district) headman or Deshmukh, 7 over Deshkulkarni or the district level record keeper, 12 over village record keeper of the Kulkarna, 12 over the Mokadam or the village headman, and 7 over the jyotish or the astrologer. 16 This is in contrast to the cases concerning religious or moral matters that came to the royal court. The records have just one such request. Moreover, the judgement in this case simply validated the decisions taken by the Jaatsabha and the follow-up procedure by the brahmasabha. Overall, matters of religion and family are absent in these records.

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Compare these to 51 disputes over the rights of the elderly kumbhar or potter over his right to serve customers in assigned villages, 109 disputes are over the disputations over the village gardener and his rights, 55 over the Mirasi Naiki (singers), 68 over the grant of village watchman—a function served by the Maharas and Mehtars or the untouchable castes. There are not many disputes among traders recorded in the period. There are two over the posts of Shete or the prefect of the market and two over other offices or khooms. Of the disputes over the post of dharmadhikari and the priest there are a total of 83, strictly concerning the disputes over award of land grant. The other disputes are 5 over landed property, two over movable property, 7 over boundary disputes, 4 over partition, 1 of crime, and 1 each related to purification and marriage. These are either sent back to the caste panchayats or resolved in consultation with respective caste heads. The attitude of the rulers in Deccan towards caste governance in economic matters is a very unambiguous one—it devised a close control over land and services without completely overruling the right of caste groups to decide their own economic affairs, through intra-caste councils. The native rulers in the north-west and the South too, came to exert considerable control over the economic governance of caste without taking it over directly (It is only in East Bengal and Manipur that the kings were the final authority on religious as well as economic matters related to caste).17 I have expended a substantial effort to establish via a scrutiny of available records, the strong presence of the caste panchayats, despite state-led centralization of control on caste matters in the late medieval period. Things alter in specific ways in the modern period and it is to this that I now turn.

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British Challenge to Inter-caste Hierarchy and Transformation of Caste Governance

Nicholas Dirks, in the introduction of his book on caste and colonialism, observes that ‘(British) colonialism has made caste what it is today (in 17 Such centralized authority by the state went beyond economic issues in East Bengal, where one finds that there was a considerable change in the internal organization of caste and an elevation of caste status among some groups owing to the directives of King Ballal Sen (Census of India 1911).

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India)’ (Dirks 2001). This understanding represents a dominant strand of caste scholarship, a section of which targets, among other things, the census as a tool through which an early modern colonial state began to centralize caste governance. The previous section has shown how, though caste panchayats were very much in place, a process of centralization of power in the hands of the pre-British states had already reformed and at times, even considerably usurped the authority of caste-based selfgovernance. This process continued uninterrupted in the rule of the native rulers who retained hold of major areas even as the British began to rule India. It must be kept in mind that even up to the 1820s, only Bengal, Bihar, and some parts of Madras were strictly under colonial rule (Bayly 2000). This is not to deny that the company rule and later the British rule accelerated penetration of the state into caste matters, but to recognize that they were by no means the only rulers to do so. By 1911, the census points out that various ‘rulers in Native States, and various zamindars of ancient descent in British territory, came to exercise a great deal of control in caste matters’. This also became true of Nepal. The records from the royal courts of Marwa, Kushalgarh, and Rajputana mention that the courts began directly appointing the heads of various caste panchayats, whereas some other states required that royal sanction be sought before such appointments were made. This was found to be true for the Rajpipli state of the central provinces where in case of the Lewa Kunbis the state decided the marriage pool for ‘bride-giving’ and the sole authority to pass any judgement on social matters came to rest with the king in Manipur, Orissa as well as in Malabar (Census of India 1911: 394). This section will look at the form that caste governance took under the British period, shaped largely, but not only, by British policies, with the other native rulers and their approach to caste governance also maintaining its presence. It will show how the British chose both the strategy of directly taking over some functions of caste bodies as well as the other strategy of allowing them the autonomy while effecting normative changes selectively. I will trace this change that caste governance underwent in this period by observing it through three radical changes initiated by the British: the introduction of the British judicial system, the absence of occupational segregation in the newly emerging economic opportunities, and the British readiness to listen to the claims of lower castes to educational and other opportunities.

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a. The British Judicial System: Let me begin by discussing the introduction of a new justice system by the British, which was based on a very different set of ideals than any justice system present in India before. First among these ideals was the dissolution of the system of collective ownership of land by households (‘joint-families’, as they are called). Legal scholarship in India considers the introduction of individual landholding as a legal possibility, an important reason why the litigation in British courts saw a sharp spike (Galanter 1997; Baxi and Galanter 1978). The British land dispute settlement was different not only in this respect (of having introduced individual legal holding of land as opposed to the household’s land ownership in the past), but it also did not refer the appealing party in litigation back to the caste panchayat. This reverses the pattern of the immediately preceding era in the courts of Shivaji and Ahmed Shah Abdali, which we noted in the last section. As a result, for the first time there was a loosening of the hold of caste panchayats over land dispute settlement, since any party unhappy with the caste panchayat’s decisions was now free to move to this higher court. Second, there was the codification of the customary and religious law. The British treated these laws with a relative caution and often some consultation with native rulers was sought in the matter. The British wanted to codify the customary laws for different communities in India. However, this followed a pattern different from anything that is familiar from the European metropole, for they soon realized the problem of trying to accommodate such heterogeneous practices of this large mass of diverse people. Therefore, they turned to the religious learned groups of both the Hindus and Muslims for authoritative understanding of these laws (Lingat 1973; Das 1990). As a result, this codification relied massively on scriptural records which no doubt led to a hinduization of the British law (a theme dealt with in detail in the last chapter). But, while doing so, there was also immense authority that the British courts themselves exercised in interpreting these texts, and deciding on whether to override or uphold customary laws of castes. Caste panchayats may still have ruled on intimate caste matters but those unsatisfied with the decisions of the caste panchayats or brahmasabhas did have the availability of an alternative system, which would not revert them back to the religious or caste authority. The British, like some of their predecessors or contemporary native princes, took it upon themselves to rule on domestic matters

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of caste—in the process replacing caste governance to an extent that was not done by most other rulers. For instance, they came to rule on issues like validity of marriages between different castes, or even declaring two different castes as the same endogamous group (Buddhiwanta 2009: 145). The British census declared that such power over caste matters was ‘delegated’ to the European police officer by the late Chief of the State (Census of India 1911: 394). However, we have no records of native chiefs actually exercising power over such intimate matters of castes—as, for instance, declaring two castes as the same endogamous group. Assumption of such powers by the British courts meant that all castes including the Brahmins had to (eventually and reluctantly) come to terms with the fact that they were under the direct management of the European authority, which was not committed to the sanctity of the internal religious universe of the Hindus, and was to be obeyed even in caste/religious matters. Destabilizing the power of the strong Brahmin class had become a major motivation for the British as this lettered class had begun to show its ability to challenge the British by end of the seventeenth century, especially challenging the narrative of cultural supremacy of the West. The fact that the British judiciary often took it upon itself to outcaste Brahmins and remove the security of Brahmins in the exemption they enjoyed from capital punishment (an exception made for the Brahmins in most sastric records) proved the readiness of the British judiciary to undermine the hegemony of the Brahmins. It also took upon the reforming of laws around inheritance and adoption into its own hands in order to eliminate the authority of the native rulers, who were the second impediment to the spread of their rule. In no caste is any adoption valid, even if it be in accordance with caste custom, unless it has received the sanction of the Chief, or of the Political Agent when the State is under direct administration. The sanction of the Chief can, moreover, regularize an irregular adoption, i.e., one not in accordance with law and custom. (Census of India 1911: 394)

Though this did not mean that the associational aspect of the caste panchayat or even the direct authority of the caste panchayat completely ended, it underwent a major transformation. The British judiciary not

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only took over caste governance but administered it by finessing the intercaste hierarchical protocol of caste governance unlike any other rulers before them. Thirdly, so far as criminal law was concerned, the British did not see Indians as very different from the Europeans and this led to the insistence on recruiting native judicial officers. Meeting and speaking to the natives belonging to different castes in Ceylon from 1806 to 1808, Alexander Johnston, who served as the Chief Justice of Royal Council in Ceylon, instituted a jury system in Ceylon arguing that the panchayat or the assembly system was similar to the British jury. Munro, with whom Johnston communicated about this development, wanted to extend this system throughout India to address the issue of rampant corruption among the British judicial officers and unburden the British administration of these imported judges (Jaffe 2014). In 1836, Ram Raz, a native chief judge of Mysore, wrote a paper to be presented to the Governor of Madras, H.S. Greame, endorsing the introduction of the jury system arguing that all ‘respectable’ castes were capable of exercising individual judgement in legal cases. The prevalence of caste panchayats for him was proof that the ‘hindoos did not see only Brahmins as suitable to be jurors’. Thus, while trying to take over the caste panchayat in the civil sphere, the British sought to legitimize it in the criminal cases (Ráz 1836). These three changes had a twofold effect on the caste panchayats. The continuing authority of caste panchayats remained more predominant in some regions than others, especially in those regions which came under British influence late. We have records of the authority of caste panchayats existing at least in the region under Maratha rule and the Punjab region, even at the height of British rule. Though the records state that this is only true of the lower castes and not for the Brahmins, this does nothing to diminish the point since the lower castes comprised a far larger proportion of the population than the Brahmins, who, in any case, did not have a strong system of caste panchayats. On the basis of Marten’s account of the Central Provinces and the Berrar region, the census report stated that ‘each sub caste (in the region) has its own panchayat and there is no general caste panchayat with the controlling or appellate jurisdiction over their decisions’, with jurisdiction over an entire district (Census of India 1911: 389). This tells us two important things about caste panchayats: that by 1911, as the support of the state to the brahmasabha in some regions had declined, most caste panchayats had no appellate authority above it

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and that the village had not become a strict co-terminus unit for the caste panchayat, i.e. not subsumed the caste panchayat in a form and unit of greater generality, even in the eighteenth century. Even as the control of the brahmasabha declined, some pollution-based punishments involving religious/sastric injunctions were retained. Thus, for instance, so far as the ‘lower caste’ panchayats are concerned, we see records of both continuity of the panchayat but also an adoption of a stricter code of sexual control over women that had its source in higher caste moral attitudes that would have emanated from brahmasabha authority. In the lower castes continuities of old panchayats is retained. In the remoter tracts and in the Maratha plain division the aboriginal form of village panchayat is still retained in several castes. (Census of India 1911: 389)

On the barbarous punishments for sexual ‘misdemeanour’ of women, records of the Sonjhana caste panchayat subjecting a woman accused of adultery to put her hand in boiling oil to prove her innocence stand out. In Punjab, abduction of a woman is considered a very serious crime by the caste panchayat and breach of the sexual propriety codes invited punishments such as eating the night soil, the couple presenting itself in nude to fill the smoking pipe for village elders, etc. The subject of sexual control by the caste panchayats is indeed a very important one and shall be dealt with in the detail that it deserves in a separate chapter. The point I wish to emphasize here is that, though in some regions a disappearance of caste panchayats was a real event, it could not be argued to have happened in all regions in general. The following contrasting reports of 1911 from the British officials of the Bombay region and Punjab about the village-level multi-caste panchayat will make this clearer. In the Bombay Presidency there is no evidence that such an organization ever existed; all permanent panchayats, except the big trading guilds of Gujarat have been caste panchayats and the myth of the village panchayat has probably arisen from the fact that a village is generally, if not invariably, formed by several families of some one caste settling in one spot. (Census of India 1911: 395)

The Punjab Superintendent, however, states that in his province the whole population of a village is still knit together by a strong communal tie.

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the various caste panchayats deal with matters affecting themselves only, but in matters affecting the whole village the panchayats of the smaller groups merge into that representing the predominant caste of the village to form a tribunal whose decision is binding on the whole community. This constitution, is now disappearing, but it still survives in some villages in the east and central part of the Punjab. (Census of India 1911: 395)

These practices did not thus cease completely and where they did, they did so depending on the penetration of the British judicial system. b. The Challenge to Caste-based Occupational Segregation This brings me to the second effect, which was powered by the economic change that the Colonial government introduced. The rise of the local merchant class and the need for industrial labour, for induction to civil services and other government offices, and the option of serving the military, were major changes that emerged in the urban areas (Bayly 2000). All these amounted to occupational opportunities not tied to caste. As the occupational fixity of caste began to loosen in this way, some rules of the caste panchayats had to be relaxed. This meant that so far as caste pollution by touch was concerned the offences ‘beyond the control of the offender’ were relaxed. The government servant required to handle a low caste man in the environment of his work was excused of punishment. (This exculpation was restricted, however, to workplaces and work hours.) Moreover, the census noted that the horror felt by caste members of social excommunication imposed by the caste panchayat, something palpably felt in the early nineteenth century, did not seem to be viewed as having the same ‘serious consequence’ by the early twentieth century in Punjab. This is just one symptom of how the social legitimacy of the panchayat came under challenge and the changing material status of caste members could now be used effectively to defy the wrath of the panchayats (Census of India 1911: 392). c. The British Education System, the Census, and caste governance In the 1880s, the British introduced a policy for education of all the castes. To facilitate this, they began systematically enumerating these

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castes in 1883.18 Educational opportunity, opportunity to serve in the army, and the practice of petitioning for these opportunities on behalf of one’s caste, set in motion a state-led transformation of the caste system, which was completely antithetical to its religious code (Riser-Kositsky 2009). At the same time as the increased loosening of the traditional hold of caste, better means of communication and the expansion of a market economy also made contact between the same sub-castes across villages easier. This led to larger single caste-based associations and less dependence on other castes in the village; it also meant less dependence of castes on the village-based caste economy. In the urban areas, caste became a platform to ‘transcend technical political illiteracy’ (Rudolph and Rudolph 1960: 5). By ‘technical’ the Rudolphs have in mind the formal processes of a polity. How did they become more literate in these processes? The following narrative gives a rough explanation of how. With the British readiness to listen to caste-based claims for upliftment, caste loyalties underwent a major transformation. The earliest claims made to the British State for raising caste status were by the sanskritized lower castes, whose claims had not been hitherto taken into consideration by the Brahmins. Though most writings that record these associations initiating sanskritization, labelled them ‘voluntary caste associations’ in liberal Tocquevillian terms (the work of Rudolph and Rudolph is an important and early argument for this shift in nomenclature), in reality (names apart), these associations were most often the existing caste panchayats and thus were only as voluntary as the caste panchayat itself. This idea of a ‘voluntary’, ‘modern’, and thus non-traditional caste association seems to have been taken directly from the Bengal District Gazeteer, O’ Malley, who wrote on the Indian caste customs in 1932 (O’Malley 1932). O’ Malley speaks of the ‘caste sabha’ as a ‘new development’ (my italics) through which the caste group sought to improve its social status. He further stated that it was ‘modelled upon the European associations and conferences’. The scholars of the ‘politicization of caste’ school, such as the Rudolphs and those they influenced, uncritically borrowed this understanding and assumed that it implied that it was a quite separate associational form than the caste panchayat. There are 18 One must mention here, that this policy was caliberated depending on the dominance of resistance by the Brahmin orthodoxy who had hitherto monolpolised education. In places like Poona where this was the case, British were not principally committed to education of the non-Brahmin castes.

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nonetheless several examples, some in O’ Malley’s own records, where he acknowledges that what he called a caste sabha was in fact an intra-caste panchayat. ‘The members of a caste in a large area, such as a district, hold mass meetings at irregular intervals, [an important characteristic of the caste panchayat ], when they pass a number of resolutions, which they bind themselves to observe and to enforce on their caste fellows, [an exclusive characteristic of the caste panchayat] with the object of improving social and material condition of the community’. (O’Malley, Census of India 1911: 392) (My parenthetical additions here are to emphasize how these features that O’Malley cites are typical features of caste panchayats. They are not features that leave behind caste panchayats as things of the past.)

So, what the Rudolphs get from O’Malley and similar British sources is highly selective and, as a result, misleading. Such records, reflecting the same features, are not limited to Bengal. Another such instance of a caste panchayat enforcing sanskritization is recorded in the gazetteer of South Arcot district by another Gazetter Thurston. The larger point is this. ‘Sanskritization’, as I’ve noted and as is wellknown, is a name for efforts to seek the elevation or upliftment of caste. The new development is that these caste bodies (which I am insisting are not wholly new in form but are continuous with caste panchayats) sought this upliftment, not in a traditional manner of routine and more purely anthropological and sociological sanskritization, but rather through a more politically inflected process of appealing to institutions introduced by the British. Thus pleas of the sort that O’Malley records in the last quotation from him that I cited, bombarded the 1911 census office with. This is certainly a new development, transforming the process of sanskritization, but the new terminology of ‘caste associations’ adopted by the government and much of the scholarship, mistook this transformation for a break from the way caste loyalties had operated thus far. It is true that increasing familiarity with the new institutions that the British introduced amounted to an acquisition of ‘technical’ political literacy, but it is not an acquisition of nor a defection to a wholesale new form of association. A feature of caste organizations quite generally in the British period was their ability to expand their influence beyond their locality. This was true both of intra-caste organizations as well as organizations that took in caste clusters. Such an ability of castes to form large associations was also then mobilized against the British. Modernist leaders like Ranade,

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even as they hesitated to challenge the hierarchy of caste, used the horizontal mobilizational power of caste as jati to build organizations like the National Social Conference. Ranade appealed to the regional meta-caste panchayats19 to become ‘dynamic moral communities’ and appealed to them to give up on ‘dead traditions to accept a more political role’ in the anti-imperialist struggle (Ranade 1900: 70). (It may be worth spending just a brief terminological word defining what I and other scholars mean here by ‘horizontal’ and what it contrasts with, the ‘vertical’ or hierarchical aspects of caste. That caste is a vertical and hierarchical system is an utterly familiar point. But any given caste (in the sense of jati) sometimes can expand horizontally by building relations with proximate castes in the vertical hierarchy. Thus a jati tied to the profession of barbers and one tied to pottery are roughly of the same status in the vertical hierarchy of castes. And they may come together in a multi-caste formation, sometimes describable as a jati cluster. That is what is meant by a horizontal movement of caste.) Another feature that emerged during the colonial period is this. The British census reports of decline in relative growth of the Hindu population, as compared to other religious groups (such as Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, etc.), had forced some nationalist leaders to rethink their approach towards the untouchable and lower castes (Heimsath 1964). The social reclamation of the untouchables became an urgent project for the Hindu nationalists, who were motivated to unite the Hindus as one community—an identity central to their conception of the nation. It might be worth pointing out here that even some early liberal Congress leaders held rather similar views. For instance, G.K. Gokhale, was one of the earliest nationalists to depict the attraction of lower castes and untouchables to other religions and their consequential conversion from Hinduism to other faiths (thereby causing a decline in the Hindu population), as a sign of ‘Hindu weakness and radical decline’ (Gokhale, Indian 1909: 306). He said that the ‘emancipation of the depressed classes—a redemptive act that was ought to be an inherent principle for the modern nation-builder’ (quoted in Bayly 2000: 183). Thus, such motivations and inferences made the mission of ‘uplifting’ the lower caste, a part of the nationalist project, for both the Hindu nationalists and even more prominently for the early Congress leadership that stood for a quite different form of nationalism. These leaders made open appeals to the lower caste 19 Meta-caste panchayats are smaller caste panchayats of the same caste from a particular region coming together to form a larger panchayat.

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panchayats to reform their practices to mimic the practices associated with higher castes. The caste panchayats that responded to this call took up this purification (including vegetarianism and non-alcoholism) as part of the reformist agenda. Soon this agenda became a part of the national movement with leaders of the Depressed Classes Mission advocating similar practices20 and the later Gandhian emphasis on the same. To sum up this section, it is worth underlining that the monumental shift that the British intervention in caste governance brought was a result of the creation of possibilities of unsettling caste as a vertical hierarchy, while simultaneously, creating major incentives (in education, recruitment, etc.) and motivations (in nationalist politics) for horizontal consolidation of caste as jati. Though this consolidation took nontraditional forms, the conservative methods and even logics of intra-caste governance were often retained, and only selectively, if at all, suspended. This was an inevitable result in a general in which a nationalist movement was slowly gathering force, but also in a more specific way due to particular institutional developments in the polity and society such as the census exercise, and the availability of the postcard, the printed newspaper, and the railways, whereby people across regions belonging to similar jatis could now come into contact and form larger mahasabhas.

5 Caste Politics and Secularization of Caste Governance in Postcolonial India There are broadly four simultaneous processes that have shaped the form caste governance has taken in postcolonial India. The first process was defined by the so-called ‘Congress system’21 and its challengers. From its experience in the elections held during the British 20 ‘It is not so much the ill treatment of the higher castes, but your faults that have been the cause of your poverty and degradation…Your habits of drunkenness, and your utter disregard for education, have made you a poor, degraded and despised people’ (From the 1908 address delivered by K. Ranga Rao, Secretary of the Mangalore Depressed Classes Mission to a gathering of the Pancham-Holeya caste; quoted in Bayly 2000: 184) 21 Politics in India in the first few decades after independence was dominated by the

Indian National Congress, which had been central in the freedom struggle for more than a half century. Its dominance took a particular form that commentators have sometimes described by saying that all of Indian politics happened within the party—that the party metonymically represented the entire political system of the country. “Indian politics is ‘the Congress System’” is how one prominent political analyst put it (Kothari 1964).

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period, the Congress party had realized that caste provided ‘an efficient and readymade system of allegiance if successfully organized for political purposes’ (Risely [1915] 2008: 71). Also, it was the nature of the early Congress organization to co-opt popularly accepted local leaders rather than build local leadership. This was believed to be an apt and democratic model and it increased the inclusivity of the Congress organization, which already enjoyed a broad support due to the momentum of the national movement (Alavi 1974). For all its democratic inclusiveness, however, this ended up most often in the co-opting of leaders of the ‘dominant castes’; and, in cases where numerically significant, even lower caste leaders of non-dominant castes were co-opted into the privilege of leadership positions. This had an extremely significant upshot that would remain a feature of Congress politics for decades to come because it achieved two things at once that pulled in somewhat opposing directions. On the one hand it blunted the radical edge of these anti-caste or anti-upper caste assertions (Omvedt 1976) while, on the other, it broadened the base of the Congress support electorally. Congress democratic inclusiveness was always ambivalent in this way: democratization without a radical edge. So for example, rather than continuing to challenge the (Maratha) leaders of the non-Brahmin movement in Maharashtra, the Congress assimilated them, thereby making the Maratha support a backbone of the Congress’s success in Maharashtra for over half a century. A similar strategy was also adopted in case of the Dalit leaders of the Republican Party in the state. A decade or so later, there was a slowly growing challenge to the Congress. As the share of financial allotment to rural areas in terms of government schemes increased over the years, more caste groups began to compete in the rural political arena. Political parties began calibrating newer combinations of castes to counter the dominant caste groups, which were loyal to the Congress, in turn making the struggle for caste solidarity fiercer. The rise of the regional parties depended heavily on striking caste equations between the politically non-dominant castes. A struggle for new social bases has today become common for all major parties, including the BJP as it began its penetration in rural politics (Palshikar 2011). Whereas on the one hand political parties were vying for exclusive electoral loyalty of particular caste groups, a converse process began to take place within caste groups, which realized the limitations of being marked as supporters of specific parties. The caste-based associations came to the

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fore again, often distancing themselves from the parties they were traditionally associated with, in order to guard the caste-based interests. The ‘caste association’, as it came to be called, demanded cross-party allegiance of its members, often ruling on issue of election candidatures in a way that was most favourable to the caste. This gave rise to an increasing tendency in Indian politics that further bolstered the legitimacy of caste loyalties across political parties. The 1967 Yadava Mahasabha for example passed a resolution ‘that the Mahasabha should use its good offices to see that not more than one Yadava candidate contested the elections from any particular constituency’ (Rao 1968: 781), as caste loyalty came first. More recently, in our own time, in 2018 Maratha leaders from all political parties (including the ruling and the opposition parties) shared the stage with the leaders of the Maratha Kranti Morcha,22 forming a cross-party forum to fulfil the demand of reservation for the Maratha caste. The fact that most leaders of the caste panchayats simultaneously hold local leadership of major political parties should not thus be seen as an aberration in the larger pattern of political recruitment. What is new is the increased competition in rural politics after the decline of the Congress dominance, which led to an increased focus on mobilizing the loyalty of the intra-caste community. A second and third process by which ‘caste-based’ interests came to be driven in postcolonial India were the induction of the agenda of castebased social justice in the grammar of Indian politics and the provision of affirmative action guarantees for the lowest castes identified by the Constitution. As discussed before, the readiness of the British to cater to caste-based claims had laid the ground for the adoption of caste as a category in the democratization of social goods such as education and recruitment. The British period also witnessed a proliferation of anti-caste and lower caste self-respect movements stressing the demand of social justice. These movements, some of which had developed a bitter relationship with the Congress, laid the foundation of the character of social justice enshrined in the Indian Constitution. This led to the unequivocal attitude that the caste system was an impediment to the realization of democracy and this,

22 An umbrella organization with no specific political affiliation or leadership, which has been at the forefront of the huge mobilisations of the Maratha population for demanding reservations for the Marathas in educational institutions and government sector jobs.

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in turn, led to the provision of caste-based affirmative action as a constitutional guarantee for lower caste groups. Over a period, occupational restrictions based on caste were severely challenged through constitutional guarantees and protections after Indian Independence in 1947. Nevertheless, the ascriptive identity of caste still largely remains a marker and determinant of socio-economic position and mobility of its members. It is thus no surprise that caste and caste-based associations and political parties continued to play a key role in politics; and caste-based interests have become part of the grammar of Indian politics. This may tell us why there is considerably less resistance both from the liberal-left and the conservative quarters to caste loyalty enforcement by caste panchayati and its enmeshed relations in the articulations in electoral politics in India. Thus, the mobilizations by various caste groups for demanding reservations are hardly ever dubbed as sectarian or as being opposed to a commitment to a larger national identity, though, of course, they are opposed bitterly by the aspiring middle classes on other grounds such as ‘efficiency’, ‘merit’, etc. Here, it is worth recording a striking contrast of caste with religion. Similar articulations of demand (for reservations or, generally, affirmative action favour) by religious groups face a much fiercer opposition and are much more liable to accusations of sectarianism in the general political discourse of the country. A fourth and final process by which caste-based interests came to have centrality emerged as a result of a centrifugal direction that constitutional guarantees of affirmative action took. In the 1980s Constitutional Directives were given by the centre to the states to correct for caste discrimination through policies of positive discrimination. This, though related, is a qualitatively different process. Though it issues from a constitutional directive, it takes the form of policy rather than the form of a right. Since it does not have the prestige of a sanction in the form of a constitutional guarantee, it thus demands aggressive political and often judicial activism, spearheaded by the agitation of caste groups or regionallevel political parties respectively, to realize these directives. Here again there is a striking contrast of caste with religion since such affirmative action policy on a religious basis is barred in the Constitution. This phenomenon has taken a new form after three decades since the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 in which the castes of erstwhile untouchable groups (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes)—considered polluting and thus lowest in the caste hierarchy—were given justiciable protections under affirmative action guarantees of the Constitution.

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Since the 1980s, similar guarantees have been extended to the group of castes just above the SCs and STs, but still low in the graded hierarchy of caste, groups that fell under the label OBC (Other backward classes) not through the Constitution but through state policies. The state mechanisms of identifying this backwardness, I will argue, have created new motivation for intra-caste loyalties. The Mandal Commission23 was assigned the task of producing a report on this matter. That required it to provide criteria for the identification of the OBC castes. To do so it devised a formula based on social, economic, and educational indicators. In this scheme, the social and educational backwardness indicators were given more weight than the economic indicators, and this was in compliance with the character of social justice enshrined in the Constitution. Moreover, it also made provisions for revising the list of the backward classes through the Backward Classes Commission reviewing the socio-economic status of the groups under question. This opened the possibility for castes to be removed or included in the list in the future. The most important thing to note here is, that one of the ways to get one’s caste included into the OBC list was to submit a deposition to the Commission and prove one’s caste’s claim to backwardness. The Commission, while deciding on the claims of various groups, advertised in vernacular and English media a proforma to be filled by individuals and by voluntary organizations. It consulted, apart from the politicians in all the 17 states it toured, the representatives of ‘voluntary’ social and caste organizations who presented the case of various groups. As the Commission itself notes, Nearly 72% of its respondents (among the general public in household surveys) were aware of the existence of voluntary organizations and thought that they worked for the welfare of their respective caste. (Mandal 1980: 44)

As the Mandal Commission report, once out, came to be implemented in several phases, it has led to caste associations proliferating and becoming 23 Referred to as Mandal Commission after its chairperson B.P. Mandal the Socially

and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC). It was given a mandate to ‘identify the socially or educationally backward classes’ of India in January 1979 by the Janta Party government. It recommended 27% reservations in public sector jobs and educational institutions for the non-untouchable lower castes that constitute roughly 50% of the country’s population, now termed as the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

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active political agents in seeking these benefits for their community. Lobbying with national leaders of one’s caste, approaching caste members in the bureaucracy, and rallying activists to train caste members for interviews by the members of the commission, continue to be the methods employed to gain benefits for one’s caste—apart, of course, from the more demonstrative method of public protests. Though critics of the Mandal Commission argue that this shifted the governing strategy of caste politics from mobilizations based on criticism of the caste system to mobilizations based on exploiting caste ‘identity’ (Gupta 2005), what it actually ended up doing is snowballing the process of a vigorous revisiting of both. The Mandal Commission thus becomes a key instrument through which one can access the postcolonial state’s reshaping of caste both as a political and social experience in India over the last few decades. On the one hand, communities had to prove their ‘social backwardness’ by asserting their particular caste identity; but at the same time, because particular jatis also fell under this omnibus neologism OBC, they had to reimagine this ‘primordial identity’ across a horizontal plane. This emerged as the typical new challenge now since it required one to assertively occupy one’s caste position as accorded by the caste hierarchy in order to correct the deprivations that came from the very same hierarchy. There are sociopolitical paradoxes here that are worth remarking on. Modern democratic processes that aspired to secularity and to universality were being contextualized to primordial sources of identity. The groups concerned were mired in primordial ties and thus constrained by cultural impediments of their background. As a result, quite understandably, they did not have the political capital and training to be able to easily exploit the democratic processes. In this respect, they stand in conspicuous contrast with the upper castes, who for all their determination to preserve caste hierarchies, had through education as well as their networked links to modern commercial and political institutions, could not properly be described as being mired to primordial ties in a way that handicapped them in the navigation of the political and economic system. In fact, through the twentieth century, they emerged as skillful players of the political and economic system, navigating it to their advantage. Lacking this political capital, backward castes could only navigate the system by more assertively occupying their backwardness to meet the requirements laid down by the classificatory exercises that followed what may be called the ‘Mandalization’ of Indian politics. There is a point,

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a distinction, here about the nature of these classifications of backward castes that cannot be elided. The paradox I am pointing to may not have surfaced if the classification merely invoked the criterion of ‘historically’ oppressed classes. But, in fact, that was not the nature of the classificatory practices in the immediately post-Mandal period; rather it required them to display their current backwardness. So navigating a modern set of emerging political provisions required them precisely to assert and display their primordial tethers. And since the classificatory system was continuously updating and revising its lists they not only had to prove their social backwardness as a necessary condition of demanding benefits, they had to adopt a continuous process of retaining their backwardness. It is here that the essentially conserving and conservative role of intra-caste panchayats came to the fore in the contemporary period since it was these governing councils alone that could enforce the loyalty of caste members to the practices that preserved their primordial identities. Without their being preserved, they would not be able to justify the benefits of jobs, reservations, etc. Postcolonial politics thus created secularized conditions in which caste politics could be articulated and strengthened the role of caste panchayats in seeking visible social and material gains offered by modern democracy to lower caste groups.

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Concluding Remarks

As I said, one motive for this chapter’s mapping the evolution of the caste panchayats over a long period of time was to reveal the ways in which these organizations evolved and transformed, losing some authority and control to other sources of authority, while retaining many functions and the methods exercised to carry them out. But another closely related motive for presenting this long view is to highlight what I believe are certain ways of reading the nature of these councils that are based on fallacies that I have tried to trace both empirically and theoretically. First is the giving more than its due centrality to the village as a unit of the panchayat, as opposed to the caste (or even the guild) as the unit of caste governance The reliance on textual evidence to think about panchayats seems partly to have led to this lop-sided emphasis. Similarly, the villagebased servant system (the baluta system discussed above) and the resultant dominant caste framework formulated to understand it, seems to have led scholars to think in an unqualified way about caste and the village as

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overlapping frameworks, confirming in their minds the view of the caste panchayat as a marginal and extinct phenomenon with the focus shifting entirely to the state’s mainstreaming of village self-governance under the panchayati raj system. The historical mapping I have taken pains to provide also reveals a continuous religious sanction for a caste-based disciplining based on social osctracization and expiation taking its most discernible form in the brahmasabha from the late medieval period up to the early modern period, and even the post-independence period in some regions. The brahmasabha also marks an important stage in the evolution of these panchayats as they became an overarching bridging authority between the caste panchayat and the state. Caste panchayats falling under common religious centres or mathas are likely to have internalized increasingly common features of procedure, punishment, and the ethic of purification. This interlinked three-tier system I outlined (state, brahmasabha, caste panchayat) granted a further formalized sanctity to the caste panchayats by the recognition that it now gained from the state. Caste governance as the subject of the state has since remained an important factor in the course caste panchayats have taken. The chapter has spelt out how under various rulers the functions of caste panchayats changed from more or less socioreligious disciplining under some regimes to an exclusively economic one under some others. Practically speaking, however, since the concept of caste spans both the socio-religious and economic life of its subjects very closely it must have been impossible for the caste panchayats to draw a strict line between the two. In expounding the British approach of a non-religious view of caste and its modern policies of governance, I tried to show how that brought a shift in the operation of jati as an inherent part of the varna to the operation of jati as independent of varna. This shift from the vertical meaning of caste to the considerably more horizontal direction that caste adopted, characterizes much of caste politics today and has brought about a considerable difference in the character of caste panchayats too. However, despite the modernizing tendencies under British colonial rule that I discussed, the formally secular view of caste only came with Indian Independence, when the Constitution explicitly forbade giving consideration to any religious sanction for upholding caste hierarchy. I tried to show how this secularization of caste put into motion (however imperfectly) by the postcolonial state—owing to both economic and religious factors—weakened, at least for the lower castes, the previous

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compulsion to adhere to caste. When the very adherence to one’s caste weakens for these reasons, the caste panchayat loses authority and its methods of social boycott become insufficient to maintain caste loyalty adherence. We saw how this was so in Punjab. But we also saw that even as the postcolonial state puts in place a set of rules and guarantees to attack varna hierarchy and weaken the religious and economic reasons for jati-based loyalty, it does not eliminate the need of caste-based loyalty, but rather introduces quite new reasons for it. Caste as jati becomes an important political unit in postcolonial India for political recruitment, electoral mobilization, identifying backwardness to ensure social justice and delivery of targeted schemes and services by the state. Caste panchayats, in this context, perform more explicitly political functions than they ever have in the past. As I close this chapter, and as a transition to the next, it might be helpful to introduce briefly what I will next be bringing to the centre of discussion, the notion of a caste panchayat’s functions and its methods for pursuing these functions. We have mentioned a variety of these functions in this book so far (facilitating sanskritization, resisting the state, reforming custom, preserving endogamy, preserving caste identity for a variety of benefits in the modern period…). In much of the scholarly literature, caste bodies were classified as primordial or modern depending on which of these functions they aspire to perform. Caste bodies which preserve endogamy, for instance, are understood as having a primordial character, whereas caste bodies which demand schools or start cooperatives for their caste members are considered modern. The general tendency in this literature has been to say that with the colonization of India by the British and its introducing new forms of modern government and the subsequent achievement of Indian independence and the forming of a secular state, the latter functions replace the former, and so the very existence of caste panchayat is undermined and a new kind of organization emerges for which a new nomenclature is advisable: the ‘caste association’ understood along voluntarist Tocquevillian lines. I will be arguing that this is not a helpful framework within which to study caste and its governance. For that reason I will be making much of the distinction between function and method, and I will be arguing that the conservative form of organization, with the old nomenclature of ‘caste panchayat’, is never eliminated because the methods they employ even in the pursuit of thoroughly modern functions is almost always continuous with the primordial understanding of caste and its governance through its history.

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References Alavi, H. (1974). Rural Bases of Political Power in South Asia. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 4(4), 413–422. Altekar, A. S. (1927). A History of Village Communities in Western India. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Bayly, S. (2000). Caste, Society and Politics in India. Delhi: Cambridge University. Baxi U., & Galanter M. (1978). Panchayat Justice: An Indian Experiment in Legal Access (Vol. 3). In M. Cappelletti & B. Garth (Eds.), Access to Justice: Emerging Issues and Perspectives. Buddhiwanta, A. (2009). Maratha OBCkaran. Kolhapur: Shramik Pratishthan. Census of India. ([1911] 1913). Vol. I, Part I. Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing. Chavhan, R. (2013). Bhatkya Vimuktaanchi Jaatpanchaayat (Vol. 5). Pune: Deshmukh and Company Publishers. Crooke, W. (1896). The Tribes and Castes of North Western Provinces and Oudh (Vol. 4). Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. Das, S. (1990). Crime and Punishment in Ancient India. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. Dirks, N. (2001). Castes of Mind Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dumont, L. (1980). Homo Hierarchus: Caste System and Its Implications. London: University of Chicago Press. Eastern Quarterly, 15(4), 481–496. Elphinstone, M. (1886). Elphinstone Papers, ‘Report on the Deccan’, ‘Appendices to the Report on the Deccan’; Extract of Letter from Captain Briggs, fol. I, Bombay Land Revenue Proceedings (India Office Library). Galanter, M. (1997). The Displacement of Traditional Law in Modern India, in Law and Society in Modern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gnanambal, K. (1973). Religious Institutions and Caste Panchayats in South India. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey, Government of India. Gokhale, G. K. (1909, February 28). Indian Social Reformer. Guha, S. (2013). Beyond Caste: Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and Present. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. Guha, S. (2014). Patronage and State-Making in Early Modern Empires in India and Britain. In A. Piliavsky (Ed.), Patronage as Politics in South Asia (pp. 104– 122). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/ CBO9781107296930.006. Gune, V. T. (1953). The Judicial System of the Marathas. Poona: Sangam Press. Gupta, D. (2005). Caste and Politics: Identity Over System. The Annual Review of Anthropology, 34, 409–427. Habib, I. (1976). The Jats of Punjab and Sind (H. Singh, Ed., pp. 94–95). Patiala: Punjabi University.

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Hayden, R. (1999). Disputes and Arguments Amongst Nomads: A Caste Council. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Heimsath, C. H. (1964). Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Hiebert, P. (1971). Kondura – Structure and Integration in a South Indian Village. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Hutton, J. H. (1946). Caste in India Its Nature, Function, and Origins. London: Cambridge University Press. Imam, F. (2014). Decoding the Rhetoric of Morality in 18th Century India: The Interventionist Nature of the Jaipur State. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 21(3), 401–419. Jaffe, J. (2014). Custom, Identity, and the Jury in India, 1800–1832. The Historical Journal, 57 (1), 131–155. Karashima, N. (1997). The Untouchables in Tamil Inscriptions and other Historical Sources in Tamil Nadu. In H. Kotani (Ed.), Caste System, Untouchability and the Depressed. Delhi: Manohar. Kothari, R. (1964). The Congress ‘System’ in India. Asian Survey, 4(12), 1161– 1173. https://doi.org/10.2307/2642550. Kulkarni. (1992). Deccan Chronicle. Lingat, R. (1973). Classical Law of India. London: University of California Press. Mandal, B. (1980). Report of the Backward Classes Commission. Government of India. New Delhi: Government of India. O’Malley, L. S. S. (1932). Indian Caste Customs. London: Cambridge University Press. Omvedt, G. (1976). Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The Non-Brahman Movement in Western India. Bombay: Scientific Socialist Education Trust. Palshikar, S. (2011, April). Limits of Dominant Caste Politics. Seminar. Ráz, R. (1836). Art. XI, — On the Introduction of Trial by Jury in the Hon. East India Company’s Courts of Law. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 3, 244–257. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0035869X 0001428. Ranade, M. G. (1900). Rise of Maratha Power. Bombay: Punalekar and Co. Rao, M. S. (1968). Political Elite and Caste Association: A Report of a Caste Conference. Economic and Political Weekly, 3, 779–782. Risely, H. (2008). Caste and Nationality. In I. B. Dube (Ed.), Caste in History (pp. 70–78). Oxford: New Delhi. Riser-Kositsky, S. (2009). The Political Intensification of Caste: India Under the Raj. Penn History Review, 17 (1), Article 3. Rudolph, L. I., & Rudolph, S. H. (1960). The Political Role of India’s Caste Associations. Pacific Affairs, 33, 5–22. Singh, D. (2003). Regulating the Domestic. Studies in History, 28(1), 43–67. Sorab. (1965). The Bhandari Caste Council. Man in India, 45(2), 152–158.

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Srinivas, M. N. ([1963] 1966). Social Change in Modern India (The Rabindranath Tagore Memorial Lectures). Berkeley: University of California Press. Srinivas, M. N. (1989). The Cohesive Role of Sanskritization and other Essays. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

CHAPTER 3

Caste Panchayats Today

1

Claims and Rationale

Having traced the evolution of caste governance in the last chapter, I now turn to the analysis of the caste panchayat as it exists today. The central claim of this chapter is that quite generally speaking the present day caste panchayats are political actors directing the more visible political behaviour in the regions in which they are located—such as political preferences and voting behaviour of caste members—and more specifically speaking, given the nature of the political field in the past thirty years or so, caste panchayats playing that general role turns on generating in the individual members of the caste over which they have their informal authority of governance, a specific socio-economic self -perception about the caste group to which they belong. Call this ‘The Claim’. Before presenting my reasons for this claim about the contemporary role of caste panchayats, I will spend some time discussing and establishing a second and prior claim, which feeds this central claim: there are range of political functions that caste panchayats (not some other group configuration that deserves another name, such as ‘caste associations’, as the theorists I am opposing would have it) have more or less continuously performed throughout the modern period in a political field which was opened up first by colonial modernity and modified after Indian independence. Call this ‘The prior claim’.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 A. Ingole, Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6_3

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Let me quickly explain the negatively made parenthetical point in this prior claim. The theorists who would attribute political role and functions to some other form of association rather than to caste panchayats themselves, do so primarily because they would relegate to caste panchayats much narrower, merely social (not political) functions, in particular socially conservative motivations for the enforcement of endogamy preservation via the strict preservation of caste norms that define endogamy. This mistaken overly narrow identification of the functions of caste panchayats has been reinforced in very recent times because of a public perception created by media highlighting some spectacular exercises of control by caste panchayats using drastic methods in cases motivated by social conservatism. This has brought the narrower role of social conserving into notoriety and, therefore, much more into public perception, reinforcing the identification of caste panchayats with these much narrower functions. From the point of view of my overall argument, this is a whole field of misperceptions and misidentifications of these governing councils. The fact is that the increasingly aggressive interventions of caste panchayats are not by any means restricted to the socially conservative functions that they carry out, they equally characterize some of the political functions that I (unlike these other theorists) insist on attributing to them. And moreover, I am, within my overall argument and alternative conception of caste panchayats, able to offer a quite general explanation of their recent aggressive controlling behaviour. To put it briefly, within my alternative conceptualization, caste panchayats have through the modern period performed both social and political functions and the particular aggressiveness with which these functions have been carried out in very recent times is a form of reactiveness to changing conditions in which caste panchayats have quite generally diminished in their influence and authority as a result of decreasing dependence of caste members of particular castes on occupational silos within which their employment is restricted—while there was that restriction, caste panchayats had tremendous authority because they could exclude caste members via quite routine forms of ostracization from the only employment they could get. With these occupational rigidities increasingly relaxing, this authority of the panchayats diminishes, so they have resorted to the less routine more extreme methods for which they have now become notorious. Once one understands this extremity of method in recent cases of panchayati control as owing to these general changes in economic conditions that characterize caste, we can open our minds to seeing that these extreme actions

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on the part of caste panchayats are also prevalent in cases where the political functions I am attributing to caste panchayats1 are exercised by them, putting us in a better theoretical position to then see clearly what is denied by the theorists I am inveighing against: that caste panchayats have diverse functions, both political and social, and that they are not to be exclusively identified with these merely social (socially conservative, that is) motivations for endogamy preservation. Returning, then to the prior claim, let us ask: How is this prior claim to be supported? To support it, I will have to spell out certain developments in Indian politics in the last few decades. The widely noted rise of caste politics from the 1980s on has undeniably had a democratizing effect on Indian polity (I will restrict the use of democratization here to mean the representation of lower castes in elected bodies),2 but it has not necessarily negated caste-based conservatism; and in many cases, as the evidence shows, it has exacerbated it. Intra-caste violence, especially its expression in violence against women, has increased even in politically dominant castes and often caste panchayats have been vehicles of such violence. This invites one to think systematically about this conservatism despite the entry of many of these castes in the arena of political democratization. There are incisive scholarly analyses available which have tried to explain this feature of caste in Indian politics. The earliest one may be attributed to the eminent political scientist, Rajni Kothari, who held that caste rather than being changed by modernity would negotiate with modernity on its own terms and ‘traditionalize modernity’. Kothari was making a very significant departure from the social science approaches of his time, as he did not think that modernity would tire out and usher out the relevance of caste as a category, in explaining Indian politics. Right though he was, since his writings in the 1970s the discourse of Indian politics has changed in ways that require one to review and modify his

1 By political functions I mean both functions directly related to electoral process such as deciding on the candidature of the local representative to be elected by the caste members or owning caste allegiance to a particular party and functions that are indirectly political in nature like mobilizing the caste identity over political goals, developing a narrative of caste identity that is political in character etc. 2 There is an increasing consensus on this point among the scholars. (see for example, Shankar and Rodrigues 2011)

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otherwise correct observation. More recent engagements with the question of caste-based democratization through electoral politics have used different arguments and approaches (such as Michelutti 2008, Bajpai 2011, Varshney 2000, Chibber and Varma 2018, etc.). These works in their essence reiterate Kothari’s claim that caste is bringing its own vocabulary to fashion a characteristic grammar for liberal democracy in the Indian polity. Here a familiar dispute surfaces and it is easy to fall into glib initial reactions on both sides of the dispute. On the one hand, there is the view of the scholarship I have just mentioned which insists (no doubt with considerable right) that real ameliorations are possible (and in fact have been actualized) for hitherto marginalized groups by this new form of politics around caste. This view simply dismisses the instinct to say that it is built into or constitutive of the identity of caste to be conservative. On the other hand, the question remains, however, that if the articulations of caste-based identity politics (not limited to caste-based parties3 ) in India do not subvert the framework of liberal democracy with its universalist aspirations, as the works of both Bajapi and Michelutti tend to argue, do they, in effect, conserve explicitly illiberal and undemocratic aspects of society as a result of their political expression? It is definitely not enough to merely assert that lower caste assertion is not illiberal or opportunistically populist in its imagination of political goals. Such assertions are only justified after a careful study of the accompanying implications and effects of such a politics of identity. I do not believe that one can answer this question satisfactorily without first taking up the larger question about the politics of governmentality and the treatment of caste identity within it that has come to characterize the nature of caste politics in the post-Mandal era. (I use Foucault’s concept of governmentality here to capture a move in the state’s approach to caste governance that began with, but did not remain limited to the Mandal Commission report.) In the post-Mandal political context, caste identity became the major category around which the politics of governmentality came to be performed by the neo-liberal state. 3 Parties that have originated on the basis of and appeal to explicit agendas related to clusters of castes. These mostly include parties formed by the leaders of erstwhile lower castes around the 1980s as the two major national parties dominated by the upper castes for a very long time could manage upper caste dominance without having to articulate agendas in caste terms. Social justice prior to the 80s comprised a constitutional promise that was not conceptualized as related to the issue of democratization as electoral representation.

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By doing this, I wish to make it obvious that the inference cannot be that lower caste assertion or its style/character is generating a conservative streak in politics—as it is not the case that caste conservatism was completely absent in the pre-Mandal era of politics. What I wish to point out is that the Mandal Commission by creating a continuous bureaucratic demand by which the backward castes were constantly required to establish and display their backwardness, created a system of governmentality, whose entrenchment in very specific ways, may have created a conserving tendency in caste, for which the term ‘caste conservatism’ may well be appropriate, at least with the proper qualifications and acknowledgements of the ameliorations achieved, which I mentioned earlier. I say ‘very specific ways’ in the previous sentence quite deliberately. The plain fact is that the biopolitics of caste generated by the kind of governmentality that is characteristic of post-Mandal politics was not the standard welfarist governmentality that first prompted Foucault’s coinage of that term. Mandal’s influence first began to be felt in the late 1980s and almost immediately after India adopted a neo-liberal economy, slowly dismantling the dirigiste aspirations towards state-led welfare that characterized European national economies since the second world war. The aspiration to create opportunities by stressing the private sector and to turn its back on the public sector employment opportunities sought in the first thirty years after Independence, as well as the increasing privatization of the economy and the contractualization of employment, created an atmosphere for competition for caste groups to lay claim to the shrinking public sector jobs which were brought under quotas by Mandal. Every party claiming to represent particular castes and their interests acquiesced in this overall framework of neo-liberal political economy that emerged from the early 1990s. Thus the electoral politics that emerged around the Mandalization of politics, even while invoking an honourable rhetoric for lower caste dignity, remained stuck in demanding more quotas for their respective caste constituencies in terms of material gains. This made it inevitable to hold on and maintain the identity as a marker of social backwardness in a competitive field of seeking gains, and any eventual goal of mobilizing the identity to seek empowerment so as to eventually overcome the social backwardness forced upon it by the caste system and to eliminate its hierarchies, seemed to recede as an increasingly remote goal. It is a matter of worthwhile counterfactual conjecture as to how much more democratized Indian politics would have been if the mandalization of Indian politics had occurred and been consolidated in a more genuinely

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welfarist, state-led political economy. I had said earlier that there is a certain amount of glibness in the disputation around whether or not caste-based identity politics that emerged in the late 1980s is or is not destructive of liberal and progressive ideals. At this stage of the book’s argument, I will simply leave this as an unresolved question, pending a fuller understanding of that counterfactual conjecture. However that question is ultimately resolved, I will restrict myself to presenting in the course of the book, specific details about the role of caste panchayats in exploiting the admittedly increased voice of the demos as a result of post-mandal caste politics, to reinforce the conserving tendencies within castes, and thereby to delay the eventual aspiration to elimination (or what Ambedkar called ‘the annihilation’) of caste. A general theoretical point is worth making explicit here. The fact is that identity, in general, is a complex subject, and identities can be both subjective and objective but what makes caste one of the most interesting and puzzling of identities is that caste exhibits features of both these types of identities—often simultaneously in different caste groups for very different reasons. Objective caste identities are simply given to individuals by their caste’s hierarchical station. But whether or not they endorse their objective identity in their subjectivity is a question that turns on a variety of factors. So, for example, the reason for a Dalit to hold on subjectively to her objective caste identity will not be informed by the fact that she values it intrinsically; but that very identity is something a Dalit is subjectively forced to value instrumentally in order to negotiate the terms of her claims to demands for more power in a society where political power is steeped in caste-based inequalities. On the other hand, a Brahmin might, over and above the political identity he or she aspires to, hold on to her objective identity because she subjectively values it intrinsically, as something that adds worth to her very being. What is more, as with many longstanding dominant groups, the dominance of the upper castes is so pervasive and unspoken, that their political identity does not even seek an explicitly articulated instrumental basis. It is this latter that cannot be assumed by the more aspiring castes in a vertical and hierarchical system. ‘Intermediate’ castes (as the early OBC leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav insisted on calling the Yadavs) present a complex and rather fascinating mix of these differing elements. Political anthropology gives evidence of both the cultivation of a subjective content of their identity as having an intrinsic value as well as the treatment of it as an instrument to overcome the social and economic deprivation associated with it.

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It is therefore difficult to speak of a ‘caste identity’ as a homogenous category available for theorization as its character shifts considerably depending on which caste we are speaking about. Both subjective and objective aspects of identity are occupied by various actors depending on their caste but also on the character of the political discourse around them which has changed considerably since Kothari made his observations. My overall goal in this chapter is to look at these questions through caste panchayats and offer some clues by which to develop an understanding of the operation of caste under the pressures of the caste-based democratization that began in post- colonial India and took a more distinct form in the 1980s.

2

Caste in the Study of Politics: The Context of Modernization

a. Caste and Caste Panchayats in the Context of the Modern In order to explicate the large claim I began with (the political embedding of caste panchayats in the modern period) in the light of the details of the discussion above, I will, in the next section, begin by laying down grounds for my prior claim and then proceed to saying why it is needed to make the case for the central claim. So, to reiterate, the prior claim is: that caste panchayats have continuously performed not just social but also political functions in pre and post independence politics in the modern period, something that the scholarship on the subject often loses sight of for reasons that I explained at length above in the previous section. In fact, I articulate this prior thesis explicitly only because of this shortcoming in the scholarship. To explore the prior claim, therefore, I will have to discuss the reasons for the scholarship failing to acknowledge it. Since the scholarship—the most prominent of which is due to the Rudolphs and to Kothari—did acknowledge, indeed insisted, that the social phenomenon of caste comes now to be constituted by the new and emerging political formations and institutions of the modern period, why did they not allow that caste panchayats were active and functioning in these formations? And what sort of organizations did they think mediated the politics that inevitably constituted caste in modernity, i.e. what sorts of organizations were the caste political actors, if they were not caste panchayats?

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To answer this question, we must first understand what shape and form modernity took in India. Modernity is an omnibus idea. When described in thick terms, one has to show how different things made for modernity in different parts of the world, even if, when described in thin terms, the modern has some very general shared characteristics everywhere. So: what was the shape of the Indian modern, and what elements shaped it, what thick descriptions does it get? What is obvious is that modern forms of politics were constituted by new institutions –legislative bodies, administrative bodies, classificatory practices, etc.—but institutions are insufficient to give the thick descriptions of modernity in one or other place. Large ideological outlooks equally constitute the modern. If we start with the widely held assumption that modernity emerged in India in the colonial period, one obvious path to follow in telling the narrative of modernity in India is to look at the ways in which colonialism transformed Indian society and customs, its localities and exercises of power, its political and social institutions, its political economy, and its cognitive outlooks and social aspirations and desires, etc. This has been done in great detail by a well entrenched scholarly tradition of the last half-century or more. I want to focus on a particular strand of scholarship, which argues that even the opposition to colonial rule through the decades-long national movement was shaped by this modernity, and in particular its legacies in the postcolonial period were through and through shaped by it. There is no doubt that Indian nationalism during the last years of the colonial period was one of the chief determining forces of the postcolonial Indian modern. How could it fail to be? It is not as if the freedom movement did not contain many reactionary elements, but its dominant strand, which went on to occupy power after the achievement of independence was clearly and self-consciously assertive of modern political ideals, ideals that lay claim to being progressive or as was frequently said ‘forward-looking’. All this is well-known and hardly bears rehearsing. This dominant strand itself was ridden with inner tensions, as is also wellknown. Gandhi was skeptical of a great deal of the incipient modernity towards which India was heading and even Nehru frequently stressed the longstanding traditions of pluralism in India’s past.4 Still, the modern

4 Nehru’s views on the subject are famously developed in his work Discovery of India.

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that Nehru is famously said to have curated after independence sought to transcend this pluralist diversity in a set of homogenizing abstractions expressed in the vocabulary of ‘citizenship’, ‘rights’, ‘constitutional codes and law’, not to mention ‘equality’ and ‘liberty’. Cliché’s such as ‘unity in diversity’, ‘composite culture’, ‘the Indian mosaic’, acknowledged the plurality and particularity in terms like ‘mosaic’ and ‘diversity’ even as they insisted on the ‘unity’. The question of caste becomes particularly pertinent here because with independence, the idea of a nation (the imaginary of the nation) became a reality in which the ideational or imagined element got realized and congealed in a state. And in the scholarship, it is frequently claimed that here the unity got much more stressed than the diversity that the nationalist narrative constantly harped on while not yet a state. And, in fact, even the rhetoric prior to independence sometimes stressed the unity over the diversity, it was, after all, because the freedom movement was gearing up to acquire statehood. This insistent unity in the post-independence period was primarily through ideas of equal citizenship for all (an undifferentiated universal) and castes, when recognized within this unity, were always recognized in terms that the codes and law around citizenship dictated. But, as is wellknown, in actual social life, caste is a notoriously fragmenting and dividing factor in Indian society. As result, scholars such as Pandian, taking a cue from Chatterjee, have argued (I will put this in my terms, not his) that the very conception of caste got schizophrenically split into a category, an abstract one, on the one hand, that becomes central to various provisions in the Constitution (for seats, offices, benefits), especially for the ‘scheduled castes’, and on the other hand, caste was experientially understood by ordinary people, a culturally felt mentality. The former, we might say, was caste in the public sphere, the latter in the experiential realm of lived social life. Even as the former sought to address the deprivations and humiliations of caste in its abstract terms, the felt experience of these did not register in these abstractions. This schizoid characterization leads to a question of instructive importance that is relevant to our concerns in this chapter. Did organizations like the caste panchayat now exist and function only in the latter part of this split understanding of caste—the social experience of caste life—OR does it also exist and function in the former part, the more political realm of law and political benefits…?

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I will be arguing that the answer to this question is firmly the latter of these two disjuncts. And in the rest of this section I will present that argument by criticizing the prevalent tendency of the scholarship on caste for opting for the former disjunct and diagnosing at some instructive length why they mistakenly opt for the former. b. Caste in the Context of Modernization Theory What the facts of the modern, described in the very brief thick terms (both institutional and ideological) that I have above spawned was a very influential theory—‘modernization theory’—which sought to framework a very wide set of social phenomena within its net and caste was one such phenomenon. A great deal of the scholarship I am addressing was shaped by this dominant theory; and the first reason I want to present for the eclipse of caste panchayats in our understanding of caste is really a product of the academic debates in the 1950s–1960s which located issues of caste in this ‘modernization theory’. Though the dominance of modernization theory has waned in Indian political thinking over time, there is (on the matter of caste and politics) an abiding legacy of some of its limiting frames and its understanding of what expressions democratization can take. In the wake of modernization theory, scholars on caste, even when they criticized the theory, were keen to stress the modern field and forms of politics as increasingly constitutive of caste. And so when they asked what sort of organizations allowed caste to enter the field of modern politics, they stressed organizations of a familiar modern associative form and dubbed them ‘caste associations’, bodies which were essentially secular in function and role, and modelled on the voluntary association to be found in a wide span of Western social and political theory. Since caste panchayats were not viewable along these lines, given their traditional past, they were thus not seen as central by this new scholarship on caste that emerged from under the shadow of modernization theory. Thus a strict distinction was drawn between caste associations and caste panchayats, with the latter at best and at most, relegated to a subject of sociological rather than political study. Let us then look at this category of ‘caste associations’ which is often argued to be the first category through which caste entered modern democratic politics. The birth of the category of caste association was imagined as a parallel development to the incipient emergence of the

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modern nation with its roots initially in the British colonial taxonomical exercises, among which was included the enumeration of caste, and then later in the constitutional commitment to caste upliftment in the post-independence era which required further enumerations of caste. In this long developing emergence of modern politics in the colonial and postcolonial period, various new political functions emerged. Two characteristics that were unmistakable in the definitions of so-called ‘caste associations’ were their centrality in performing some of these ‘modernist’ political functions on behalf of their castes and their appeal to the modern state with various demands, so as to fulfil these functions. The coming together of a caste group to make a demand for jobs or mobilize themselves for other material or cultural gains was seen as a characteristically new development and it was attributed to the formation of the modern state. Our question is: Is it right to think that the organizations that make an entry into the political field to carry out these functions, to make these demands, etc., are exclusively to be understood in terms of this new category of so-called ‘caste associations’ or is it the case that they were often carried out by caste panchayats, taking on a new dimension of function and demand-making in the changing historical circumstances of modernity. This is an empirical question. To put it in explicit detail: There are new functions in the field of politics emerging in the evolving conditions of the modern period. There are two sorts of caste organizations, older bodies such as ‘caste panchayats’, newly emerging bodies in the modern period distinct from these that might and have been called ‘caste associations’. The theorists that I am addressing simply declare that any organization that carries out these newly emerging functions must be the newly emerging organizations of the modern period, ‘the caste associations’. This is pure stipulation and a confused one. It is an empirical matter, who carries out these functions, not a matter of arbitrary stipulation or definition. There is abundant empirical evidence that the older form of caste organization, the caste panchayat, often carried out these new functions. There is no reason to think that they should be conceived as only carrying out more traditional functions. But, of course, if I insist that these theorists’ confusion is to stipulatively define caste associations as the only ones that could be carrying out these new functions, my finding this to be a confusion presupposes

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that we can identify both caste panchayats and caste associations by definitional criteria that are independent of their functions. That is exactly right. I believe that the deep methodological confusion on their part is to make the functions defining of caste organizations. Caste organizations, new (‘caste associations’) and traditional (‘caste panchayats’), are to be defined rather along two closely related axes. First, caste associations are modelled on (that is, they model themselves on) the idea of voluntary associations. Members of a caste may opt out of seeing themselves as falling under the jurisdiction of a caste association. By contrast, caste panchayats do not conceive of themselves along these voluntaristic lines. If a caste member declares herself or himself to fall outside of the diktats of a caste panchayat, the panchayat can outcast her or him. The other (and obviously related) axis, then, is that caste panchayats are defined by the methods they deploy to carry out one or other (traditional or modern) function. The traditional method of outcasting, boycotting, etc., (in the extreme case the honour killing method) goes hand in hand with the fact that these panchayats do not allow a voluntaristic relation that someone who sees herself as belonging to that caste can see herself as having to the jurisdiction of the panchayat. (Of course, in contemporary times, caste members sometimes simply exit from the social life of the caste itself. The point I am making is that if the caste member sees herself as belonging to the social life of the caste, then falling under the jurisdiction of the caste panchayat is not a voluntaristic matter.) The failure is really a failure of definitions. It is the failure to see these two criteria (the voluntary/non voluntary criterion and the methods employed criterion) as the defining criteria by which caste associations and caste panchayats are to be contrastively defined and identified. It is this that is responsible for the stipulative defining of caste associations as carrying out the newly emerging functions of modernity that leads to the glib thought that new functions can only be carried out by newer forms of association and that, in turn, is responsible for the elimination of the caste panchayat as an active and fully functioning body in the modern field of politics. The theoretical confusion I am criticizing must be carefully understood. I am not saying that the theorists do not see caste associations as voluntaristic associations. They do. What I am saying is that they do not see that as what defines them (by contrast with what defines caste panchayats), they rather define them entirely in terms of the functions (the functions emerging in modernity) that they carry out. As a

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result, they proceed to confusedly stipulate that only these caste associations can carry out these functions.5 My methodological insistence is that functions should be left out of the definitions of these respective caste organizations. The defining criteria rather should be spelt out in terms of the voluntary nature of one of these organizations (caste associations) by contrast with the other (caste panchayats) and, relatedly, the methods employed by one of these organizations (caste panchayats)6 and not the other (caste associations). 5 Thus for instance it was often said in the scholarship (the Rudolphs explicitly say it) that the most significant aspect of the caste association was its ‘capacity to organize the politically illiterate mass electorate’. This organizing they argued was a modern function. A caste group mobilizing itself to seek a higher caste status (sanskritization), for instance, was considered one such modern function. Now, seeking sanskritization from the colonial State was a marker of a ‘new caste association’ for the Rudolphs. The underlying assumption being that only when a caste group seeks an official imprint from the modern British state does it get properly called a ‘caste association’. However, I have substantiated, that caste panchayats had been seeking sanskritization from the pre-British states through the royal or the religious court for a long time before British rule and continued to do it even during the British reign. In fact, the martial races too, when they came to power had to in some cases seek and struggle for achieving higher ritual status. So the structures of organizing politically illiterate masses, the structures of mobilizing for higher caste status, the structures for seeking one or other form of political or economic advantage from the state, were all present in the earlier period of pre-modern states. What this shows is that there is a virtual tautology in what the Rudolphs are inserting here to what I have shown. A new and modern form of association, distinct from traditional caste panchayats, is theoretically demanded as a category only when the state being appealed to is a state of avowed modernity (colonial). The theoretical structures are uniform in the pre and postcolonial period, the only differentiating term is ‘modern’. It is this idle and redundant use of the modern that I am claiming is a tautological theoretical insertion. It plays no explanatory role. 6 Let me illustrate this point here. O’ Malley (the Bengal Gazetteer) for the 1911 British Census of India gave three examples of why he thought ‘the caste sabha was modelled on the European associations and conferences’. First was the Goala caste sabha of Bihar, which abolished two practices: the practice of infant marriage as well as the practice of the women going to the market to sell milk. The second example was that of the Doshadhs (described as a ‘degraded cultivating caste’ by Risley in 1891) who served as village watchmen. This caste had ruled for excommunicating its members who were caught stealing. The final example was of the Saha caste panchayat, which had collected funds to send some students of its own caste to Japan (Census of India 1911: 392–393). All these bodies were characteristic caste panchayats using primordial methods such as excommunication and loyalty enforcement. Yet, because of the functions they were performing by employing these methods, O’Malley thought that the ‘degrading cultivators’ were finally modelling themselves after the modern civilized Europeans. It was this very caste sabha that was characterized as the caste association in the concerned literature, without recognizing its continuity with the caste panchayats, a continuity which,

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Once one gets the definitions right, one gains the perspicacity to see that who (which organization?) is carrying out the political functions of modernity is an empirical question. As I said, there is abundant evidence that caste panchayats can and do carry out these functions. One should not produce a theory (based on confusion about what the defining criteria are) that deprives one of being clear-eyed about this. c. Caste in the Context of Multi-caste village/dominant caste as the level of analyses)

Associations

(The

The second reason for which the very idea of caste panchayats ceased to have centrality in the scholarship owes to the stress in the sociological literature (M. N. Srinivas and Bernard Cohn are prime examples)

is established by one of the two defining criteria for caste panchayats that I have given –the traditional methods they employ to carry out functions, traditional or modern, The assumptions of O’ Malley were uncritically adopted by the scholarship because of their failure to get this defining criterion right. As a result, the term ‘caste sabha’ came to be often used interchangeably with the new term ‘caste association’. The Rudolphs in particular confuse defining criteria with further non-defining properties of these caste organizations. In fact, most caste bodies retained their legacy of non voluntary methods of loyalty enforcement. You even find the Rudolphs acknowledging this when they note: They have been closely bound together by an organization managed by one of their caste, who was a prominent person in these parts….and their esprit de corps is now surprisingly strong. They are tending gradually to approach the Brahmanical standard of social conduct, discouraging adult marriage, meat-eating, and widow re- marriage…. In 1904 a document came before one of the courts which showed that, in the year previous, the representatives of the caste in 34 villages in this district had bound themselves in writing, under penalty of excommunication to refrain (except with the consent of all parties) from the practices formerly in existence of marrying two wives, and of allowing a woman to marry again during the lifetime of her first husband (Thurston quoted in Rudoplh and Rudolph 1960: 345) These are clearly methods used by caste panchayats and these bodies are entirely continuous with those panchayats, but the Rudolphs fail to see it and add the following to the above: When these new caste associations turned to politics at the turn of century, their main target was the census office, for its listing of caste and caste descriptions became more “real” than reality itself, carrying as it did the authority of official imprint. (Rupolph and Rudolph 1960: 345) This is the confusion of method and function that I am suggesting gets the identification of the bodies wrong. It is a confusion of what defines and identifies the body with a further descriptive property of it that is not definitional.

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on the dominant multi-caste panchayat a stress that had the effect, as I have mentioned earlier, of suppressing the importance of the single-jati panchayat, which in the length and breadth of this book I have referred to as the ‘caste panchayat’. The general trajectory of this scholarly development began initially with the quite general focus on the Indian village as a unit to be sociologically studied in India, whose population for millennia had lived and gained their living in an agrarian economy. A great deal of scholarship in the modern period, moreover, studied the village through its documented written records and the focus on the village as the unit of caste administration was a thesis recovered from the textual sources. As a result, quite generally, focusing studies on the village led inevitably, when the subject turned to governance or administrative councils, to a focus on the village panchayat, whose dominion was over congeries of castes. It is this that led to the nomenclature of ‘multi-caste’ panchayats. This villagelevel (i.e. multi-caste) panchayat received much more scholarly focus than the caste panchayat because the archival textual record is much more fulsome for village panchayats than on caste panchayats. And one of Srinivas’s particular contribution to the study of caste was to introduce the idea—an inevitable and natural idea, given the hierarchical nature of caste—that at this level of multi-caste panchayats, specific significance in authority and decision-making fell on what he labelled the ‘dominant’ caste. The idea of dominant castes became something of an orthodoxy. The authors who were writing about these were probably seemed to have been primarily interested in the relationship of dominant castes to ritual-juridical authority, as is evident in the survey of caste panchayats done by Cohn in 1965. Most villages, especially in the regions where the jajmani or similar systems prevailed, were multi-caste villages with the jajman caste being the dominant caste and its elite being at the helm of the village-level panchayats. This multi-caste village panchayat, which was an inter-caste panchayat came to be studied in finer detail in sociology. Most case studies of caste panchayats reported by Srinivas were in the inter-caste context with a dominant caste head, respectively called ‘patil’, ‘chowdhury’, ‘gauda nadu’… in different regions of the country (for a good collection see Srinivas 2009). A curiosity to be noted is that caste panchayats were sidelined in the literature both due to the rise of multi-caste panchayats, as I have just expounded, but also with its decline. With the changes brought about by

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modern political developments that stressed egalitarian ideas, caste hierarchy came to be slowly questioned for the first time. Eventually, this had the effect of causing a decline in the entire nexus of multi-caste/dominant caste in the administration of castes in Indian village life. But since the dominant caste idea was so pervasive, since it alone was what primarily recognized as having panchayati authority, its decline gave the impression to subsequent scholarship that the very role of caste panchayats had been eclipsed. Thus caste panchayats suffered neglect while there was the prevalence of multi-caste panchayats and, instead of registering revival, suffered an almost total eclipse when the multi-caste village panchayats declined. Srinivas in 1959 observed that ‘only untouchables now have a system of intra-caste dispute settlement’ (Srinivas 1959). This is particularly surprising since there is ample anthropological evidence to the contrary. He and Cohn, both anthropologists of great standing, must surely have been aware of this. Their bias in this respect is a reflection of the long shadow cast by modernization theory on a wide range of the social sciences. This anthropological bias did not go completely unchallenged. One of the earliest scholars to challenge this conception was David Washbrook (Washbrook 1971), who noted that much of the analysis of these caste associations was ‘unconnected with the social realities’ insisting that most of them were exercises by ‘self interested elites within castes to build on their political influence’ (Washbrooke 1971 quoted in Dushkin 1980). Later works, however, even while acknowledging the critique made by Washbrooke criticized his assessment of caste associations as ‘too hasty’ while at the same time making sweeping remarks about the ‘disintegration of traditional caste organisations’ such as caste panchayats, indeed even declaring them sometimes to have become ‘obsolete’ (Arnold et al. 1976: 368, 378). To sum up the points I have made in (b) and (c), the theoretical insistence on both ‘caste associations’ and on ‘multi-caste/dominant caste’ led to three tendencies in the scholarship: First, caste panchayats were declared to be on the verge of extinction, being replaced by other categories within which caste administration was frameworked (a conclusion drawn despite empirical evidence to the contrary) since the 1970s. This mythology has continued in the present times, only unsettled relatively recently by the chilling reports of honour killings in the media, which then after the 1990s also forced attention on the prevalence

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of social boycott. Second, when caste panchayats were acknowledged as existing, they were understood as vestiges of the past, which had functioned only as dispute settlement bodies. And third, even when caste panchayats were seen as more than dispute settlers, they were studied primarily as a sociological institution, only as enforcers of patriarchal cultural codes and they, thus, remained outside the orbit of the study of politics (Chowdhry [2004] 2011). Though obviously, I have no wish to deny this important sociological dimension of the function of caste panchayats, I have insisted with some evidence in the foregoing that it by no means exhausts their full functional role.

In the next section, I want to turn to the more contemporary period, in which the political (and, therefore, in its trail the academic and scholarly understanding) underwent a change with the increasing assertion of lower castes in politics. With the Mandal commission and its tremendously transforming political effects from the 1980s, attention turned back on the political activity of caste as jati. I will consider the effects of this, in turn, on the place of and the study of caste panchayats. No one who studies Indian politics can fail to notice that the nation’s polity has gone through two distinct periods since independence, the first from 1947 to the 1980s and the second from the 1980s onwards. This distinction in the periodization is of the highest importance in the understanding of caste. Though it is obvious that the increasing tendency to question the hierarchies of castes ever since Indian independence— through its constitutional rhetoric and incipient provisions that sought social equalization—must have a great effect on the nature of castes in India, one has to be careful to describe exactly what did and did not get effected. That is, one must take care to record what forms of domination got (to some extent)7 undermined and what forms of domination were retained and quite possibly reinforced. If one takes a long view that covers the post-independence period all the way down to the present day, then the intervening insertion of the Mandal Commission’s consequences in the political scene in India requires one to notice that even such undermining as did take place in the vertical domination of some castes by 7 By to some extent, I mean that it became impossible to maintain the dominance as ordained by the caste hierarchies as occupational rigidities could not be maintained anymore. In professional public life due to the force of the constitutional guarantees, law, education as well as the demands of the changing economy hierarchical aspects of caste did get dissolved.

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more dominant castes in the immediate decades after independence, could have no effect on the internal domination (whose agents are the male and geriatric governors of intra-caste panchayats ) within a jati, and in fact, if anything, the subsequent Mandalization of politics reinforces the latter, even as the former is to some extent undermined. That is the subject that I will traverse at some length in the next section.

3 Present Day Caste Panchayats from Haryana and Maharashtra Before I turn to a detailed presentation of contemporary caste panchayats (that is, caste panchayats in post-Mandal politics in India), I should, in a few preliminary remarks made out of fairness, point to the fact that a scholarly recognition began to emerge in this period of 1980s onwards, that there were serious empirical failings in the predominant scholarship of the previous decades., i.e. the scholarship which had been written under the shadow of modernization theory, and which had made claims regarding the eclipse of caste panchayats with the rise of the modern form of caste association carrying out up-to-the-minute political functions. This new scholarship noticed first of all that the allegedly ‘modern’ caste associations were not—not even in outward appearance—all that modern, that they in fact had features that coincided with the traditional caste panchayats. Thus, for instance, Lelah Pushkin (Pushkin 1980) in her study of caste associations in Bangalore drew attention to the fact that in these so-called modern caste ‘associations’ the membership was overwhelmingly comprised of men (93%). This is not very different from traditional caste associations, caste ‘panchayats’. She cites also that the leadership positions in these ‘modern’ caste ‘associations’ remained with men in the 99.9% of the organizations she studied. Again, echoing tradition. The point is not just restricted to the complexion of caste association membership and leadership. In fact, in an article written in 2012, the Rudolphs accepted that the assessments they had made of the democratizing potential of caste associations seem to have been too optimistic because the goals of caste politics have shifted from group welfare and social betterment to the ‘self-serving politics of benefits and patronage’ (Rudolph and Rudolph 2012). They also admit to the culture of violence and criminality that has come to characterize the politics of caste associations (Rudolph and Rudolph 2012: 274).

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Other scholarly writing gave evidence of the fact that the decline in village multi-caste panchayats and the consequent decrease in vertical relations and exercise of power by dominant castes in village in the decades immediately after independence, did not even in that period, eclipse the intra-jati caste panchayat. Interestingly, this activism of the latter caste panchayats often took the form of resistance to the dominant caste’s authority. Thus, (Mendelsohn 1993) in a 30-year long study (1924 to 1954) of caste panchayats in Behror village of Alwar district in Rajasthan, observed that the dominance of inter-caste/dominant caste panchayats of the Rajputs was challenged by collective intra-caste resolutions of the untouchable caste Raegars. The Raegars had resolved not to bow to the diktats of the Rajputs, and Mendelsohn concludes, therefore that some intra-caste panchayats may, for all their traditionalist methods, have a role in resisting caste-based oppression. In making these various points, it is not even as if I am insisting that caste panchayat and non-panchayat caste associations are identical. I am really only insisting that the distinction between them should not be made in terms such that one of them is seen as a cultural regulative body and the other a legitimate political actor. I will not deny that there are indeed differences in the processes that operate through these two different kinds of organizations. Caste panchayats are likely to be more arbitrary, conservative, and steeped in ritualistic commensality, but that has not stopped them from being political actors with considerable influence, especially in the rural areas. What is important to challenge is the viewing of the caste panchayat as limited to functions that are regulative or sanctimonious and associating the terminology of caste association to functions that are mobilizational/political (I use this distinction of regulative/sanctimonious and mobilizational/political from Deshpande 2019: 3). This, apart from obscuring the overlap of functions that occurs in both caste panchayats and modern caste associations, blinds one to the important macro developments on which caste politics and the logic of enforced loyalty rests. The point cannot be stressed enough because, despite these developments of greater empirical accuracy in the newer scholarship that I have cited (Pushkin and Mendelsohn), caste associations still continue to be studied by many scholars as associations which are ‘unlike the caste panchaytas’ (Deshpande 2019: 3), ‘wherever they exist’ (Sheth 1999: 2505).

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All these preliminary remarks I am making are restricted to making clear that ‘caste associations’ in the decades immediately after independence, did not (and I quote here my own emphasis) ‘even in that period, eclipse the intra-jati caste panchayat’. In the period of the subsequent decades, that is post-1980, post-Mandal period, it is not enough to simply say that they were not eclipsed. They actually became stronger than ever, more political than even in those previous decades, and with motivations that are without precedent in modern Indian history. I will explore exactly how this is so by briefly studying caste panchayats in two different regions of the country—Haryana and Maharashtra. a. The Khaps of Haryana: Their Claims to a Historical and Social Role in Jat Identity Formation As my heading for this section makes clear, I will be looking at two sets of claims (historical and social) that underlie caste panchayats in Haryana. The word ‘claims’ here is vital. I will be arguing that there is a false construction in play here and understanding caste panchayats in this region requires one to apprehend with some clarity how these constructions were shaped in the historical and social spheres. First, historical. The most prevalent and visible caste panchayats in Haryana are known as Khap panchayats. They are the panchayats of the Jats (NB: ‘Jat’ is a proper name for a caste in the caste hierarchy in this region, it is not to be confused with ‘jaati’, it is the proper name of a particular jati), a middle-level caste, the most populous caste in Haryana and the most powerful in terms of land ownership and one of the most powerful in terms of political clout. Haryana is no exception to a general fact about all of North India (specifically the regions of modern-day Haryana, Western UP, and Delhi) that there is not much available in terms of a detailed historical account or important references to early caste panchayats in the entire region, neither intra-caste nor multi-caste village-level panchayats. As discussed in the last chapter, local level caste panchayats in this region did not enjoy much power under the authority of the Mughal state. The major role of the caste panchayat leaders was to assist the state officials (Amil, Faujdar, Amin, Chaudhary, and Quanungo), whenever these officials happened to visit the village for land measurement or for other administrative purposes.

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So, as with the entire expanse of north India, these organizations in Haryana do not have a deep history. Given that certain regions of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh today are dominated by Khap panchayats, a domination that has popular sanction, and a domination that is displayed in some of the most horrifying punishments of vigilante justice, it is important to at least briefly take in the socio-historical background from which these organizations came to the foreground. The main element in that background that needs to be understood is the social history of the entire Jat community in Haryana, a history that includes the origin of its customs, occupational mobility, and sociopolitical ambitions. The importance of this history for an understanding of Khap panchayats is not because they find their sanction in Jat customs; rather it is precisely because—contrary to the dominant understanding— they do not. Establishing this is crucial in identifying the reasons for the social backing that Khaps receive by most of the rural population today in a state that fares above average in the national-level literacy charts. There seem to be two factors that lead to this social backing. First is the propagation by khap panchayats themselves of a narrative of their long standing in the jat community. This mythical narrative, through such assiduous propagation, seems to have found root in the jat community of the region—of the khap panchayat being an age-old institution of the community maintaining its stability and order. Though some professional historians have contradicted this narrative with evidence, for anyone who understands how local vernacular histories operate in the mundane, it is obvious that these excellent historical investigations have not caused much of a dent in the popular subscription to this narrative. Second, the social backing for these caste panchayats is also rooted in a mythical construction of the role of the khap panchayat in collective action of the jat community in the past, projecting falsely back in history a role they have only played in the recent history of collective action among the Jats, a collective action that has been key in transforming them from a group of poor peasants into a caste of landowning and rich farmers. Let me explain both these points below. Such historical mythification around the khap panchayat begins with a document called the ‘Pothi of Kanha Ram’, now in the possession of the village head or chowdhury of village Shoram of Muzzafarnagar district in Western Uttar Pradesh. This 16 pages long handwritten booklet (pothi) is replete with historical and linguistic inconsistencies. I will mention one example of each. The manuscript makes claims about role played by the

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khaps in resisting the advance of the Mughals by sending troops to aid the Maratha fight against the Mughals. There is no other reliable historical record either from the Mughals or the Marathas that substantiates this. Moreover, the document which claims to have been written in 1252 CE is in Khadiboli—a dialect of Hindi, which developed only much later in the north Indian region. Clearly, this is a piece of self-congratulatory ‘History’, which the Khaps have written of themselves. What one needs to understand is how this self-congratulatory mythical claim to the khap’s historical activism finds credence in Jat mentality only because the Jat, as a caste community in this region, have been anxiously keen to seek a very specific form of historical ground for a very specific path of upward mobility or sanskritization in how they are perceived. In general, castes lower in the hierarchical system, given their current status and deprivations, indulge in mythmaking about the past to fetch for themselves a more respectable perception. Before the dawn of education as a marker of achieving being perceived to have higher status, a martial past was a typical way to scale up the perception of one’s status. The invocation of an invented martial history for the caste, therefore, is seen as a path to approximating Kshatriya status. This was done through oral history or unsophisticated narratives of written history. Ironically, the internalization of these narratives is so strong in the public memory that many castes in India, even as they demand reservations for social backwardness today, mobilize based on this very martial caste pride8 . The Khap panchayats, pursue their self-aggrandizing agenda of getting popular sanction in the jaat community by feeding this anxious aspiration to upward mobility among its caste members by claiming—as in the documents I just cited—to have led the Jat martial resistance in the past. Mythical martial pasts apart, Jats as a matter of historical fact have had a history of non-military caste-based collective actions in the domain of agrarian political economy. The Jat movement (1668–1735 CE) was a long struggle of Jat farmers and zamindars that shook the Mughal state to its core. The Jat revolt was chiefly centred on the areas of Agra, Mathura, Bharatpur, Delhi, Hodal, Palwal, and Mewat. The Jat Revolts got their impetus from the collective strength of the cultivators and zamindars. 8 Marathas are an example in case. Let me also state here that the Mahars (a caste considered untouchable in Maharashtra) too, invoked a martial past- a cultural memory still available to mobilization today. Ambedkar, however, gave a more definitive modernist turn to the Mahar struggle and identity.

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Among the chief rebel leaders who provided direction and a sense of unity were Gokula, Rajaram, Bhojraj, and Churaman. Many historians trace the beginning of consolidation of a strong Jat social identity to these agrarian revolts of the seventeenth century. (Here, I should add that there seems to be a disciplinary differential here, a dispute between the historians just mentioned and sociologists, who account for the consolidation of Jaat caste identity along different lines that do not owe to such collective action on the political economy front, lines that stress rather on the excessive constriction of autonomy in religious matters as another important reason.9 I will return to this below.) Two centuries later, the solidarity between cultivators and zamindars shown in these early Jat movements against the Mughal state seems to have diminished. Written records of Jat caste chieftains of the zamindar class asserting their control over Jat peasants, retrieving their hereditary right over the land, surfaces in the nineteenth century. This system—of the Jats awarding orders and punishments to their own caste men—is well recorded in the Rajasthani records (Bharadwaj 2012). It is in this period that we find the first historical records of the Khaps, not in the earlier period when the Jat community (zamindar and tiller together) successfully carried out-caste-based collective action for what may be called ‘material’ goals. The role of the Khap panchayats in the earlier struggles is entirely a mythical construction to reinforce support among the Jaat community. Second, social. The social consolidation of Jat identity took place over a long history (and it is a consolidation that went on to be significant later on in postcolonial politics) and here again we find that there is no real evidence of khap panchayats having a role to play in this long drawn out process of social consolidation of Jat identity, though there have been concerted efforts on their part to lay claims to having done so, especially by laying claim to having done so by invigilating the enforcement of religiously

9 It might be worthwhile to note here that there is a disagreement between historians and sociologists in the matter of the date of origins of the Khaps. At the centre of disagreement is the work by sociologist M. C. Pradhan (1966) who relied on Kanshi Ram’s pothi as a historical document. Sociologists such as Sangwan (2008) who continue to build on his work cite royal decrees [at least two, issued by the Mughal Emperor Akbar (dated 8th Ramzan, 987 A.H. and 11th Ramzan, 989 A.H.)] as quoted in Pradhan, whose historical accuracy is contested (Bharadwaj 2012). I rely here, on the works of the historians rather than these sociological accounts.

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sanctioned protocols surrounding intermarriage that sagotra10 marriages would transgress. The fact is that the history of sagotra marriages against which the khap panchayats declare themselves to be so stringent and adamant, have had no traditional basis among the Jats. Records suggest that the Jat men were allowed by their customs to take their wife from any caste or even marry a widow. This also led to their being considered as a less pure caste in the Hindu order compared (even) to the Meo community in Muslims. Another Hindu custom that the Jats did not abide by was the restriction on marriage of a younger son to his elder brother’s widow. This practice is also banned in Hindu laws. Such exceptional outlier practices of the Jats, outlying, that is, the strict moral codes of the Hindu caste order was not just limited to their group, but also extended in the entire region, where the caste system has a much more flexible character than in other parts of the country. Historians have written of how, even more than caste, it was the influence of the early contact of the region with monotheistic bhakti traditions especially the Nathpanthis and later with the Arya Samaj, that made for this flexibility among historians (Rana 2006). Jats fell within this social ethos of flexibility on these further grounds as well. Since, the eighteenth century, Jats had been followers of the monotheistic ideology of Baba Haridas in rural areas of Delhi and Bahadurgarh (Haryana). Similarly, Nischchal Das and Garibdas have been the religion-cultural preceptors of the Jats in the villages of Jhajjar district of Haryana. These saints were the followers and preceptors of monotheistic ideology that challenged the Brahmanical ideology and dominance of the caste system. What then explains the obsession over sagotra marriages among a small fragment of Jats that the Khap can invoke to spread their mythical claims to having exercised governance of enforcement against them? The origin of the word gotra is traced to the word ‘go’ meaning cow in Sanskrit. As per the early Mughal records, the area around present day Haryana had two kinds of communities. In the areas where water was available, there were large numbers of cattle herders and in areas where water was scarce

10 The word gotra means a clan, which is understood as a direct patrilineal group lineage from a common male ancestor and must be thus treated as an exogamous group to avoid incestuous marriages. Sagotra means within one’s gotra and a sagotra union is therefore outlawed by customs. Khaps have earned notoriety over the adoption of violent methods of enforcing the gotra-dictated rules of marriage.

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people resided under their bullock carts and moved from place to place in search of water. Among the cow herders, highly differentiated practices of cow rearing are recorded to have evolved. Different families specialized in unique types of cattle and methods of rearing them. This grouping based on the ownership of cows and belonging to the same kharak (cow shed) is speculated to have been the origin of the gotra and not some common ancestor. Belonging to the same kharak was like belonging to the same family and thus intermarriage was not allowed (Sams 2008 cited in Bharadwaj 2012: 55). Over time, these gotras became much more differentiated. It was only after the canal system was dug under the Mughal rulers that Jats took to agriculture on a large scale, giving up cattle herding for agriculture. This led to the development of large settlements of Jats in the area. Irfan Habib traces the consolidation of the Jats as an agricultural community as late as the thirteenth century (Habib 1976). The origin of gotra is thus not biological or based in caste tradition but occupational. As they came to occupy land over large settlements, entire villages would consist only of Jats. As peasant proprietors working on their own land, Jats are recorded as a caste which ‘sits very tightly on their land’ and resists ‘de facto alienation’ to non-agricultural castes. This initially meant not letting the merchant castes appropriate their land, though increasingly it has also come to mean that they vehemently resist land ownership or land grants to the erstwhile untouchables, the Chamars in their region. Here, then, is the point of real significance. This meant that they needed to establish themselves as the dominant group against all others. And it is because of this need for establishing themselves as a dominant social group that the narrative of a Hindu awakening and the strict falling in line with the Hindu caste codes becomes a necessity for the Jats of Haryana. It is only this that may properly be called ‘the social consolidation’ of the Jats as a caste and the fact is that it did not happen till the early nineteenth century. The point here is crucial and worth explaining further. How was this dominance to be achieved? A natural path to dominance was to lay claim to approximating the status of the cohort of the martial Kshatriya castes of the Rajputs, Ahirs, Sainis, and Gujars; and, it is in order to do this that they saw the need to self-inflict more rigid standards of Hindu morality appropriate to these castes. The focus of intra-caste discipline, as a result, shifts from inter-gotra to inter-caste, in other words, shifts from occupational issues to religious ones that define caste social identity. This is the explanation that illuminates the formation of Jat social identity. It

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is an explanation that completely bypasses any role that Khap panchayats have claimed in forging the social consolidation of Jat identity. It had no role of this kind because while the issues were social and economic issues around land, there was no relevance for this role, which only came into prominence as late as the nineteenth century. Three other points are worth adding here towards the same conclusion. First, women’s organizations have been pointing out that for all their ‘gotra as the Jat tradition’ rhetoric, these Khaps have persecuted more couples who underwent an inter-caste marriage rather than those who had a sagotra marriage. So their claims to being the upholders of the gotra tradition are belied by their own actions. And second, the flexibility, which I mentioned earlier, that Jat men enjoyed in the long past, has undergone reform only in the nineteenth century, when Jat men can no longer marry widowed women or women outside their caste, a further proof of the very late efficacies that may be attributed to khaps. A third very general indication that khap panchayats are a later invention and not something always integral to the Jat community and its identity formation is proven by the fact that khaps are not a caste-wide phenomenon among all the Jats of Haryana or Western UP. Moreover, in the oldest settlements of Jats, where they have been settled since the Mughal period—such as Sirsa in Haryana and Bikaner, Churu, Sikar, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Merta, Ganganagar, and Hanumangarh districts of Rajasthan—Khaps are absent. So far I have argued for a quite different and far more plausible account of how the Jats got social consolidated as a group than the claimed role played by Khap panchayats. That this is a more plausible account than one that attributes any major role to Khaps is reinforced by something that may be found in the empirical studies of scholars (see Madsen 1991 in particular), which establish that even after such social consolidation of the Jats as a community that I have just presented above, khap panchayats authority in Jat governance was very weak. It never really gained any strong authority till a later period of post-independent politics when Jats got consolidated politically as a caste. I will turn to discussing that in a moment, but let me first stress the lessons of Madsen’s work. Despite emerging as a socially consolidated force, the Jats were divided by internal rivalries between clans that fell within the Jat caste group. Some of these clans were very powerful and Khap panchayats were powerless to impose their authority on them, as Madsen shows in the cases when the stronger clans wielded a kind of power that could and did frequently repudiate

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decisions made by khaps in dispute resolutions. This can be seen in particular in dispute resolutions in the domain of marriage protocols. While Jats had not gained a consolidated political identity by overcoming internal divisions among intra-Jat clans, khaps were internally hampered in their authority (an authority that they later came to have after Jat identity got consolidated). Madsen based on his extensive fieldwork gives examples of this. Taking an example of a major dispute that arose in the case of a marriage in the Goela village, he shows how even in 1981 the Khaps found themselves limited in their ability to resolve disputes because among rival clans, some clans were far more powerful than others, powerful enough to resist khap decisions in dispute resolution. Madsen cites clear compromises in cases where prominent families did not abide by the diktats of the caste panchayats. Thus, the panchayats had to be flexible or even ignore cases of breach of some clan customs. All this changed only much later. So, the sequence of consolidation went something like this. First there was a social consolidation of the Jats that I have discussed above, a process in which, as I have argued, Khap panchayats did not play the role they claim to have played. It was a process rather in which, as we said earlier, winning the competition over other groups in the matter of land ownership was the main driving force. This social consolidation, I have pointed out, led to the Jat community viewing itself as a group to be increasingly more defined by the caste-based social norms that would maintain their consolidation as a group. This, as yet, did not amount to any political consolidation of the Jats, which though they were unified socially under such caste-based norms, were still ridden with the rivalries between clans that made them ineffective as a unified force in politics. These rivalrous differentiations only got eliminated by a political consolidation that came later in developments I will now turn to. It is only after these rivalries between clans were relegated to the background through the Jats gaining status as a unified political force that Khap panchayats worked in unison for the first for the whole jat community and became quite effective. After this, the questioning of Khap decisions in disputes was unthinkable (Madsen 1991: 355–357). So my point here is this: a proof that the panchayats’ claim to have been a force in forging and consolidating Jat social or political identity is false lies in the fact—as just shown above by citing Madsen’s work and examples—that they only really came to have the strong authority they did and be the force that they are after (and as a result of) Jats gaining such a sequential consolidation of social and political identity (to which

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I will turn below) as a unified caste community. Prior to this, they were too weak even to impose their authority in such social matters as implementing decisions on disputes regarding marriage. If it is this identity that made possible for the internal governance by Khaps to gain the strong authority it went on to achieve, that is a sort of proof that they lacked the authority in the earlier period that might have allowed them to play a role in forging Jat (social) identity. This fact reinforces my claim that the alternative explanation I have offered of the social consolidation of caste is far more plausible. To sum up, all this I have said by way of spelling out that in the past Khap panchayats were marginal in the Jat community, despite their claims to having played a historical and social role of great significance. What, then, of the present? Jat identity, established along historical and social lines as I’ve just briefly expounded (and in which I have said khaps played no significant role) came to exert itself with much influence in the political sphere in postcolonial politics. It is only after the effectiveness of these exertions that khap panchayats began to exercise a distinctive control and influence. What the discussion of the next few pages will seek to show is that in this post-independence period, where khap panchayats do begin to have a serious activist agency, the context for this agency is primarily political, i.e. the politics of a newly independent nation. Thus even though the governance exercised by these organizations deals with issues of social custom, it is impossible in this new context to consider the social here in any autonomous sense. The issues are not just about purity and hierarchy in a purely religious and social sense, they are integrally interconnected with the material issues that emerge in postcolonial politics and political economy. In post-independence politics, much of this was around the efforts to achieve material goals for one’s caste and it came to have its most propulsive momentum only from the 1980s on. The process, however, had begun by the year 1960, with the politics of Chaudhary Charan Singh, who appealed directly to the identity of the Jats of Western UP and gave it a concrete political shape. The land was central to the politics of this peasant caste and Charan Singh championed their cause through land reforms. The region had, in the past too, benefited from a series of land reforms with the UP Tenancy Act of 1938, generating the conditions for the emergence of middle-class peasantry from the lower castes. The regions of Haryana and UP, which were well endowed with the Mughal canal system, also benefited from the green revolution

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leading to surplus production (Hasan 1989). The 1970s saw an emergence of peasant movements across India—in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and North India—resisting the lop-sided commercialization that came with urban-centred developmental policies (Lindberg 1994). Nevertheless, due to the food procurement policies introduced by Charan Singh in 1967, the well-off, middle-class peasants from backward castes in Western UP and Haryana maintained their surplus production. Charan Singh’s focus on administering prices and non-taxation of surplus production further targeted these sections. Targeting Nehru’s and Mahalnobis’s Soviet-inspired industrialization policies, he successfully mobilized an anti-Congress sentiment in these peasant castes. In 1987, when Charan Singh died, the political participation of middle peasants in the Lok Dal politics was already quite high. The election of the Lok Dal leader Chaudhary Devi Lal and the revival of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) were two very important events that brought the Khaps into the centre of state politics (Jeffrey 2002). During this phase, based upon their own gotras, numerous Khaps became powerful and active. These Khaps produced a number of local political leaders. In the politics of Haryana, these Khaps came to wield real power after the period of the national emergency. After the death of Chaudhary Charan Singh, there was much fragmentation in the Lok Dal parties who entered a contest for the support of the Khaps. We have here an advent of a new chapter in the politics of rural Haryana, which further capitalized on these khap panchayats. Elections for Khaps soon gave way to heredity leadership, but it seems that the early khap panchayats did lay stress on curbing social evils, such as dowry (a reason why khaps still find support in the villages even among women). The Bharatiya Kisan Union, which was a politically non-affiliated union of farmers, was found as a successor of the Sarva Khap Panchayats of 1950, 1956, and 1963. Though formed in 1978, it came to prominence under the fiery peasant leader Mahender Singh Tikait. Tikait led several important struggles against the state backed by the Jat khap panchayats. He had taken the mantle of the BKU from the Chowdhry of the Baliyan Khap Panchayat—the largest of all the Khap Panchayats—and managed to retain his position as a leader who represented the Khaps. His method of political mobilization is a testament to this. Tikait managed to deliver the biggest peasant mobilizations of post-independence India by giving a call to the Khap panchayats to assemble at the venue of protest. The Boat club

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rally protest in Delhi where the farmers humiliated the central government by camping for several days at the venue was one such assembly of the Khap Panchayats to demand fair prices for agricultural produce. This was an example of using an institution based on primordial identity being revamped into a political tool. Moreover, the BKU in its antagonism to the urban-centred modernist state, shared the world-view of the Khap universe of rootedness in land and agrarian society. The agitations by the BKU had come as a surprise to many who thought the peasants as incapable of organized political action. Its expression can be seen in the following statement by Askari Zaidi. For the first time an agitation of this scale has been organised by panchayat choudharies and inspired and guided by panchayat and organizational tactics without the support of the seasoned politicians. (Zaidi 1988)

The rise of the Khap panchayat-backed BKU and its power to consolidate mass support in the pre-dominantly agrarian state of Haryana entrenched the connection between these panchayats and local politics. This positive and secular use of caste level panchayats had been made across other states by castes in India such as the Nadar (toddy tappers by caste-occupation) caste in Tamil Nadu and the Kshatriyas in Gujarat in the pre-independence period. What made the Jats different was that though there was a Jat rebellion in the pre-independence period the political institutionalization of these panchayats was a later process and it thus emerged as an important force against the state in post-independent India. Even today, members of BKU (still a formidable force in state politics) attend khap panchayat meetings and uphold many of the khap demands including the demand to amend the Hindu Marriage Act 1956, which gives the right to equal share of property to women. The political influence of the BKU and the khaps make khap panchayats both supreme and indispensable for all political parties (Tribune India, September 10, 2019). All this obviously does not absolve the khaps from the social conservatism and hyper-masculine culture that they have produced and are fighting to retain, but it gives us a background for their persistence, that is a background for why they persist and why the khap panchayats have the standing that enables them to carry out these more socially conservative exercises. In fact, the two are linked by more than a mere enabling relation. The importance of Jats in the politics of Haryana has greatly

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affected the political culture of the state. The code of honour of the pater and brotherhood (bhaichara), which is central to this caste, gets externalized onto the political sphere. Its sustenance requires observance and maintenance of extensive control over marriage unions to establish supremacy of this code in the private sphere. Yet these private social practices would get writ large in the public and political sphere only because in the case of Jats, the marriage rules, pattern of patrilineal land ownership, and village organization, are deeply interconnected. Hence, the extensive control cannot be explained away as only deriving from an obsession over purity. Socio-religious considerations of purity are interconnected with material considerations such as, for instance, land ownership. There are two points that may help to bring out this interconnection. Firstly, the Jats who migrated to Sind, Punjab, and Haryana converted from Buddhism to the respective religions of the region, namely Islam, Sikhism, and Hinduism. The codes of caste were thus not observed so strictly. In the case of Jats, as the anthropologist Madsen argues, caste operated not at the level of varna or jati but at the level of clan, and clan, though it is socially defined in terms of ancestral descent, is materially defined by its ties to an area of land over which it has collective ownership (Madsen 1991). Another anthropologist, Gloria Goodwin Raheja, argues that in the case of Jats, both inter-caste and intra-caste relations do not work exclusively on the principle of hierarchy but in certain situations also on mutuality (Raheja 1988). There are two examples of this operation of mutuality in Jats and both are today at the centre of controversy. The first one is the bhaichara or village brotherhood and the second is the gotra or clan brotherhood. Though aimed at mutuality, both these systems work as effective tools to retain the land for the patrilineal clan. Moreover, both requirements lead to other kind of hierarchies especially of clans holding a large number of villages and agricultural land vis-à-vis those holding a small number or a single village. The more prosperous clans are understood to have prospered by maintaining bhaichara, arranging marriage relations in such a way that the agricultural land is not divided outside the single group of the patrilineal clan. The interconnectedness of material and social issues with the traditional caste issues is, thus, plain to see. Second, there is the aspect of gender hierarchy and its relation to clan honour. This requires both an exposition of the strict rules regarding marriage and then expounding their interconnection with the political

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and material. I present the nature of this interconnection by discussing one such rule here, what one may call, ‘the prohibition of reversal rule’. In most honour cultures, a woman’s body is a site of both family and clan honour11 and thus maintaining strict control over her sexuality and the performance of her marriage as dictated by the clan’s accepted norms is central to the maintenance of this ‘honour code’. As marriage is never, in this traditional context, a matter of mere family-level decisions and intra-clan marriages are customarily outlawed, I will speak of this marriage as a clan-level exercise (i.e. imagined as an exchange at the level of clan rather than individuals or families). Now, such a marriage is not just an exercise where two clans ‘exchange a bride’ in marriage12 but it is also a site of material exchange among clans. Most marriages are accompanied by the exchange of dowry13 and among the Jats as land is the major source of material wealth, it includes the exchange of land. Marriage thus leads to the transfer of land from one clan to another as dowry. Given that land ownership is a major marker of status among these exogamous clans, indiscriminate exchange of land through unregulated marriages can potentially upset this status of clan-based land ownership. This is resolved by the rule of prohibition of reversal. This rule makes one clan essentially a wife-giving clan and the other the groom-giving clan, and these are hierarchically related. The wife-giving clan is considered a lower clan and the groom-giving clan as superior. (Such associations are a major reason why the state of Haryana has a declining sex-ratio with a disturbing number of cases of female feticide). The reversal of this rule i.e. if a man from a wife-giving clan marries a 11 Honour here means a notion of mutually accepted and observed norms among groups directing the exchange of respect as well as a marker of collective status and standing of a group. Control over female sexuality thus is a cause of great anxiety amongst groups which observe such honour codes. 12 Marriages as they are pre-dominantly understood take for granted the groom’s family taking the bride into their family, and the bride severing all relations both material and of familial responsibility from her maternal family. The ritual observed in all Hindu marriages to mark this severing of relations is called the ‘Kanyadaan’ (giving away one’s daughter) performed by the bride’s parents, whereby the bride vows to owe her love and loyalty to her husband and his family. 13 Gifts in cash and kind to be given by a bride’s family to the groom. Though often projected as voluntary gift given by the bride’s family to her, the practice is quite mandatory as the daughter’s treatment and standing in her husband’s family is often determined by this dowry. The practice involves the groom’s family making certain demands and the bride’s family complying to it with or without some negotiation.

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woman from the groom-giving clan, is considered an insult to the superior clan (as it challenges their hierarchy) and draws communal penalty. But, if one takes into consideration the reversal of flow of land and property that such a breach also entails, it uncovers a fundamental anxiety over loss of patrilineal land to a clan of a lower status that underlies this rule. The gender hierarchy is thus super-scribed over the clan hierarchy based on land ownership and the status that flows from it. The large landowning and dominant groom-giving clans also have the most powerful Khaps with their jurisdiction often extending to hundreds of villages. These Khaps play an important role in maintaining this culture of the patrilineal honour code by either invoking the absent religious roots of gotra (as shown in the last section) to create compliance or by use of violent brute force to punish the non-compliant. But here again, the enforcements are not just a matter of punishing insults, it is a matter of preserving the relations between exogamy and land ownership. As I began by saying, the prohibition of reversal is just one of the many marriage rules. There are a host of other rules such as the prohibition of repetition, restriction of intra-clan marriages, the four-gotra rule whereby one cannot marry in the gotra of one’s parents and grandparents in order to maintain the purity of one’s gotra, etc. (The discussion about such marriage rules, patrilineal ownership of property, village organization and the role of Khaps, is a very significant one for other themes that will surface in Chapter 5 when we take up the function of caste panchayats in the enforcement of endogamy). For now, I hope this brief discussion of the interconnections between the socially conservative structure (of bhaichara and gender hierarchy) and the material-political dominance of powerful patrilineal clans through the Khaps, brings out the secular motivations that drive and propagate the social conservatism of the Khap panchayats in the political field of modern Haryana. b. Caste Panchayats in Maharashtra Caste panchayats in Maharashtra, when compared to their counterparts in Haryana, are rather isolated i.e. they exert power over fewer areas, are not as politically powerful, and dispersed in all castes along the caste hierarchy. This, in all likelihood, accounts for the shocked disbelief with which the news about caste panchayats and their arbitrary diktats in Maharashtra that began to surface in the regional media since 2011 were received by

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the public. Moreover, though these panchayats have two features that they share with the Khap panchayats in Haryana (viz., they have a political character and they are in most cases oppressive towards women), their character is quite different owing to one salient difference in the two regions. They are not attached to one dominant caste such as they are in Haryana (to the Jats). And the underlying reason for not being so is that the dominant castes of these regions, respectively did (in the case of Haryana) and did not (in the case of Maharashtra) have to rely on caste panchayats to be politically assertive. What were the grounds for this crucial difference? A study of the history of the dominant castes and caste panchayats in this reason uncovers two distinct grounds. Before giving them, some background of caste movements in Maharashtra would be useful. Maharashtra has been one of the regions at the centre of anti-caste social reform since the early nineteenth century. This social reform had a different character in Maharashtra, as opposed to the religious revivalist form that it took, say, in Bengal. Whereas in Bengal, the correction of social evils such as sati or child marriage accompanied by emphasis on de-ritualizing Hinduism through bodies like the Brahmo Samaj 14 was well received, in Maharashtra counterpart bodies such as the Prarthana Samaj,15 even when under prominent leaders such as Ranade, got a reception of only limited approval. Why was this so? In Maharashtra, there were two quite separate strands of anti-caste movements. Movements in the hands of such groups as Prarthana Samaj were, in spirit and in doctrinal commitment, quite different from another more radical strand first initiated by Mahatma Phule and later renewed by Ambedkar and Keshavrao Jedhe. The appeal of this latter strand had the effect of showing up the limits of the former samajas, who, despite all their sincere efforts at social reform, continued to perpetuate the Vedic order ordained by the shastras (religious texts), which meant, in effect, a very limited attack on the caste order. The ideas and commitments of the more radical anti-caste and non-Brahmin movements had seeped into popular sensibility and this 14 Brahmo Samaj was a religious movement started in 1828 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Debendranath Tagore to reform some practices of Hinduism from within it, spearheading the process of social, religious and educational uplift of the Hindus. 15 Prarthana Samaj (Prayer Society) was a theistic and social reform movement that was started in Bombay in the 1850s which had reforming of certain practices within Hinduism such as observance of the caste system, widow remarriage etc. as its early goals.

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had the effect of exposing the limitations of social reform as was on offer in the framework of neo-Hindu religious revivalism of the Brahmo Samaj and the Prarthana Samaj. The radical anti-caste trajectory in Maharashtra may be traced as a slowly growing reaction to the dominance of the Brahmins through a highly ritualized state under the Peshwas that western Maharashtra had experienced in the second half of the eighteenth century (I discuss this rigid ritualization of the Peshwa state extensively in the fifth chapter). It is this very region that became the site of radical anti-caste thinking and activism in the first half of the nineteenth century. Such anti-casteism developed conceptually separable elements—one of which would now be called the ‘Dalit’ element and by the time of Ambedkar this was committed to the ‘annhilation of caste’, and the other of which was a non-Brahmin element which rather than stressing the annihilation of caste, stressed lower-caste assertion of its own culture as against the domination of Brahminical culture. The latter was dominated by the Maratha caste and a Maratha leadership and was supported by the Maratha ruler of Kolhapur, Chattrapati Shahu, appealing primarily to Maratha-Kunbi cluster in its struggle against upper caste domination. The Congress and the anti-imperialist struggle, which was beginning to capture the popular imagination of masses after the entry of Gandhi from the late teens of the century, sought the support of a dominant caste like the Marathas and it was a natural development to include the nonBrahmin element of anti-caste activism within its fold. Contrasting with this, the anti-caste struggle turned into a struggle for the rights of the untouchable castes and mobilized the Mahar community of Maharashtra under Ambedkar, and though, like virtually every group it was galvanized by the sheer momentum of Gandhi’s mobilizations, it always stood intense relations with the mainstream of Congress nationalism. In the anti-caste element, the Mahars of Maharashtra found their channel into politics through the Republican Party which has remained a direct even though unsatisfactory medium of political participation of the Dalits (of whom the Mahars constitute the majority) in Maharashtra. In the non-Brahmin element, the movement led the formation of the Maratha League, though it was earlier caught in a bitter fight with the Brahmin section of Congress in Maharashtra (led by Tilak), joined the Congress in 1930s under Keshavrao Jedhe. The important thing to note is that the Marathas were the dominant castes and it is their relation to caste panchayats which is our concern

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here since we are seeking to present the two reasons I mentioned earlier as to why, unlike as with the dominant caste of the Jats in Haryana, the Marathas, qua dominant caste, did not need to rely in their regional context on caste panchayats for their political assertiveness in the modern period. The first reason is this. Their joining the Congress in the 1930s transformed the character of the Congress in Maharashtra as the numerically dominant Maratha-Kunbi caste cluster soon rose to the leadership, gradually pushing out the upper caste leadership and comprised an electorate that remained very loyal to the Congress throughout the century (Vora 2002; Siriskar 1995). In the post-independence period, the entry of the local Maratha leaders into the state leadership was facilitated by a strong proliferation of the network of sugar co-operatives in the sugar cane-producing regions of Western Maharashtra. The sugar co-operatives became a theatre within which local caste equations and politics around them came to be performed (Baviskar 1969; Palshikar 1994). Even today, the leaders who control the sugar co-operatives yield considerable political power in western Maharashtra. Thus, because of the early entry of the dominant caste of the region into the dominant political party which was leading an omnibus nationalist struggle, and then after the struggle led to independence, because of its links with the mechanisms of local level sugar co-operatives, mandals, and samitis around these co-operatives, the Marathas could avoid the power tussle with the Congress leadership. This was a very different situation from the Jats in Haryana, who had to fight their way into state politics by defeating the Congress. So, the explanation of why caste panchayats did not get attached to a dominant caste in the region is that the dominant caste did not have a self -standing and autonomous prominence, it was subsumed into a political party that omnibusly integrated a wide variety of interests, including indeed Brahmin interests, whereas in Haryana such dominance as the Jats achieved was entirely and only because they had, by avoiding Congress subsumption, indeed by overwhelming the Congress in a power struggle, been able to achieve that self-standing autonomy. And moreover, after independence, because the dominant caste controlled a wide range of economic institutions, the sugar co-operatives being a prominent example, they had access to the resources of the states whose dispensing was filtered through these institutions. For this reason, the dominant caste

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could advance its influence and its economic future without relying on the activism of caste panchayats to do so. The second reason turns on a slightly different historical context. In the 1950s, a movement emerged to overcome the divided status of Bombay as a distributed composition between Maharashtran and Gujarati communities. The aspiration of the movement, called the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, was to bring to political-cum-territorial existence a unified Marathi-speaking region with Bombay as its capital. Though the Congress had not supported the movement for a single Marathi-speaking state, which had brought all major leaders of Maharashtra together in 1956 under the Maratha leader Keshavrao Jedhe, the inclusion of Bombay in what came to be the eventual state of Maharashtra gave an industrial character to the state from its inception. Detailed synergies developed between the economies of the city and the countryside and this had important effects on the mentality of the latter that had few echoes in the rest of the country. Under Jedhe, the dominant Maratha caste was entirely accepting of these effects. The avowedly liberal character of the major independent farmers’ movement that emerged from the state in the 1980s may be attributed to this very early acceptance of the Nehruvian model of development and the industrial employment that Bombay generated for the state. Thus, just to give one example, the Shetkari Sanghatana, which started from Satara in 1980, did not take a caste character despite the presence of a single-cohort peasant caste, which dominates land cultivation in the state (Dhangare 2016). The peasant movements in Maharashtra were focused on quite other issues (for instance, the liberalization of the farm produce markets) that came from the outreach effects to the countryside of the industrial development around Bombay. By contrast, the peasant mobilizations in other parts of the countries (Haryana is a conspicuous case of contrast) which were also dominated by a single caste, partly because they took an antagonistic stance against the Nehruvian model, precisely did take a strong caste character and, as a result, caste panchayats were central to their political effectiveness. All this I have said by way of saying that caste assertiveness in politics in the entire region, whose main agency came from two major singlecaste cohorts (the Marathas and Mahars, the former much more than the latter), having established a network of local and regional level political leadership in a variety of ongoing institutions and mechanisms, did not find the need to further institutionalize caste-based organizations in other forms (such as the caste panchayat). This may explain why we do not have

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a Haryana like pattern of dominant caste network of caste panchayats in Maharashtra (Lele 1981). None of this means that caste-based associations in the form of caste panchayats were absent in Maharashtra, they were just less visible and more assimilated into the rural level organization of the Congress party involved in the general village-level panchayat system that comprised the local electoral political field. Consider this reporting from the seminar held by the government of Maharashtra for the first batch of these elected Panchayat leaders of the state from both the Zilla Parishad and the Panchayat Samiti levels in the year 1962. This was the first set of elected rural leadership after the introduction of the Panchayati Raj system in the state in 1961. Sirsikar who interviewed these leaders noted, “Caste Panchaytas continue to play an important role in socio- political life of the rural community in Maharashtra. Over 10% of the sample (he interviewed) are heads of existing Caste Panchayats while 20.9% are members of Caste Panchaytas.” He further observes, “68.6% did not respond to this question perhaps indicating that they were being more discreet than frank about this. (Sirsikar 1964: 932)

In 2017, when over 400 cases were launched against the caste panchayat leaders it was invariably found that in more than one-third of cases the head of the caste panchayat was also the sarpanch of the panchayat samiti or some other local-level leader. Thus, there were high levels of coinciding interests, leadership, and political activity between the general panchayati politics of the village and the caste panchayats. It may seem puzzling as to why people should vote for the same person for an elected position from whom they otherwise face anti-democratic diktats through the unelected caste panchayat. Addressing this puzzle is a good way to segue into the nature and role of the caste panchayats in the contemporary period. This puzzle would only be removed if one accepts the general fact that there is today a pervasive social acceptability of these caste panchayats. The social presence of these panchayats and what underlies their acceptability is an intriguing line of inquiry and an important part of the explanation. Here, however, I want to focus on the way in which politics reinforces their social presence. Take for example, the Harihareshwar village of the Raigad district of Maharashtra. Here, the elected sarpanch of the official gram panchayat was ostracized by the caste panchayat because

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he contested the elections against the will of the caste panchayat. The caste panchayat had supported another candidate and even though he lost and someone else was elected as sarpanch, this sarpanch was not allowed to function because the social sanction of the panchayat made him an out-caste (Deshpande 2013). The political force of the state by which this elected sarpanch was backed meant nothing when he lacked the social force of support from his caste members or caste panchayat. Such examples of the effective role of caste panchayats are also found in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, where most castes follow the kaul system and where caste members are administered with oaths to vote for a particular political candidate or party (Chandgude 2017). If it is discovered that any member defies this kaul, he is ostracized. In another instance, reported from the Moharli village of the Gadchiroli district in Vidharbha, an elected woman sarpanch was party to all decisions of the caste panchayat including the settlement of a case of sexual molestation of a 5-year-old in which it was resolved that there should be a dinner thrown by the molesters for the caste members (Loksatta 2018). These examples point to the obvious connection that panchayat-level political leadership has with caste panchayats. Caste panchayats because they have a social hold over people can direct or even coerce political preferences. The loyalty that caste panchayats draw from its members also makes them channels through which political parties tap into caste-based support and recruit caste leaders. Another, less obvious, political role that caste panchayats have come to play in Maharashtra in the post-Mandal era is related to the deeper connection that caste qua caste has now developed to the politics of castebased social justice. This development, which is also a source of some of the political coercion that contemporary caste panchayats have come to exhibit today, deserves some elaboration. The Mandal Commission was set up by the Janata Party under the stewardship of B. P. Mandal in the 1980s to address the chronic dissatisfaction among the hitherto unacknowledged castes in the postindependence frameworks of affirmative action. The discontent was not new but the earlier Congress government had not accepted the recommendations of similar commissions in the past, as it was non-committal to making caste the basis of preferential treatment. The Mandal commission proposed a range of benefits for the castes it was mandated to identify as the OBCs (Other Backward Classes). This OBC list was to be a list of castes, which though not treated as untouchables were considered

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lower in the caste hierarchy and performed manual labour. This group of castes comprised a majority of the nation’s population and the extension of state benefits in the form of quotas for them generated a completely new kind of politics. To begin with, the commission’s report resulted in a fragmenting of the jati clusters into single jatis, since each jati among this lower peasant and artisan population now sought to claim the benefits that accrued to them according to the state’s list of classified OBCs targeted for such benefits. The need for numerically less significant jatis to ally with or depend upon clustering with the numerically dominant jatis reduced, as inclusion in quota was to be granted independent of electoral influence of particular jatis. This overturned the stranglehold of patronclient relations between leaders of jati clusters and the Congress Party that were in place since early post-independence years. The de-clustering of jatis into independent single-caste units made caste-based units such as caste panchayats relevant again. Specifically, the articulation of the Mandal Commission’s understanding of social backwardness tied to certain practices considered ‘backward’ was a key element in caste leaders being further cued into the need to conserve caste-based practices in order to retain and establish the backward identity of their caste in the caste hierarchy. It must be stressed here that the Commission weighed the social markers of backwardness of a caste as a higher criterion for extending state benefits than economic or educational backwardness. This development unfurled specific new motivations for intra-caste governance to assert itself so as to make it evident that a particular caste possessed the bona fides of the category of ‘backwardness’. Any caste category, whether upper caste or backward caste, is defined by the social norms and practices of the caste. In most castes, these defining or caste-constituting norms and practices tend to be socially conserving ones. One’s caste, after all, is preserved or conserved as the caste it is, if those norms are abided by and the practices are enacted. It is caste panchayats which have traditionally been the guardians and gatekeepers of this form of conserving. Thus social conservatism, i.e. the enforcing of traditional norms and practices of the caste which caste panchayats traditionally affected, were renewed, though now in the new context of gaining state benefits intended for the (backward) caste in question. An example: The leaders of some caste panchayats in the rationale they articulated for some of their actions explicitly noted the conservation of roti-beti relations (rules of exchange of food and marriage) as key to maintaining their claims to backwardness so as to be eligible for state benefits.

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This process is now also affecting the castes, which did not find a place in the OBC list. Take for example, the Maratha leaders, including caste panchayat leaders, working tirelessly to prove the social backwardness of their community and trying to get close to the Mandal scale of backwardness. Regional political parties too, have played a role in ensuring that the Maratha caste meets the criteria. This motivation is most evident in the Narayan Rane Committee report of 2014 as well as the consequent efforts that all regional political parties have made either by revisiting social backwardness in terms of female education or by taking to the court to argue for reservations on the basis of economic backwardness. The Narayan Rane Samiti, which was set up by the Maharashtra state government to gather data and make recommendations regarding the demand of quotas by the Marathas, had to undertake an exercise to devise new parameters of social backwardness for their community, an effort that was followed up by consequent governments. All of these actions intended to establish caste backwardness by caste (including caste panchayat) leaders are thoroughly imbricated with the electoral field of politics in the post-Mandal era. The pressure for such backwardness proving exercises is equally exerted by political parties concerned about their electoral gains from caste vote-banks on the one hand (very evident in the case of the Rane Samiti), and the lobbies of local caste panchayat leaders (to government officers, policymakers, bureaucrats, and political leaders), on the other. The exertion of this twin pressure (both at the caste governance level and the general electoral politics level) extends to way caste panchayat leaders and to the local level political leaders (who may frequently coincide), the former, through their direct contact with caste members playing the role of ensuring that they adhere to the practices of the caste in order to retain the caste’s identity as that of a backward caste, and the latter, to ensure that they retain their political loyalty. What I called the imbrication of caste panchayat governance and local electoral politics is evident in the fact that the capacity of the caste panchayat to reinforce the socially conservative character of the caste (which has become central to the benefits-based governmentalization of caste) makes it an important actor for political leaders who want to woo the loyalty of a caste electorate. In the Srivradhan village of Raigad, for example, the pressure on the Marathas to vote for Congress increased during the height of the Maratha reservation demand as the leader of

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the Sarva Koyna Maratha caste panchayat had sworn his allegiance to the Congress in return of the fulfilment of the reservation demand. As governments change, caste panchayats shift their loyalties to the successive parties in government, keeping the chain of command and culture of benefits intact.

4 Conclusions: Caste Politics and the Politics of Governmentality I have tried to present arguments in this chapter to show how caste panchayats are political actors that play an important role in fashioning self-perception of socio-economic status among group members and affect patterns of political preferences and voting behaviour. These roles that caste panchayats have assigned to themselves, however, are a symptomatic feature of the way caste panchayats fit into the larger logic of governing caste in the liberal framework of Indian polity. The reasons for the paradoxical development of caste in India whereby it becomes the basis of post-Mandal democratization of politics (i.e. a politics in which hitherto underprivileged caste politics were able to make demands they could not conceivably have done in an earlier time) while also (and precisely because of this specific form of Mandal-inspired democratization) reasserting caste-based conservatism, I will argue, lie in a very specific direction and context into which a Mandalized democratic politics soon found itself in. I will call the development of this further direction, neo-liberal governmentality. Governmentality is a term used by Foucault to indicate a change in the position of the state in the West, originating in the sixteenth century but taking life only in the eighteenth century where there is a shift in the ‘art of the government’ from finding its basis in transcendental norms and laws flowing from them to tactics of governance. In a word, from power conceived in terms of sovereignty to power conceived in terms of what he called the techniques of ‘government’. To quote Foucault, governmentality is, an ensemble formed by institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power, which has as its target -population, as its principal form of knowledge -political economy, and as its essential technical means apparatuses of –security. (Foucault 1978: 87)

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As Foucault occupies himself with the workings of the modern western state, he looks at how group-based rights demanded exclusively on the basis of difference gave rise to governmentality in the context of a post-welfarist state—by division of ‘people into populations made up of different groups’ to be governed. In the Indian context, such break down of the ‘people into populations’ to be governed was done by the British crown and the chief categorizations were in terms of caste, religion, and a range of demographic taxonomies. The exercise of a caste census, in particular, was the one of the major banks of information on which a rationalizing bureaucratic and policy-generating order for governing these groups was first built. After independence, despite the granting of special status to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Constitution, the Indian state insisted that ‘the idea of India’ (a clichéd phrase much in circulation to mark the new ‘nation’) as one undifferentiated people and adopted a rhetoric (a rhetoric which even got into the Constitution) of social equality without targeting specific social groups. The NehruMahalanobis model in this entire period was an Indian echo of European welfarism, efforts to adopt demand-generating, employment-generating public sector state measures. It was India’s version of Foucauldian governmentality tied to biopolitics in the immediately post-war years. What Mandal added to this was a very much more specific set of categories to be addressed by the ‘government’, so understood. It’s not as if caste politics did not insert itself into this thirty-year period after independence. From the 1950s to 1980s caste politics sought democratization, albeit with its limitations, through universal franchise and political representation of lower castes. But with the Mandal commission, caste politics in the Indian polity underwent a process of institutionalized caste-based democratization as something to be achieved through quotas. To repeat things I’ve already said because they are of some importance—the Mandal Commission not only identified groups for the preferential treatment but also drew up a rationalized criterion of social categorization to create an OBC population. The lower castes were given a fixed criterion of where they were to surface in the field of social and economic spectrum and then benefits were fixed on these categories. Qualifying for benefits depended on castes perceiving and maintaining themselves as backward and thereby being perceived by others (both

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other castes, but also now the state) as being so. Markers of backwardness had to be established for these others and so one had to preserve and conserve one’s backwardness via the maintenance of the practices and the adherences to the norms that defined each backward caste. This is where caste panchayats played an essential role of enforcing these norms and discouraging deviations from the practices. The state then was to mark these castes (on the basis of this self-marking, as it were) and bring them as castes to a levelling field. However, very soon after these effects of Mandal came to be felt by virtually fifty percent of the electorate in Indian politics,16 the Indian political economy was opened up to a world being shaped by the consequences of the remantling of the Bretton Woods institutions and the ensuing exponential increase in the globalized financialization of capital. Essentially this was a turning back of the Nehru-Mahalanobis model and the caste-based democratization that followed upon Mandal found itself in the context of these new aspirations for the political economy of India. With the adoption of this neo-liberal turn, a range of policies had to be adopted, often as a result of conditionalities imposed by the IMF on the loan that was given on its adoption. One of the policies that affected caste issues greatly was the increasing privatization of the country’s resources. Since Mandal-based quotas and reservations were for public sector employment and public education, this de facto shrunk the democratizing effects of Mandal. But it, at the same time as a result of this shrinking, forces an ever-increasing anxiety among castes to compete for a shrinking pool of benefits. This marks a conspicuous degeneration of the welfarist ideal of governmentality, an ideal of politics that might have frameworked post-Mandal caste politics in India, if neo-liberalism had not been introduced so soon after the effects of Mandal were felt. But with these neo-liberal developments causing increasing rivalry and competition among castes for a shrinking pool of benefits, caste governors in the form of caste panchayats increasingly found the need to assert their authority with a ruthless force, often with draconian methods, to enforce caste members to conserve their caste markers and identity for display. Social conservatism, with no end in sight, thus has become the handmaiden of the politics of benefits in the neo-liberal period that now contextualizes the effects of Mandal.

16 Tracking here the percentage of OBCs in the Indian population.

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What this does to the laudable Ambedkarite hope of building on the ‘empowering’ of caste to achieve an eventual ‘annihilation’ of caste, will be a question and theme that I will return to in the conclusion of my book. For now, let me just say as a hint, that it may well be that the neoliberal context in which post-Mandal democratization of caste has found itself, will dash this hope and render the rhetoric of the ‘empowerment’ of caste as standing in a perpetual antithesis to the rhetoric of the ‘annihilation’ of caste. The role of caste panchayats in perpetuating this antithesis is an implicitly recurring theme of this book.

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CHAPTER 4

Intra-caste Purity and Social Ostracization

Now a caste has an unquestioned right to excommunicate any man who is guilty of breaking the rules of the caste; and when it is realized that excommunication involves a complete cesser [=cessation] of social intercourse, it will be agreed that as a form of punishment there is really little to choose between excommunication and death. No wonder individual Hindus have not had the courage to assert their independence by breaking the barriers of Caste. (Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar 1936)

Social ostracization, also called ‘social excommunication’ or ‘social boycott’, is typically a form of punishment meted to a member of one’s own caste by a caste assembly for not adhering to the discipline of the caste. Though the term may be used to refer (in a few cases) to a boycott of a particular caste as a whole by a higher caste in a context of a closed village system, this chapter will expound the more frequently prevalent practice of ostracisation as an intra-caste punishment mechanism to enforce caste discipline. In this sense it means boycott of an in-group member of one’s caste whereby the member is considered as polluted. I will also discuss how the observance of intra-caste discipline is necessary for the maintenance of inter-caste disciplining, i.e. a hierarchy of castes. However, the chief focus will be on grasping the social–psychological world that caste produces for in-group members through the methods of social ostracisation.

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But let me first situate social ostracization in the broader public and political memory in India. Social ostracization has been a fairly common phenomenon, which found open and uninhibited public expression in India till the nineteenth century. Occasionally, castes advertised the assembly of caste panchayats with threats of social boycott for non-attendance through newspapers. Gandhi himself had faced a social ostracization from his own caste for undertaking a sea voyage, an act that was considered polluting by most Hindu castes. Similarly, Madan Mohan Malviya was expelled by the Sri Gaur Malviya caste (Manju 2016: 15). Caste ostracization was a common practice used extensively in everyday internal governance of caste, especially as caste disciplining came to be challenged by the social reformist ideas and movements that accompanied the nationalist movement. However, even when caste reform ideals began to have influence, the conservation of and justification of caste traditions through regulation remain largely unchallenged. In post-independence India, for example, the right to excommunication had been successfully defended as falling within a right to religious freedom and early attempts to bring criminal legislation against the practice were successfully resisted. This led to the abrogation of the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act 1949. By 1962, the courts decided that the right to excommunication was against the spirit of the ‘right to equality’ under Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution. Social excommunication, however, has even so, continued to be practised, albeit less openly, in many castes across states in India. The phenomenon has received sporadic media attention. As the extent and form of social ostracization became more cruel and arbitrary and began to face opposition coming from the younger generations who view it as targeting the choices they make (especially in matters of choice of partners or occupation) that run afoul of tradition, it could no longer avoid the public gaze (often disapproving). But the public apart, the political class was often unwilling to deal squarely with the practice due to the webs of political dependence that they have with caste panchayats—the bodies that hand out these punishments, as described in the last chapter. Strong campaigns by rationalist organizations and growing middle-class outrage around the issue led to the passage of state law in Maharashtra in 2017, which comprehensively criminalized the practice of social boycott. This is not, however, a union-level law; and when in the regional states there is no law relating to social boycott, since most complaints against social ostracisation are viewed as subject to relevant sections of the union level Indian Penal Code, they,

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in effect, don’t get acted on. Even where such laws exist, as in Maharashtra, they have a limited capacity and they target only the more crude expressions of caste disciplining, which are more prevalent among the lower castes—as opposed to the more cultivated mechanisms by which the culturally equipped and politically eloquent upper castes maintain adherence to similar practices. The more sophisticated and regularized structures of caste disciplining may exist in the form of the mahasabhas, sanghas, mandals, guilds, or rakshak dals, of the upper castes in the urban areas. These exercise control over the community capital through their control of religious buildings, educational institutions, hospitals, and housing societies; whose leadership and membership may require caste puritanism; they also control employment avenues and imply covert methods of regulating social behaviour. These, given their more subtle and rarified nature, mostly escape the scrutiny of the laws. I begin with this very brief trajectory of the regional and limited criminalization of social excommunication to give the background for understanding a complex set of factors—the social acceptance of caste panchayats and their disciplining actions, the appeal by caste groups to the rhetoric of freedom of religious practice to legitimize such disciplining, and the upper caste ability to present caste disciplining in secular and cultural rhetoric that seemingly avoids giving it the image of being a traditional religious phenomenon. The unpacking of the concept of social ostracisation to which I now turn, though it will require some abstraction, must nevertheless be understood against the rather concrete backdrop of this trajectory I presented above.

1

Intra-caste Pollution and Social Ostracization

Ostracization, essentially, is an act of exclusion, and exclusion by ‘othering’ as a social practice is not a rare social phenomenon.1 The basis of this exclusion in most societies is the distinctiveness of the one being 1 The literature on pollution and purity had noted that similar practices were found in all major religions and in different societies of the world. Most religions including Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism separated in some form or other states of holiness from that of uncleanliness (Smith 1927) and the unclean or unexplained was considered magic as opposed to the sacred in western cultures (Frazer 1913). Durkhiem too pointed to the ‘presence of a distinct social need to protect their fragile religious sacred from the surrounding profane’ present in most cultures across the world. The profane however meant the ‘cultural other’ in these cultures.

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excluded—someone who is considered by a group ‘not one of us’ is therefore the subject of exclusion. When speaking of caste ostracization, in its intra-caste context the subject of ostracization, as I said, is a member of one’s own community. It is thus important to ask then, what are the grounds of this exclusion of an in-group member and what ideology and goals motivate it. The act of exclusion in caste-based social ostracization is qualified by an idea of intra-caste pollution. The various regional terms used in the vernacular to describe the condition of the one who is ostracized make this association of ostracization with pollution quite central. Unlike the exclusion of the ‘distinct other’ (whose pollution follows from the distinctness of birth or other external markers) the familiar caste member is subjected to ostracisation on the grounds of a different notion of pollution. The terms associated with the punishment in Marathi for example, are ‘waalit taakne’ or ‘baatlela’. The Kannada terms associated with the same phenomenon and used frequently by caste panchayats while awarding these punishments are ‘kuttu’, ‘praty¯ekisi’, and ‘bahishkara’. The vernacular terms are more helpful as they present a nuanced distinction that is made in the universe of caste, where the ‘generative’2 practices of purity and pollution create conditions for ostracisation. This distinction is the distinction between the condition that the polluted has, due to the pollution, brought upon herself and the further resultant condition that she must thus be subjected to by the punishment. Though these terms that are used to communicate each of these distinct conditions are used interchangeably, they carry and convey an implicit understanding that there is a causal relation between two distinct conditions—the condition of ostracisation is a result of the contaminating condition that the one being punished has come to carry in her due to the punishable acts, i.e. the lapses in caste practice. It is important to be clear about why exactly this is a different idea of pollution than the pollution conceived to exist in inter-caste relations. In the latter, acts which pollute (a lower caste person drawing water from a Brahmin well, say) are acts owing to the being of the lower caste person in the relation he stands with higher castes. In the intra-caste case the pollution (or for that matter purity) is not constitutive of one’s being, rather it is a condition of a constantly lurking possibility of 2 I use the word generative here to communicate the specific intra-caste life-world, where observance of everyday life, has a constant potential of generating events of pollution and purity.

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harm that one may either draw upon oneself or fall into by one’s actions, unless one is expiated. So, in Marathi, the term ‘baatlela’ means someone who is contaminated whereas the act of ostracizing captured in the expression ‘waalit taakne’ suggests both the isolation that must flow from this contamination and the fear of its contraction. Similarly, in Kannada, the word ‘kuttu’ implies danger that the polluter has come to contain and thus must be subjected to isolation and boycott terms, which are translated as ‘praty¯ekisi’ and ‘bahishkara’ respectively. The relationship between kuttu and bahishkara is not one in which kuttu is dangerous because it can lead to bahishkara, kuttu is in itself a dangerous situation in which a caste member may find herself and it is dangerous independent of whether a system of bahishkara exists. The definition of kuttu or this harmful contamination does not draw from it being considered punishable. It is the communicable nature of the pollution that forms the rationale of this isolation and boycott—it is not just a punishment but a way of protecting the rest of the members of the group and the caste itself from this danger of pollution. Thus caste members must not speak, touch, or have any social or economic transaction with the polluted member who is ostracized. Pollution thus is the ground for the intra-caste ostracization. Before I move on to the ideology and motivation that drive the award of these punishments, I think the sense of pollution that I wish to communicate introduced above, demands some development. Pollution in the context of caste, is generally understood in its intercaste sense, i.e. castes, pure and whole in themselves, are always in fear of being polluted by contact with other castes through food, touch, polluting substances such as leather or exchange of body fluids. In this sense, the pollution is transferred always from the lower caste to the higher caste with the highest caste being vulnerable to optimum pollution and the lowest caste being an optimal polluter. Caste ostracization invites us to look at another level at which pollution comes into the picture so far as caste is concerned. At this level, all castes and its members are capable of being polluted independent of the occurrence of their contact with the other castes. This pollution is a pollution they may come to contain due to the breach of the rules of their own caste and by having contact with a caste member who has come to contain such pollution due to a breach. Is there no connection between the inter-caste pollution and the intracaste pollution? There is. A link between these two forms of pollution

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(inter-caste and intra-caste) may be a member who has brought on pollution on her caste due to sexual relations with a member of a lower caste. A Brahmin woman’s act of having sexual relations with a man from a barber caste for example, definitely makes her polluted and thus ostracised from the entire caste. The man, in this case, however, may be treated as an offender but not as polluted by his own caste. The reverse however is not true. A Brahmin man having sexual contact with a lower caste woman, so long as he does not take her as his wife, is not considered polluted and neither is the woman. This is because lower castes can’t be polluted by contact with the upper caste; in fact a lower caste woman is supposed to be available for sexual pleasure of an upper caste man and men as a category can’t be polluted by sexual contact.3 I will keep the description of this very important link, which is at the foundation of the principle of caste endogamy brief here, as it demands a thorough and detailed treatment by itself. The next chapter will present its analysis in detail. Having acknowledged this important link, I return to a more specific and less discussed aspect of caste pollution—that of intra-caste pollution caused independent of the contact with other castes. In the inter-caste model of pollution every caste in itself is lined up on a scale of differential and graded hierarchy of purity. Caste purity in this sense is a way to achieve the strict practice of caste hierarchy. The Brahmins must be protected from impure substances and touch because they are in charge of pleasing the Gods and thus also highest in the hierarchy of status and of purity. The untouchable caste does not need any such protection from any impure substance, touch, or practice as they are in many ways taking up this contact with impurity as their caste ordained duty. In other words, in this scheme of things, it is the religious duty, not just of the Brahmins, but of all the Hindus to keep the Brahmins in their highest state of purity and it is, thus, the religious duty of the Dalits to deal with all the impurity that day-to-day life may produce. This understanding of caste purity finds expression almost as an orthodoxy among those who observe caste or even among some nonobservers who think that the believers must be allowed to observe it as a religious right. This results in a section of both upper and lower castes saying that both the religious role of the Brahmin as a priest and the 3 Unless the sexual contact is at an intra-caste level and is established in a way that has over ruled the traditional and accepted norms of the caste with regard to seeking such contact.

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scavenging role of the Dalit as a religious task, is ordained to them by the dharma of their caste. I have described this allocation of duties in terms that—just as I presented above—do not invoke any hierarchical ranking of them. It is entirely a matter of what is dictated by the dharma of the caste, what Gandhi sometimes referred to as ‘swadharma’. Such understandings, which invariably reinforce caste-based occupations and essentialization of dignity or indignity in individuals on the basis of birth, is regularly invoked in the Indian public-political discourse, arguably for very different social-political projects by leaders exhibiting sympathy for the Hindu sanatana dharma (the observance of the orthodox Hindu religion). These articulations may be found in Gandhi as well as in someone who is his stark opposite in political positioning—the Hindutva politician, Narendra Modi. Once it is recognized that inter-caste hierarchy is not the only aspect in which caste purity exhibits itself, the need for further conceptualizing, the understanding of purity in a new light becomes necessary. This has implications for when we shift the level of analysis of caste purity to the intra-caste level, because the analysis need have not invoked the hierarchy of pure and impure. The point in the last paragraph reveals that caste also has a built-in capacity to be polluted by its own caste makers. Because of the possibility of such internal pollution, no caste, no matter where it is in the hierarchy, is a continuously pure whole—even if non-transgression of endogamous rules is strictly observed. In general, all Hindus are unavoidably susceptible to some episodes of pollution in their life. These may be episodes from one’s personal life such as death or birth in one’s family, menstruation, or even astronomical events such as eclipses. These events bring on temporary periods of pollution (sutak), which renders the members in question ostracised, for a particular period. For example, 13 days, in case of a death in the family and then return back to the state of purity only by performing certain rituals and social customs. This 13-day period is which is called a period of sutak, a temporary state of pollution which cant be corrected by rituals. In this period, no one in the family (in which death has occurred) may enter temples, touch idols, or offer daily worship even in their own household, they must not mingle in social or religious gatherings, the touch by the family members must be strictly avoided by others, as must eating food cooked by them… At the end of this period, ritual purification must be undertaken by the family. This may typically involve tonsuring of the head of the son and other male relatives (as hair is considered polluted)

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or offerings of mantras to a yagna (chants offered to fire) administered by a Brahmin, and finally a bhoj or offering of food to one’s caste members. Not observing any of these may make the non-observer family liable for social ostracisation by the caste. There are also purely socio-ritualistic occasions that might bring on this impurity and result in ostracization. To give an instance, for the Brahmin man observance of the four varanshrama dharmas —the rites of passage of an ideal Brahmin life—hold immense importance. Any breach in observance of ceremonies, such as ‘the sacred thread ceremony’ (upanayana) or the passage from the life of a householder to the life of an ascetic (grihastashrama to sanyasaashrama) or various social declaration to the caste community (e.g. declaration of the arrival of a boy into the condition of puberty, which qualifies him for acceptance into the caste through the thread ceremony), can become a reason for pollution, leading to ostracization. Examples such as the last one, which are about acceptance into a caste show the extent to which the caste community is constitutive in the important life events of one’s personal life; and it is important for the narrative around caste purity. Not respecting the community by failing to offer food to caste members after returning from a pilgrimage or not observing status-linked rituals such as observing the correct order of sitting down for the meals or offering of areca nut in social events, etc., can also become potential causes of pollution. These types of pollution, however, originate in breach of social or intra-caste status codes as opposed to the breach of earlier described ritual and deeply religious codes. Another area from where intra-caste pollution may occur is in a lapse of occupational codes. Non-offering of service by a service-caste member to a higher caste member in the required fashion may make him liable to pollution for his own caste members. This kind of pollution may also come from a breach of the watans or assignments of land or occupations or various duties among caste members. Or it may come from breaches that occur when someone does not adhere to the occupational practices as mandated by caste leaders from time to time. And the rules by which these practices and duties are carried out may also change, for instance, due to sanksritization, and that means the very idea of breach is dynamic rather than static. In general, such breaches and their punishment reveal the idea of pollution as linked to the idea of loyalty to one’s own caste. This kind of

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pollution might be less ritualistic. That is especially so when it is more motivated by the concerns (in its most idealistic form) about administering the economic well-being of the caste as a whole which we discussed in the last chapter. Having said that, intra-caste elites may invoke the rhetoric of the moral-social or economic well-being of the caste for less idealistic reasons, such as to simply display their authority. The last type of intra-caste pollution may emanate from sexual misdemeanour. Here, as one might expect, the rules are more stringent for women. Adultery, pre-marital sexual relations, sexual impropriety by a woman, etc., might cast pollution on her and her family members. To summarize, intra-caste pollution seems to be invited by broadly five kinds of often interdependent motivations—of observing discipline that may be for socio-religious reasons, purely social and status-related reasons, purely religious reasons, occupational reasons for economic conservation of a group, or by reasons that tie morality to sexual propriety. In all these cases, these caste members would, upon any deviation from the caste norm, become outcasts in their respective groups and would be ostracized until the prescribed penance and expiation is granted. Thus, when it comes to intra-caste purity, it is not the purity that is limited to the exclusivity of the caste gene pool that is under discussion. Over and above that, it is the field of everyday and lifelong performance of caste normativity—in ritual, social, and occupational behaviour and its breach, which is ‘generative’ of periods of pollution to be overcome by expiation and penance. The constitutive location of caste purity is the normative domain of a particular caste’s universe. It cannot completely reimagine itself independent of the hierarchy but it can make incremental and decremental changes, as the society itself changes. The meaning of pollution and its sources thus takes newer forms. It is very different from the intercaste case where a prior or already given notion of castes as blocks of purity and impurity in their endogamous wholes that norms of hierarchical differentiation and endogamy preservation must keep faith with. Rather, it is the norms which dictate what is pure and polluted because the changing norms dictate what caste members must do and failure to do it generates the pollution.4 This contrast is a bit like the famous contrast in Plato’s Euthyphro where Socrates asks ‘whether the gods love the pious because it is pious or whether the pious is pious because it is loved by 4 This may, in the present context, explain how particular voting behaviour may come to be considered polluting. More on this, later.

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the gods’ (Plato 380 BCE). The point being that in the intra-caste case something is polluted because it comes to be declared as polluted by the suspension of caste’s norms, which may not always be fixed. It is not as if pollution is defined by something other than the intra-caste norms (like the exclusivism of the stratified gene pools that is inherent in the idea of caste hierarchy) and the norms are merely tracking that already understood notion of purity and pollution. In every caste, the markers of intra-caste pollution may be different, though there are some common acts that seem to be considered as polluting among most castes. In the episodes of ostracisation, the nonobservance of rituals such as offering a feast to the whole village in the instance of the death, birth, or return from a pilgrimage, seem to be recurring reasons across castes. The overriding concerns also change over time. For Brahmins, the failure to adhere to the four varnashrama dharmas 5 or breach in their order is a major reason for intra-caste purity anxieties, and breaking occupational codes and rules about how to serve each caste according to its status in the hierarchy seem to be dominant concerns for the service castes, at least until the British period. We see ostracization concerns shaped by Sanskritization and the British governance of caste taking over in the later period. In this period, adultery and strict regulation over female sexuality become overriding concerns, even among the lower castes. As pointed out in Chapter 2, this period also sees joint actions enforced by caste ostracization in defiance of state centralization in terms of increasing demands of rent. In addition to these, the pressure to document a specific narrative of one’s caste history and status to British officials, become themes around which lines of intra-caste purity come to be drawn. In the post-independence era, caste solidarity in terms of maintaining loyalty to one’s caste through the changing socio-economic situation and its expression in political loyalty, along with sanskritization and proper ritual observance, seem to be themes around which social ostracization as a weapon is commanded over group members. This, of course, is not meant to be strict segregation across time but it does 5 Varnashrama dharmas are the four stages in the life of a Brahman male. A Brahman boy on reaching puberty is given a sacred thread in his upanayana ceremony when he enters the celibate student life, the Brahmacharya Ashrama. This is followed by the Grishasta ashrama or householder’s life. The third stage is the Vanaprashta ashram where he is to denounce the world and leave for the forest to live a life or a hermit. The final stage is the Sanyasa Ashrama which is a renunciation stage of giving up on all material pleasures and seeking moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

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represent the overriding anxieties of why castes may see themselves as becoming vulnerable to pollution over time. Just like the functions of caste panchayats evolve with the evolution of the meaning of caste, the cohort of themes or issues by which social ostracisation is motivated also seems to have undergone an evolution.

2

The Social Meaning of Ostracization

There is an obvious physical aspect to this ostracization. Examples are: One’s touch may be considered polluting, no one is to visit the house of the ostracized, in many cases the ostracized family is made to live outside the village or leave the village altogether, no daily provisions are sold to them and no economic transactions are made, the ostracized may not be allowed to enter the village and people deny them the right to a passage from within their fields, etc. All this makes livelihood difficult in a tightly knit and interdependent village-based community. Yet what seems to have persisted, even as such livelihood’s dependence on caste relations has loosened in the rural context (as reflected in the many cases registered against caste panchayats), is the fear and debilitating effect of the social aspect of ostracisation. I have mentioned how the nature of exclusion for breach of intra-caste loyalty or discipline needs to be understood as characteristically different from exclusion in the sense of removal from a group. This is so because, such ostracization pushes the caste member to the margins of the group, where the member neither completely belongs to her own caste, nor can she take up the membership of any other caste (as it is impossible to be accepted in any other caste without being born into it). This results in a complete and sudden loss of belonging. The group membership of the ostracized is put in abeyance; they are in a state where they have no place in the social scheme of things. This creates a very peculiar social situation for the ostracized as there is no social life outside of caste in a caste universe. One’s everyday life, customs and ceremonies, various symbolisms around one’s social acceptance as a member of a community (such as, say, haldi kunku for women and tila/tika for men at gatherings6 ), not sharing the hukka or tobacco, which are also symbols of common social 6 The practice of extending social recognition to group members, by adorning the foreheads of women with dots of vermillion-turmeric powder and men’s foreheads with vermillion powder. The practice has religious and deep social connotation. It may be

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life and mutual social recognition of one’s rank, and even socialization of their children is abruptly discontinued. In urban contexts too, where one’s social life may not be completely dependant on one’s caste relations, ostracization can mean truncating of one’s social life as marriage relations are, in a majority of cases, sought to be established within one’s own caste. If any family offers marriage relations to an ostracised family, they too are ostracized. Most individuals for whom their immediate life in their caste and community groups forms the only scale of their social experience, these episodes of ostracization bring on a deep sense of indignity, extreme humiliation, and a loss of the sense of self. Krishna Changude, a volunteer who has worked with many victims of the caste panchayats in Maharashtra, narrates a particular case where as a punishment for some breach, a middle-aged man was to be ostracised from his caste. As his offence was considered a minor one by the caste panchayat, the punishment awarded to this particular man was that he won’t be honoured by putting a dot of vermillion on his forehead (as is the practice of initial greeting in ceremonies), in any future ceremonies of the caste community. The discontinuing of this seemingly inconsequential act of being presented a community greeting was so humiliating and insulting for this individual, who was reminded of his marginalization by his own caste everyday in presence of the people who had inhabited and were to lifelong inhabit his social world, that he felt stripped of all personal pride. When all pleading to the caste panchayat failed, he went to the police. Chandgude observes that the police failed to see the reason for his utter frustration. The police officer brought some vermillion and put it on his forehead and said, ‘you complain that no one would to put vermillion on your forehead, here I will put it for you’. The man he notes, broke down in the police station. I cite this example to stress that the social experience of ostracisation is difficult to take into account outside its social context but it has a deep devastating effect on families, which live in states of isolation and selfhate for generations. In my interaction with numerous people facing this ostracization, the psychological effect of such punishments seemed deeply disturbing. Caste-based ostracization thus, has a far-going social meaning often on par with the experiences of utter humiliation and helplessness that the inter-caste rules of exclusion bring about. worth adding here that this recognition is discontinued for a woman upon the death of her husband or during her menstruation, as she is considered impure.

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3 Social Ostracization as a Tool of Inter-caste and Intra-caste Governance In the last two sections, my focus was on ostracization in intra-caste issues. In this section I will speak to ostracization in inter-caste issues and relate that its role in intra-caste ostracization. The two are connected in roughly the following sense. It may be helpful, in general, to think of ostracization from a caste as a fear or a deep vulnerability, which is constantly present in the everyday practice of caste. Understanding it as a vulnerability helps decipher how the phenomenon of social ostracization has been used for both inter-caste and intra-caste governance, and often as I will show, to reinforce each other. ‘Vulnerability’, in the simple sense of the term, is the state of being exposed to a risk, it is a possibility of being hurt physically or emotionally. When inter-caste issues are at stake, the prime vulnerability is to the caste system as a whole and this may be due to pollution by exogamy, touch, transgressing occupational segregation,… all linked to the disturbance of the established social hierarchy. It is this disposition of caste to the possibility of being polluted that is central to many laws around caste. The need to protect the system from this vulnerability would seem one of the rationales for why the institutions which were invested in conserving caste hierarchy—such as the religious peethas and the brahmasabhas (with or without state support) controlled by the upper castes—took upon themselves the right to grant expiation from social ostracisation, and at times even the right to ostracise, onto themselves. The decisions made by these brahmasabhas underline their overriding concern for preserving the inter-caste hierarchy. Intra-caste ostracization is often the means to preserve inter-caste hierarchy. When it is motivated by the preservation of inter-caste hierarchy, it may be understood as a second-level vulnerability introduced to check the first-level vulnerability of inter-caste pollution. For some rulers of the late medieval period, who allied with these mathas, the driving concern for legitimizing the existent system of boycott and expiation had its source in the administrative convenience and mechanisms of revenue extraction. These mechanisms, in turn, were also based broadly on caste, as a form of socio-economic organization of everyday life, whether in terms of cultivation of land or fixing shares for service castes. This has been addressed in detail in Chapter 2. It is in this period, then, with the force of state centralization, that the vulnerability

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of ostracization gets institutionalized for the first time. This state endorsement adds another motivation for castes as jati to qualify the causal link between inter-caste pollution and intra-caste ostracization. Here, requirement of intra-caste loyalty is extended to reasons other than in-group ritual-social reasons and extended to observance of inter-caste discipline. The breach of loyalty to the practices of one’s own caste becomes a matter of enforcement at the inter-caste level. But, in the eighteenth century we see a reversal of this relation. It is the intra-caste issues that often motivate actions in inter-caste governance. For example, in 1937, after the oilmen caste panchayat in Orissa decided to ostracize one of their members, they found that he was still being rendered services by the washerman and the barber. They then called upon a caste assembly of 36 patakas (the service castes) along with their caste leaders to declare this as a breach of ‘prevalent custom of the country’ (Patnaik 1960: 4). Intra-caste observance thus, when impeded by members of other castes, became unacceptable and its inter-caste enforcement was achieved. The barber and the washerman, in this case, did not bring on pollution onto their castes but it was a breach of the inter-caste respect of the intra-caste governance of caste as such. As we move into the modern period, the increasing power of caste as jati is exploited to challenge the hold of inter-caste governance by principles of hierarchy. We see a decoupling of the caste panchayat and the brahmasabha. In case of the lower castes, the vulnerability of social ostracization is now also evoked for reasons such as not enrolling one’s caste as a higher one in the census, not giving up on practices considered low, or not participating in a temple entry movement, etc. It may be important to state here though, that these secular breaches of caste purity are rarely conceived of as separate from the socio-religious weave of the caste, and, the socio-religious weave is then used for supressing women or lesser privileged members within one’s own caste. Let me present a few more examples of how this takes shape in intracaste contexts. The response of caste panchayats to issues of division of land gets invariably tied to the caste customs about marriage and sexuality. Laws regarding equal inheritance to women are vociferously rejected in the name of caste codes (e.g. Khaps of Haryana). Also, if someone seeks a shift in occupation due to low income in a dying traditional occupation, it may be seen as a dereliction of a religious duty of the caste and read by the caste elites as abandoning the group by the caste elite who do not want the poor within the caste to improve economically. [This was found

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in ostracization episodes in Koli caste in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, (Konde 2015) and the fisherman caste in Tamilnadu (Bavinck 2001)]. Another typical example is when women seeking work or education opportunities are prevented from doing so by invoking standards of morality as dictated by the caste (e.g. as in adultery cases from Maharashtra). The caste panchayat not only becomes the channel through which the vulnerability of social ostracization is administered on the caste group but it is also the body through which secular interactions of caste are weaved into a caste’s conceptions of what is pure and what is polluting over time, shaped often by the vested interests of the caste elite. Caste panchayats thus traverse the world of the ritual and non-ritual breach of caste purity constantly, employing the tool of caste ostracization. In the last two paragraphs I have shown respectively how the sanctions of intra-caste governance are used to enforce secular functions that are traditionally tied to a caste and also exerts its socio-cultural power to enforce socially conservative functions of keep women and non-elite members of a caste down. Both these are captured in a useful passage from Ghurye regarding the complex expanse of the power of caste as Jati, over its in-group members, states: Most of the castes on the other hand, excepting the high ones like the Brahmin and the Rajput, have regular standing councils deciding on many more matters than those taken cognizance of by the committees of the trade unions, associations, or guilds, and thus encroaching on the province of the whole community …the governing body of a caste is called the panchayat…. Hence the members of a caste ceased to be members of the community as a whole, as far as that part of their morals which is regulated by law is concerned. This qausi-sovereignty of the caste is particularly brought to the notice by the fact that the caste council was prepared to re-try criminal offences decided by the courts of law. This, he argues, asks one to appreciate the remark ‘that caste is one’s own ruler’. (Ghurye 1932: 3–4)

4

Concluding Remarks

We have presented in the foregoing a complex set of relations between inter-caste and intra-caste norms of pollution and purity. The very meaning of purity and pollution is different when one shifts from intercaste purity and pollution to intra-caste. In the former, the meaning of

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purity and pollution as permanent values attaches to certain beings by birth. Whereas, in the latter, the norms of a jati are not necessarily permanent since the caste as a group may be subject to shifts due to changes in the larger socio-political field (whether due to sanskritization or a range of political contingencies). So, the norms of purity and pollution within the caste lack the fixity and permanence of the former. However, these possibly shifting norms are not independent of the rules or norms of the hierarchical inter-caste system and, in many ways use these hierarchical norms as their second-order guiding principles. In certain periods of history the norms of intra-caste purity and pollution are controlled and streamlined to be in accord with the dominant norms of inter-caste hierarchy; and this is usually the work of those at the helm of the inter-caste system. In its own turn it no doubt, produces relations of hierarchical power within the caste group—for instance, men, as a rule, wield more power than women, as elders do more than the youth. However, these norms of what will be defined as intra-caste purity and pollution are also responding to structural changes in the polity, society, and community (especially as inter-caste hierarchy gets increasingly challenged in the modern period) and the interest of the caste as a group is an overriding motivation in how a caste group or its elites shape the norms of purity and pollution. Though these norms can be divided into purely ritual, ritualsocial, economic, or political, the caste as a group connects them in a seamless complex of group interest and group identity. The acceptance of this interconnected expression of caste as an identity with its roots in the primordial, yet playing a persistent role in the modern secular political sphere, speaks to the limits of how the political role of groups like castes can be currently imagined. The relevance of the deep social meaning attached to the fear of social ostracization from one’s caste raises questions about how the political scholarship that is mostly focused on the secular political sphere, theorizes belonging as only an instrumental relation so far as caste is concerned. Experiencing one’s caste as one’s sociality, over and above the instrumental role that one’s caste identity may take on in one’s political outlooks and aspirations, is not sufficiently appreciated in current studies of caste. Finally, it is clear from what I have presented that caste panchayats reveal the evolution of purity pollution norms in a caste. These norms, I have said, determine not only the caste group’s behaviour in the restrictedly ‘social’ sphere but outside that sphere in the emerging secular political sphere. And I have shown that these are essentially inter-twined:

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thinking about caste identity-based social conservatism and caste-based political action can neither be imagined as mutually exclusive, (in fact, doing so would be to simply reinforce implausible dichotomies between the social and the political) nor can they be hypothesized to be arranged in a relation of zero-sum, where an increase in the one (the thrusting modernity of the political sphere) diminishes the other (the revivalism of social conservatism), and vice versa. That is to say, caste-based political action does not arrest caste-based conservatism, nor does the revivalist social conservatism of caste usher out (or occur independently) of the political sphere. It would seem that the study of caste panchayats is a good source of evidence for the conclusion that the very dichotomy of tradition and modernity in the study of caste is simply out of place.

References Ambedkar, B. (1936). Annilation of Caste. Source: Online. http://ccnmtl.col umbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/web/readings/aoc_print_2004.pdf. Bavinck, M. (2001). Caste Panchayats and the Regulation of Fisheries along Tamil Nadu’s Coromandel Coast. Economic and Political Weekly, 36(13), 1088–1094. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/ 4410454. Frazer, J. (1913). The Scapegoat. London: The Macmillan Company. Ghurye, G. S. (1932). Caste and Race in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Konde, P. (2015, February 8). I. Anagha, Interviewer. Manju, M. (2016). The Life and Times of Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya. New Delhi: Ocean books. Patnaik, N. (1960). Outcasting Among Oilmen for Drinking Wine. Man in India, 40(1), 4–5. Smith, W. R. (1927). Lectures on the Religion of the Semites The Fundamental Institutions. New York: The Macmillan Company.

CHAPTER 5

Caste Endogamy

1

Background and Goals

In the last chapter the method of social ostracization, its nature and its persistent use by caste panchayats, albeit for achieving different goals over time, was discussed. In this chapter, I highlight another persistent feature of the caste panchayat: the enforcement of caste endogamy. Unlike social ostracization however, this feature is not just a persistent method employed by the caste panchayats to enforce loyalty but also an intrinsic goal that motivates much of their actions, rather than a means to achieve other goals. On those occasions that it is a method for other goals, we need a distinction between two notions or levels of method. One is the notion of method by which caste endogamy is enforced and preserved (e.g. social boycotts or ostracization discussed in the last chapter), and the other is the method of caste endogamy for further ends (ends, for e.g. such as the material dominance of land-owing elites within the caste). One could think of these as first-order and second-order methods, respectively. But, as I said, caste endogamy can be a goal in itself (intrinsic) too, not a method for achieving other goals. Caste endogamy may be defined as the practice of establishing and enforcing marriage relationships only within one’s caste group. A strict control of female sexuality by normalization of a discourse that attaches honour and pride of the group to the bodies of its women members © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021 A. Ingole, Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6_5

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and legitimizing a culture of physical and moral securitization of female lives, are the most dominant ways of how caste endogamy is automatically reproduced in caste groups. The enforcement of caste endogamy is central to the observance of caste in both inter-caste and intra-caste notions of purity and pollution. The inter-caste system, where caste operates as part of the hierarchical varna scheme is deeply driven by the logic of the control of women and the compulsory submission of their sexuality to the caste group, since that is the only way to avoid intermixing of castes. At the intra-caste level, caste endogamy itself becomes the functional definition of caste as jati—which is an endogamous group. Caste endogamy becomes an important link between principles of inter-caste and intra-caste governance. The maintenance of the vertical and hierarchical force of caste requires the preservation of caste as a gene pool by each and every caste, to keep each caste as a distinct whole. For the inter-caste system to operate, the ideal intra-caste panchayat— one that enforces this endogamy code for its own internal members—is necessary. Caste endogamy laws dictated quite clearly in sastric injunctions are upheld as higher aspirational cultural codes by upper caste elites. This in turn shapes the dominant understanding of acceptable sexual relationships and the ethic of the control of female sexuality, which is gradually but differentially, absorbed by the lower castes via the caste panchayats. Caste endogamy, thus, may be said to be as central to the constitutive logic of caste as the principle of birth. The present chapter has three goals discussed in four sections. i. It tries to establish the roots of caste endogamy (to be achieved by a stifling control over the bodily, social, and material life of women) in the Vedic religious texts. In order to avoid making this connection between religious sanction and caste endogamy merely on the basis of texts (which may or may not have had an actual effect on societal observation of these sanctions), I locate this connection in the actual use of these textual sanctions by certain upper caste rulers. I use the case of the Peshwa regime to demonstrate how these texts were employed to create a social order around the principle of Brahmanical patriarchy. This process of institutionalization of a combination of inter-caste hierarchy and patriarchy—i.e. ‘Brahmanical patriarchy’—in the hands of the upper caste native rulers is the subject of the first section.

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ii. The second section deals with the British treatment of Hindu law. It begins by describing the varied systems that existed side by side, which the British wanted to streamline and how they eventually retained the sanctions of the religious texts in matrimonial matters. It considers several reasons for this, ranging from political and administrative expediencies to the more important resistance from the Orthodox Hindu sections to any British law so far as the reform to caste endogamy was concerned. It focuses on the passage and the sharp resistance to the Act III passed in 1872, which allowed civil marriage in India, defying the principle of caste endogamy. I cite the responses by several learned Hindus during this period to show how the sanctity of inter-caste hierarchy was expressed as the legitimate and most central argument against such a law. iii. The next section focuses on how intra-caste panchayats have come to internalize and enforce stricter codes of caste endogamy across castes. It explains how caste panchayats discipline members (especially women) of the caste group into endogamous sexual behaviour while men are disciplined into being both the creators and protectors of the discourse of group purity and solidarity. This process of upholding of the intra-caste puritan ethic in the lower castes requires an elaboration (which I will try to provide) of the delicate negotiation with the fact that the sexual and material labour required of lower caste women often conflicts with that ethic. (In the case of the upper castes, this particular sort of conflict does not arise.) iv. The final section presents a research agenda for developing an understanding of the intra-caste logic of endogamous purity in politically assertive castes, as also in the newer caste groups such as the Navbouddhas who converted to Buddhism with Ambedkar. In doing so, I argue that restricting the understanding of oppression of women under caste panchayats around themes of honour may not be the whole story in the critique of panchayats’ treatment of women. This is because patriarchal subordination in many of these cases may be supplemented by deeper motivations of political control and re-generation of a political constituency comprised of endogamous groups.

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2

Recovering the Religious Roots of Caste Endogamy

The eighteenth century Peshwa regime is an instructive case with which to understand how patriarchal codes of high Vedic religion were recovered to create and enforce stricter codes of caste endogamy over a wider population. I will use the Peshwa invocation and enforcement of brahmanatva 1 to describe this process of the extension of a code of brahmanical patriarchy to other castes. Brahmanical patriarchy implies carving up of a rigid and distinct code of sexual conduct for Brahmin women and simultaneously barring the lower castes from following that code by virtue of their lower caste status. This, at the same time, made lower caste women available for sexual pleasures of higher caste men and the lower caste as a group fixed in such sexual codes considered lower and impure. The Peshwas were the generals under the Marathas (who identified themselves as a Kshatriya clan) since 1648 and took over the de facto control of the Maratha confederacy by 1720. The early generals of the Marathas were Deshastha Brahmins, but Bhats who were instrumental in taking over the de facto control of the Maratha empire were Chitpavan Brahmins. The upper caste Peshwas undertook a reconstruction of the social order by enforcing a systemic application of brahmanical patriarchy over the entire population. This, though just one of the many examples of how the combination of religiously ordained hierarchy of caste and gender found their meeting point in the system of caste endogamy, is a valid representation of how a rigid ethic of caste endogamy percolated from higher to lower castes as a marker of purity and status. It is a good representative case precisely because, similar regimentation of stricter endogamy norms holds true even for other regimes that upheld sanskritization of their populations (Chakravarti 1993; Gokhale 1988). In recounting the process of the establishment of Brahmans as the rulers of the Peshwa regime, Chakravarti highlights that this process required the bringing together of the role of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya. It also implied that the Brahmanical code become the code of the entire state and that it be extended to the larger population. Now this code was not to be extended to all the populations equally, as that would 1 Brahmanatva is a combination of two words: Brahman and Tatva. Brahman is the twice born of the purest caste and tatva means essence or substance. The word brahmanatva thus means the essence or substance of Brahmanism.

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go against the inter-caste order of hierarchical inequality. This motivation led to the development of a more stringent order of hierarchy along which castes were arranged. First, there was a recovery of the textual tradition in the court when the Peshwas took over the Marathas, which meant that texts came to be given much more prevalence than customs. Texts such as the Manusmriti were used to draw a sharp distinction between the social role and status of women and men, between the role and status of higher caste/Brahmin women and lower caste women and finally, within Brahmin women, the role and status of married Brahmin women and widowed Brahmin women. The general attitude that the Dharamashastras2 cultivated towards women can be summed up in the following self-explanatory lines from a corpus of religious texts: Tasmat Praj¯avi´suddhyartham . Striyam . Rakse.t Prayatnatah. [“Therefore for the sake of the purity of his offspring (a husband) should guard a woman with great effort.”] (Manava Dharmasashtra in Jamison 2018: 138) Tasm¯adbh¯ary¯am . raksa.nti Bibhyantah. Pararetasah. [“Therefore (men) guard their wives, fearing the seed of strangers.”] (Apasthambha Dharmasutra Prasna II in Bühler and West 1867: 67) A Brahmin should be fined a thousand if he ‘approaches’ a guarded Brahmin woman by force, but he should be fined five hundred if he ‘came together’ when a woman who wanted to. (Manava Dharmasashtra in Jamison 2006: 199) Serving her husband is (like) living in the guru’s (house), and household business is (like) (the student’s) attending to the (guru’s) fires. (Manava Dharmasashtra in Jamison 2018: 141)

The Samskaras 3 also give details about the rites of sexual intercourse and pregnancy so that the couple begets a male child. Here I quote from Stephaine Jamison: 2 Dharmasastras are a group of 5000 juridical treatises written in Sanskrit spanning both theological and juridical subjects. These include the Sutras, Srutis, Smritis, Vrittas and Nibandhas. 3 The detailed rites of passage to be performed at various stages and occasions in one’s life stated in the Srutis and Smritis which are part of the Dharmasastra literature.

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This series starts with the ceremonial intercourse that occurs some days after her menstrual period with the intent of “setting an embryo” (garbh¯adh¯ana). When she gets pregnant, in the early part of the pregnancy, there is the pum . savana, the rite meant to ensure that the child will be male; sometime later the garbharaksa.n.a ‘protection of the embryo’, followed by the s¯ımantonnayana ‘parting of the hair’. (Jamison 2018: 143)

The wife was put in the same category as the slave as they were without property, they were the property of him to whom they belong. Such codes were revived and enforced by the Peshwai as part of its project to revive the true ‘brahmanatva’ of the country. These rules were enforced differentially depending upon the caste holding the Brahmin woman to the highest standard of purity in comparison to the lower caste women. As lower castes attempted sanskritization, they came to aspire to these codes of higher castes over time. Second important reform, which this brahmanical patriarchy brought on, was the ‘privileging’ of Brahmin women, especially the Chitpavan Brahmin (a Brahmin caste to which the later Peshwas belonged) women over the women of other castes as ‘purer’ than the others. Such distinctions were of course not an invention of the Peshwas, they were part of the state enforced codes of caste conduct in other regions where Brahmins were also the ruling class. This is particularly true for Southern India. The Chitpavan Peshwas wanted to establish their cultural supremacy and purity of blood over other Brahmin sub-castes, let alone other lower castes. This often required changing the customs of some Brahman subcastes and often forcibly stopping other castes from observing certain practices. Let me present an example of each. The Yajurvedi Brahmins had been practising cross-cousin marriages in their caste, which was a common practice in the region. Because of its commonality with the lower caste practices, the Peshwas stepped in and forced the Yajurvedis to discontinue the practice. A second example is the objection by the Peshwas to the abolition of widow remarriage in the Kayastha Prabhu caste. The Brahmins were completely against widow remarriage, but when the caste lower than them in the caste hierarchy followed and wanted to ban the remarriage of widows, they stepped in with the might of the state and ensured that the Kayastha Prabhus were not able to follow the practice in which the Brahmins prided themselves. This was achieved by devising a general stricter code of sexual conduct for women, but a special code for Brahmin women. The Brahmin woman

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was given a position of ‘privilege’ by restricting her to the household, where she would not mix with other men or lower castes. In other words, the Brahmin woman was freed from labour outside the household. However, this privileging was done because she was to have only one role—that of being a carrier of pure Brahmin blood—inaccessible postpuberty to any other man but her husband. The hysteria with this sexual control of the woman went to an extreme extent when the state ruled that the correct age of marriage for a Brahmin girl should be 8, which is a prepubertal age. It was considered ideal that the girl be available to the husband as soon as she reaches puberty. If the Brahmin girl menstruated before she was married, she would either have ‘no takers’ or she would have to pay a fine and her family was to perform a penance. This law was derived from the laws laid down by some smritis and non-compliance was seen as the failure to perform a religious duty. It is no coincidence that today we find the exact similar arguments given by Khaps (which are the panchayats of the Jats, discussed earlier) for early marriage of Jat girls, who have historically had no such strict codes of marriage. In fact, till very recently, the Jats had a tradition of men undertaking exogamous marriages as well as of Jat men marrying widows. This has been discussed in detail in an earlier chapter. It will suffice to say here that the ethic of prepubertal marriage or child marriage, which was an upper caste practice, found its way into the practices of lower castes through what came to be called sanskritization and caste panchayats became agencies which enforced it. However, as an exception to this larger pattern, I must state that similar child marriage practices were also arranged customarily for economic reasons among the lower castes independently. In some nomadic castes of Maharashtra, for example, pregnant women apply ash over each other’s abdomens and if the babies happen to be of the opposite sexes later, their marriage is undertaken. This is done so that the children foster the friendships, which their parents have established with a view to identifying the regions from where (as nomadic castes) they can earn, or with a view to combining the ‘occupational properties’ of two families for their children. Such marriages are considered fixed by divine intervention and their breach by any of the two parties is punishable by the caste panchayats (Chavhan 2013). In general, the upper caste rulers such as the Peshwas made sexual control over women central to their governance of the society and this

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‘ideal’ came to be aped by the castes below them as markers of cultural superiority. Finally, the otherwise higher and purer status of the Brahmin woman as compared to women of other castes was drawn only from her husband through the institution of marriage. This was clear from the distinction between the social status of a married woman and the widow. This distinction too, over time, has been adopted by some lower castes. Enforcing certain customs marked this distinction of status between the widow and a married woman. The widow was to shave her head (to divest herself of her beauty to ensure that no other man found her attractive) and live in seclusion all her life. She had no right to perform any religious or social rites or participate in any auspicious event. She was to be considered an ill omen solely for the reason that she had outlived her husband. She was not to participate in the social ceremony where women gather together and apply vermillion (haldi-kunku) to each other’s forehead—a mark of acceptance of the other as a member of the society. She was denied the right not just to adorn the vermillion and other signs of ‘saubhagya’ (good fortune) but also to any other adornment on her body. In fact, the term used to refer to a married Hindu woman is itself ‘saubhagyawati’—one with good fortune—where saubhagya means her status of being married and having a husband. The widow was the very antithesis of being fortunate; she was in fact a bad omen destined to live a life of isolation and servitude. There are also injunctions on how a widow must not only live in isolation but also cook and eat separately, the simplest and most austere of meals, as her life after husband’s death was of no use. She was not to mix freely even within the family, her contact was considered dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, and newly weds. The ethic of social boycott for a widow thus was internalized within the religious ethic and it did not require a formal panchayat to assemble and rule for such a boycott, as not being in a union of marriage, or worse, the death of one’s husband, was reason enough for such a social boycott. Many of these practices are still continued across castes so far as widowed women are concerned, where they cannot partake into religious or social ceremonies, which can be carried out only by married women. Though a widowed man too might not have such a right to perform some rituals without a wife, he does not have to face ridicule or isolation—he is allowed or even encouraged to remarry. I have now laid down three methods by which the Peshwas sought to revive the brahminical ethic of patriarchy to rule via religious principles.

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Let us now turn to a brief discussion of the motivations behind this revival of a differential code (the differentials being: men and women, upper caste women and lower caste women, married women and widows) and its relationship to caste endogamous marriages. As has been pointed out, alleviating the status of the Brahmins above other castes was a concern of the Peshwa regime. They wanted to be upholders of the Brahmin supremacy and the inter-caste hierarchy. The Brahmins were thus made quite uncomfortable if other castes were to follow the patriarchal code they had laid down for the Brahmin women. These stricter and oppressive codes for women were seen as a preserve of the upper castes and markers of their exclusivity and pride. If other castes were to ape such stricter codes it would mean the loss of exclusive status of the practices of the Brahmins. I have cited the example of the Kayastha Prabhus with regard to the abolishment of the practice of widow remarriage above as substantiating this tendency. Though loss of exclusive caste pride was an important reason, it was not the only reason why Brahmanical patriarchy objected to other castes following their practices. The complete isolation of all women in the household and stricter sexual codes for them would have meant both the loss of productive labour of lower caste women and the sexual availability of lower caste women for the upper caste men. The upper caste men were allowed to have sexual relations with lower caste women (who had no status as wives), and their offspring from these women were often considered superior to the children these women had from their intracaste marriage. The example of the higher status accorded to children who were born out of the relations between Brahmin men with the Nair women in Kerala is a case in point. Thus, like most other practices listed here, this too was not a Peshwa invention, but a recovery of brahmanical code of sexual control by the state when occupied by upper caste rulers. Though it is difficult to say how much of this Brahmanical ethic percolated into the practices of the lower castes by the pursuit of sanskritization alone or whether they evolved regressive patriarchal codes of their own. What we do have evidence for is that the upper castes resisted such sanskritization moves. Sanctions for such a differential sexual code according to one’s caste status and the duty of the King to resist lower castes taking up practices of the upper caste are present in the religious texts. I will discuss these sanctions through the code of anuloma (natural) and pratiloma (un-natural) marriages in the Dharmasutras (part of the Dharmasastra

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literature). There is disagreement on how strictly these sutras were actually followed and also on their various interpretations but if the notions against social acceptance of inter-caste marriages that continue today are any indication, the principles of anuloma and pratiloma still seem to be very much alive in different forms and under different names. The anuloma and pratiloma marriages are both a result of varnasamkara or crossing of varnas. Though both kinds are undesirable, pratiloma marriages raise issues of grave anxiety among the lawmakers of the Dharmasutras. Anuloma—meaning ‘in the direction of the growth of the hair or according to the natural order’—was used to denote hypergamous marriages where men from upper caste had relationships with women from castes lower than theirs. These relations were acceptable, but all such relationships were not considered equal. Though a son of a Brahmin man and a Kshatriya woman was still a savarna (the one with the favourable varna); the son of a Brahmin man and a sudra woman was considered to be of a lower caste. Moreover, a sudrapati (a Brahmin man married to a sudra woman) was not only denied the right to some religious and social events such as a shraddha or death ceremony, but all the sutras are also explicit that begetting offspring from such a union is a great sin. This also led to the loss of caste for the Brahmin man. Thus though seeking illicit relationship with lower caste women by upper caste men was permitted, marriage and family with them was not entertained in the shastras. A pratiloma marriage, the one against the natural order, was a hypogamous marriage where woman from an upper caste was involved with the lower caste men. Such marriages were called dharmahina—or outside the sacred law. Even here, the union of an upper caste woman with a sudra man was considered the greatest sin with the offspring itself being labelled as a patita (sin) or chandala (demon). The women from upper castes involved in such unions were brutally punished and tortured and the final punishment in all such cases was that of a death sentence. The offsprings from such unions were treated as outcastes not worthy of any religious or social life. Sutras also mention that some of the lowest castes originate from the miscegenation among the four varnas. Moreover, the texts assign the upper castes the duty and grant them the authority to resist any challenge to this differential order. The centrality of this order to the Vedic dharma is succinctly captured in the following lines from the Dharmasutras and a recent commentator’s gloss on them.

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The maintenance of the purity and integrity of the varna system from these omnious trends through endogamy is prized beyond measure, and the preventing of confusion of orders or mixture of castes is enjoined as the prime responsibility of the king, of course in alliance with the indispensable Brahmins (Gautum Dharmasutras and Vashista Dharmasutras in Jha 1970)

The upholding of caste endogamy was considered so central that lawbooks even allow the brahmanas and the vaisyas to take up arms— an extraordinary provision in order to realize this objective (Jha 1970: 275). The sutras and the diktats of the caste panchayats they generate do much to generate and maintain the hysteria over inter-caste marriages generally—and especially of a woman from a higher caste to a lower caste man—that continues in contemporary Indian society. Such an understanding of the hierarchies of women’s bodies according to the caste and the intra-caste regimentation of their purity and contamination can be seen to have percolated down to almost all castes in India. These may be translated as the honour code of an upper or middle level caste or a selfpride code by the lower castes, which have only now begun to articulate their caste identities in the language of dignity. The prevalence of caste panchayats among some Navbuddhist communities in Maharashtra can be cited as an example of the latter. However, there are several examples of lower castes such as the Khatiks (butchers) in Delhi adopting a stricter code around morality and sexuality and choosing women’s bodies as sites over which to operate them. The above discussion is not to suggest that the text itself was sufficient or definitive, but to suggest that it did provide the basis on which later pre-British regimes built their own codes of propriety and punishment in the matters of marriage and relationships. The upholding of these notions was done either by treating them as falling within the jurisdiction of caste panchayats, supervised by the mix of the religious authority (the brahmasabha) and the state, or by the state taking up the duty of the moral enforcer itself, as in the case of the Peshwas. Most states, which undertook the enforcement of such codes, did not systemically reform or change the existing codes but only facilitated the enforcement of these already available religious codes. The British, who first formulated the notion of a Hindu law, also relied heavily on translation of these Vedic texts especially the Manusmriti, which has a strong misogynistic undertone in its idea of a social moral code.

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3

The British Engagement with ‘Hindu’ Law

This section discusses the role played by the British in institutionalizing the idea of one common Hindu law and what that came to mean for caste governance over women. In his excellent survey of how the British ideas of what constitutes Hindu law evolved, Derrett (1961) gives a detailed account of how British notions of Hindu law developed before 1864. The year 1864 is important because the British colonial government had sought to abrogate the authority of the sastras as a necessary and guiding principle of law that year. This ambitious abrogation, however, was preceded by a complex and highly selective process, which involved either complete ruling out castebased customary practices and moulding of these practices to fit into the Anglo-Sastric law, or rolling out a process of selection and abrogation of the sastras in accord with the convenience and judgement of the British. I have discussed some aspects of this in the second chapter in discussing caste governance under the British, I will focus here especially on what this meant for the laws regarding sexual control over women. Let me begin, however, with a bit of a background to better explain how the British rule extended the code of Brahmanical patriarchy laid down in the sastras to all castes (while simultaneously claiming to abrogate sastras) much more effectively than the upper caste rulers who preceded them. Though initially the British, like the Portuguese and the French in India, engaged with Hindu law and Islamic law (as well as the informal customary norms of tribal peoples that later came to be described as customary ‘law’), many contingent factors dampened the enthusiasm of the British to learn in depth about the numerous diverse norm-based practices or even the numerous commentaries on the sastras themselves. This led to a process of selective consultation with the elite from both Hindus and Muslims, which made the British accept the generalization that the Quran ruled all Muslims and the Sastras ruled all Hindus. Though consultations with non-Brahmin castes were carried out, the elites of these castes seemed to have directed them to the pandits on matters of religious aspects of personal law. As a result, any effort at the preservation of more specific caste-based alternate systems or codes was abandoned. On the one hand, the British tried to reform and to integrate Hindu criminal law, law of evidence, and contract law to approximate into the Anglo-Sastric system. But the personal law was to be left untouched unless it contradicted the principles of natural justice. In practice however,

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for the first two centuries of the British rule, if a contradiction was encountered in disputes regarding the personal law of the Hindus, the sastras were the final authority. (a) Types of personal law administrations inherited by the British Before the British evolved the Anglo-Sastric system in 1864, they noted four broad types of existing judicial administration that existed. Not all of them followed the ethic of brahminical patriarchy enshrined in the sastras, but they were set on the path to doing so. The four systems of existing precolonial administrative systems were: First, in the forests and highlands the dispute settlement was handled by the tribal government. For these communities, justice was about settling disputes only as an aspect of general control rather than explicit codes. Laws were unwritten, administered by the elders, drawn from customs, and amenable to gradual modification over long periods of time. Second, in the working communities who made an agrarian living, where judicial authority and decisions rested in leaders, who had local prestige. The judge was simultaneously the head of the family, caste, or the headman of the village. The idea here is, of course, that of the dominant caste village, we had discussed at length earlier. However, Derrett tells us that later there was also an additional office of the political governor created by the state (and continued by the Britsh) who was above the village or caste leader. Invariably it was a dominant caste person or a Brahmin who occupied this office of the political governor. This governor kept an eye on the disputes in the villages or districts under him and any instance of deviance especially in matters of caste purity and related gender norms, was reported to the ruler. Such indiscipline was interpreted as a threat to government stability and appeals were made to rulers to intervene and enforce sexual moral codes. The Brahmin thus had a direct control over maintaining sexual moral discipline in accordance with inter-caste hierarchy—the breach of either could mean a higherlevel inquiry. Even minor symbolic issues of dress or hair could become a matter to be reported to the higher authorities. The observance of intracaste codes too, was monitored closely and, if required, enforced violently by the alliance of the state and the caste elite. Derrett argues that this system remained more or less the same from the 10th c to the 16th c. This period also saw a parallel development whereby more tribal regions

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were being integrated into the native kingdoms as a result of military expansion, leading to more populations being brought under brahmanical jurisdiction. The third type of judicial administration evolved among the rural landowners and petty government classes in the towns, which were built around important religious centres. The caste governance here remained with the caste panchayats, which functioned directly under the assigned brahmasabhas or religious authority. In the second chapter the relationship of each of these bodies to the state and how they functioned in a pyramid-like structure had been discussed. These brahmasabhas played a crucial role in ‘advancing the cause of vaidic orthodoxy’ in the regions under their jurisdiction (Devadevan 2016: 50–51). To summarize these first three systems: what you have before 1864 is the state, the brahmasabha and the caste panchayat, a triumvirate structure enforcing the textual ideal of sexual moral code for women in the towns and the villages immediately around the towns; as the villages get more remote from towns, you have a less coherent but similar structure, with the upper caste provincial governor replacing the brahmasabhas; and finally, you have the gradual breaking down of the tribal system by continuous acquisition of tribal regions and their ‘intergration’ into the ‘Hindu’ order. For all three of these groups the Brahmin and the ruling class had already become a source from which personal law was being administered. This was a de facto kind of sanskritization. As a result, even though later the requirement of judicial decisions on personal matters to be in accord with the Mimansa Sutras was abandoned, this process of sanskritization had taken a firm grip in the society by the seventeenth century. The fourth system was that of the Brahmin sub-caste, which practiced self-rule in line with the smritis. The enforcement of state jurisdiction over them was loose (except when the state was hyper brahminical as under the Peshwas). A sign of this looseness was that the British state had allowed the Brahman to fall outside its category of those who could be granted capital punishment until the nineteenth century. With this system in place, the British began their codification of the Anglo-Sastric Hindu law. However, for several reasons this code, as I said above, never gave up its attraction to the Dharmasastras, especially in the matter of personal law. The sub-section that follows discusses these reasons.

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(b) Why the Sastric came to dominate in the Anglo-Sastric Hindu law? As stated above, the plethora and variety of customs and practices that the British inherited overwhelmed them. Moreover, since the Mughal administrative system had collapsed, they did not have an ongoing apparatus to collaborate with. For both these reasons, they refused as too burdensome the option of a joint consultative committee like the French4 in matters of dispute settlement. In addition, the famines made the task of overall administration all the more difficult. In lieu of the French consultative, they appointed their own judges. But these judges were under instruction to satisfy the litigants and to avoid offending the natives, especially, in matters of sexual codes. The actual authority, so far as sexual moral codes were concerned, remained in the hands of the native officers and caste heads, who, though they did not have the same power as before, had a considerable amount of influence and patronage. There may be examples of the British having used military force to enforce decrees related to land, but there was no such enforcement in any other matters listed above. In ‘religious and domestic’ matters the dharmashastras and the pandits were to prevail. In all suits regarding inheritance, marriage, caste and other religious usages and institutions, the laws of the Koran with respect to Mohamedans and those of the Shaster with respect to the Gentoos (Hindus) shall invariably be adhered to. (Derrett 1961: 25)

Another important reason for why the British succumbed to the sastric hold on personal law may have been that they thought this was, in any case, how things were in ancient regimes, of which India was surely an instance. Thus, before the French revolution, European states were used to the confusion of a plethora and variety of local laws in Europe, including Roman law and the law practiced by the ecclesiastical courts. The presence of a system where canon law existed along with common or civil law, as in the old world, would have eased the British into acquiescing in the local legal complexity and variety of India.

4 The French had established a standing consultative committee of Indian jurisprudence in 1827, whereby the French judicial officer and the native leader both had to preside and sign a judgement for it to enter into force.

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Finally and this is perhaps the most important reason, there was the prospect of a native backlash that any attempt to reform personal law would inevitably prompt. This deserves a separate sub-section. I will discuss this backlash and its effect in the two-part sub-section that follows. The first part will give an account of the initial years before the direct codification of Anglo-Sastric law, when British intervened by stationing European overseers and other judicial officers who were open to arbitrate on matters of personal law. The second part will look at the period around which codification began. This was also the period, on the one hand, of the initial anti-colonial stir which viewed the reform of personal law as an attack on native values and ways of life, but, on the other hand, it was also a period where Hindu social reform, motivated by the project of uniting the caste-divided Hindus, had begun to build up. I discuss this through the example of the 1872 civil marriage act introduced by the British. (c) The native resistance to reform and the triumph of caste endogamy Part I: The initial years As the discretion of the native caste leader came under the eye of the European overseer, the consternation among the public with the demise of their old way of life led to a sort of unrest in the initial years. Initially, it became difficult to uphold the rule of the caste panchayats, when the parties against whom the panchayats ruled, could and would open litigation in the court and be entertained by the overseer. Derrett notes that this also led to public migration out of British occupied areas to areas where native rule still held sway. After 1772, when the stationing of British overseers began, the caste panchayats seemed to have ceased administering justice in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In general matters of justice over which disputes arose and needed to be resolved. But in matters of religion their authority was largely still left alone for fear of native resistance. By 1788, the British rulers had already begun to dissociate themselves from any attempt to maintain or modify caste or such related matters of the Hindus. Any caste decision that did not violate the principle of natural justice was allowed to be in place, and caste was seen as a private association similar to an English Gentleman’s club by the British (Derrett 1961: 27). Warren Hastings, despite seeing the limitations of this arrangement, commissioned a selective study of Hindu and Muslim customs, only from

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the perspective of dispute settlement. This was done so as to satisfy the need for well-qualified arbitration. In practice though, it only meant that native officials appointed by the British government, who invariably came from the upper castes, could use their discretion in their judgements. The knowledge of the sastras remained an important qualification for gaining a job in the Indian judicial administration, even sometime after independence. The Dharamasastras thus, encroached upon both the diverse local customs and also on the English codified law and with them the brahmanical patriarchal code and its legitimization as traditional customary law penetrated deep into the hitherto non-Brahmin communities. Apart from rare instances, such as the Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 or the Prohibition of the Practice of Sati, where conflict arose between the court and the caste tribunal, in mundane disciplining of the social order caste codes continued to hold sway and over this period became more amenable to the dharmashastras. The result of this was that the distance between custom and dharmashastra came to be blurred. Custom either struggled to survive against the Anglo-Sastric law or in most areas it yielded to it. Since the English did not interfere with personal law and allowed for the sastric element in it as far as possible, the dharmasastra became so widely accepted as the norm that its directive normative status translated seamlessly into the practices of the population. Thus the sastric element evolved into both customary practice and explicit legal code for them. The customary laws of various caste groups adopted the dharmasastra through sanskritization and the Anglo-Sastric law played an important role in making dharmashastra an ideal for sanskritization to aspire to, by upholding it as a universal Hindu code for over two centuries. Part II: Codification in the later period The social reformers who, since the eighteenth century, had launched the mission to reimagine Hinduism in face of the challenges it faced as a result of its interaction with the new and liberal ideas from the West, were also one of the first to challenge the authority of caste. Incidentally, the first challenge to caste endogamy also came from a group of social reformers, the Brahmo Samaj. In 1860s Keshub Chandra Sen petitioned to the British government to legislate a law that would enable the Brahmo Samajis to marry without the requirement of caste endogamy. In this he wasn’t so much as attacking caste but wanted the British to recognize the Brahmo Samajis as a separate religion giving up on what he considered

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were decadent Hindu practices. In response, Henry Maine, who was then the Law member of the Governor General’s Council, drafted a bill, which would allow a civil marriage for all non-Christians. The reaction to the prospect of such a law was a tumultuous opposition from the Orthodox sections, especially the upper castes. In light of this opposition, Maine declared that the bill was merely permissive and that it did not apply to those who did not want to undertake such marriages. However, the opposition, heightened by the anti-colonial stir that had begun to build up in this period, made the bill into a symbol of the European assault on native ways of life. The bill was thus introduced to a select committee for their opinion and a year-long process of seeking its reception among the native population by local government channels was initiated. So antagonistic was the response to this proposition of making possible non-endogamous marriage that F. Stephen, who took over from Maine in 1869, had to pass a completely different bill under the title of ‘Brahma Marriage Bill of 1871’. This bill was drawn on the lines of the petition by Sen, and limited itself only to the marriage between the Brahmo Samajis. Contrary to what the British had expected, this bill came to face an even bigger opposition and this time from the Brahmo Samajis themselves, who had by then expelled Sen. The major contention of the Brahmo Samajis was that though they were opposed to certain practices of Hinduism, they did not want to be treated as non-Hindus, as was being done by the bill. What the British did in response to this backlash is quite revealing. In the new act called the Act III of 1872, they ruled that those who undertook non-endogamous marriages would be considered excommunicated from their religious and caste groups. The Preamble of the Act thus read, [I]t is expedient to provide a form of marriage for persons who are neither Christians nor Jews, and who do not profess, or who have renounced or been excluded from the communion of the Hindu, Muhammadan, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh or Jaina religion, and to legalize certain marriages the legality of which is doubtful. (Act III 1872, quoted in Mody 2002: 232) [My emphasis]

Though in the final act reference to exclusion was done away with, the 1871 Act required that the persons undertaking a civil marriage declare non-profession of faith. It was made clear by the upper castes, which made the most vociferous and influential opposition to the Act, that professing

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Hinduism while not abiding by caste endogamy was impossible. More importantly, because now this offence against caste endogamy had been codified into British law by this act, a common caste panchayat rule of ostracizing members (who are obviously taken to be Hindus, if they are part of the caste system) for the breach of caste endogamy morphed into a colonial rule, which remained in force till 1954 when the Act was amended and turned into the Special Marriage Act. This amendment too faced immense vitriolic opposition but Nehru, on the basis of the huge electoral mandate that he got in the first general election, got it passed in Parliament, thereby removing the clause of non-profession of religion as a need for an non-endogamous marriage. Thus so, far as the coalition of inter-caste hierarchy and patriarchy was concerned, the British engagement was submissive to the rule of the caste, a rule only resisted in the Nehruvian era after independence.

4

Caste Endogamy in Post-independence Intra-caste Panchayats

The last two sections have tried to reveal the methods by which caste endogamy, which is a necessary condition for brahmanical patriarchy, became a principle of state rule under upper caste Hindu ruling dynasties, and later got integrated into the British law. Though the post-independence Hindu Code Bill was a major reform of the personal law of the Hindus (which was extended to all non-Muslims) several important changes related to inheritance of property had to be diluted due to the pushback from the conservative Mahasabhite section within the Nehru administration. Despite progressive legislations such as the Hindu Code Bill, which gave women the right to inheritance, divorce, adoption, etc. and the Special Marriage Act, which gave a legal status to inter-caste/inter-religious choice marriages, actual and positive change in the lives of Indian women has been very slow to come, with caste endogamy and the sexual control over women that it demands remaining the norm. Marriages that defy caste endogamy continue to face family and community reprimand and even violence, accompanied by complicity, active discouragement, and patronizing attitudes by state agencies. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that 95% of marriages in India

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are still intra-caste endogamous marriages.5 It is thus no surprise that most caste panchayats when they enforce violent diktats against couples that breach the endogamy code, do it on the assumption of impunity from the state. Though these attitudes are pervasive and general part of the mentality of people living in Hindu society this section will focus on the specific role of caste panchayats in feeding into this mentality and using it to motivate and justify their rule and administration of caste endogamy at the intracaste level. What are the detailed motivations of closely persevering caste endogamy, in an intra-caste environment? (a) The Honour Code: Women’s bodies as sites of intra-caste governance In a traditional intra-caste worldview marriage is not an individual affair but a community affair; this flows from the religious idea that marriage is a sacrament and not a mere contract between two individuals. The social implications of this are widespread and well known. So, for instance, it is, considered not just unnecessary but even immoral for young men and women to have known each other before marriage. Parents and the elders in the caste-community fix marriages. This is, of course, considered the correct way of doing things by tradition, but it shows the extent to which tradition itself bore contractual features that were later part of secular law—these arranged marriages, even as traditionally proper, were thoroughly contractual affairs with demands for dowry etc., being written into the defining practices of marriage. The acceptability of these practices as tradition means that a family’s and a caste’s honour and reputation are attached to these decisions. The caste of the woman undertaking a marriage of her own choice, outside her caste, is the one which loses its honour, especially if she chooses to marry a lower caste man. Here too we see the values attached to anuloma and pratiloma marriages, discussed earlier, being reflected in the degrees of loss of honour depending on the nature of non-endogamous unions.

5 According to a 2012 survey conducted by University of Maryland—called Indian Human Development Survey—only 5% of marriages in India are inter-caste marriages. Of these, the highest 11.8% are in the Northeast, dominated by the tribal peoples, whereas the ‘caste-ridden’ central Indian region records the lowest 1.8% inter-caste marriages (Narzary and Ladusingh 2019).

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Moreover, women and their bodies in themselves are considered sites of honour, to be guarded from outsiders—other men, outside the household or outside the caste. Not being able to guard this honour, even if it is against the will of the women, is considered a shaming and an emasculating experience for the men of the family and the caste. Guarding this caste honour then justifies restricting the movement of women, justifies early marriages and other such repressive customs, creating a securitization ethic around women where ‘bahu-beti ki ijjat 6 ’ becomes the honour of the family, caste and the society as a whole. Deviant women are thus considered a danger to the order of society. Marriages are simply not viewable as self-standing and isolable institutions. Most present-day caste panchayats take it upon themselves to not just rule on issues regarding inter-caste marriages as and when they arise, but they even release pre-emptive orders to ‘avoid such decay’ of the community and society as might arise if women are not tamed. The breach of caste endogamy instigates a deep anxiety in caste groups and the severity of punishments granted in these cases by the panchayats reflects this. Quite possibly, the breach of this code of honour is the gravest in the life of a caste and that is why the most extreme cases of violence that are recorded are those of the murder of couples who decide to marry outside caste by caste members and often also their own family members. A variety of pre-emptive measures are thus decided upon by caste panchayats against such marriages taking place, decisions such as lowering the age of marriage for girls, diktats on the free movement of women, declaration of a compulsory chastity test on the first intercourse between a married couple, etc. The numerous examples of such rulings and such actions point to the horrifying scale at which such attitudes promote and often even successfully ensure the collective control of the caste as a group over its women. A few examples will convey this. The Bhagpat Panchayat in UP, for example, gave a diktat against young women going to markets and using cell phones, which they argued is a 6 A very common expression used widely in private conversations and in public discourse, attached a positive value to honour that needs safeguarding and preservation. It literally translates as the ‘honour of the daughter and the daughter-in-law’. Ijjat or honour here means her chastity. This is a very common, unchallenged assumption where for example, an instance of rape is referred to as ‘being robbed of one’s honour’ (ijjat loot jaana), or an inter-caste marriage by a woman is referred to as undoing the honour of her family (parivaar ka naam mitti me mila dena).

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corrupting influence as they can then talk to boys, affecting the ‘purity’ and ‘chastity’ of women (Mail Today 2012). In another instance a caste panchayat made public tests to prove virginity of women compulsory. In these ‘tests’, the newly weds are sent into a room with a white cloth to have intercourse on, whereas the entire panchayat sits outside waiting for the couple to come out with a red stain on the cloth. When the groom steps out with the cloth, the panchas ask, ‘maal khara ki khota?’ (are the goods true or faulty?”). Called the ‘kaumaryapariksha’ or test of virginity, if a woman fails to bleed on her wedding bed, the wedding is considered cancelled. The woman is then humiliated in front of the entire village and punishments ranging from fines, social boycott to sexual exploitation may be granted to her and her family (Chandgude 2017). Whereas the unmarried woman has to prove her virginity to the panchas, the married woman has to prove her chastity. In many cases the tests for chastity are designed to be impossible to pass, such as, the need to put one’s hand in boiling oil to remove a coin and remain unscathed or to chew rice without wetting it, etc. The idea is to punish women who are considered independent or treading outside the ‘defined codes of behaviour’ as deemed fit by the panchas. Sexual exploitation rather than enforcing discipline is also seen to be a motive in some cases. One caste panchayat in Maharashtra announced a child marriage, where a 2 months old baby girl was declared as married to a 40-year-old man. This was because one of the panchs had married the wife of this 40-year-old man while he was away. In some castes, the touch of a ‘parapurush’ any man other than one’s husband—is considered polluting the character of a woman and thus the entire caste. This leads the caste panchayats to rule that no expecting women can consult male doctors or have their babies delivered in a hospital, as that increases the chance of being touched by or gazed upon by other men. Families which seek medical help are boycotted, women hounded and killed. Women are often treated as commodities and awarded in marriage to people wronged by the panchayats in the past to correct its mistakes. Women who seek higher judicial redress are fined heavily and socially boycotted from the village, because seeking redress outside the caste is itself considered a sin against the caste. In a case from the Raigad district of Maharashtra, in the panchayat of the Vaidu caste some members of other castes helped an aggrieved woman to seek the help of the police. The members of the panchayats attacked them brutally causing serious injuries and the woman was subjected to the heinous punishment of pushing red chilly power

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through her vaginal tract. The woman Mohini Talekar from the Khajni village in Raigad committed suicide due to this harassment (Chandgude 2017). The impending threat of the caste panchayats especially to those who choose to marry outside the caste have led to thousands of complaints being filed against these panchayats. In the village Poladpur, Rahul Engle and his wife were socially boycotted because she wore jeans. In another ironic case from Raigad, a caste panchayat of the Bouddhas boycotted a woman, who won 23 gold medals in a sport, for breaking the caste discipline, which also included joining and working for an institution started by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself. A panchayat of the Gosavi caste declared a marriage cancelled because the couple spoke to each other in Marathi rather than speaking in the local dialect. In Jogeshwari when a young girl of seventeen, who was declared married when an infant by the panchayat, refused to comply with the diktat, she was fined heavily and her family was boycotted socially. I have listed just a very small set of illustrations that clearly depict the hysteria over the possibility of sexual or material freedom of women. It is important to note that some of these are manifestations of the application of traditional sastric injunctions in a hitherto unprecedented form. It would seem that what we would think of as ‘primitive’ methods such as these have no precedent in recorded primitive caste panchayat history. For example, the punishments of hitting an accused woman with hardened millet balls or putting one’s hand in boiling oil, etc., do not find mention in earlier records. It might be that, with time and with the lack of state control, there’s more arbitrariness that has entered. It may also be that this frenzied violence of punishment is an extreme reactiveness by caste panchayats and caste elders to the generally increased loosening of the hold they have over their members. Many factors of modernity go into this loosening. Women entering education and formal democratization of the political sphere with reservations in gram panchayats, has challenged the undisputed authority and compliance of patriarchal norms within each caste, often leading to self-choice marriages. Resistance to this can be found across all caste panchayats. Often these caste panchayats are at odd with other institutions of panchayati society. Thus, women who have represented themselves in the gram panchayats have come under sharp attack of the caste panchayats. Also often, women who do not themselves offend caste norms but show sympathy or support to offenders are seen as offending the rubric of traditional society. Rajesh Tikait leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in a debate on national television very casually

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said that Seema, a woman who fought hard to bring those khap leaders who murdered Manoj and Babli, of the infamous Manoj Babli case, had brought shame upon the entire village. ‘Laali ne to saari gaav ki izzat kharab kar di’, he said. This can also be observed to a limited extent in the way resistance itself is being imagined currently to the diktats of the caste panchayats and their verdicts. It is the women’s associations and women rights’ activists who are in the forefront of opposition to the caste panchayats. (b) The Purity-Status Code: Endogamy and Sanskritization As has been emphasized earlier, the most gruesome punishments are often awarded for ‘immoral marriages’. Referred to as ‘honour killings’ these murders are by no means limited to the Khaps or to Haryana (as has been the common perception). Nevertheless, the Khaps, which came under fire, after some cases of extreme barbarity, reveal important features of another code involving endogamy that runs through these caste panchayats. This code is the purity-status code, i.e. the idea of purity (associated with caste endogamy and control over female sexuality) that determines the social status of a caste. This flows directly from the idea of brahmanical patriarchy that group status owes to how ‘pure’ the women of the group are, and thus how ‘un-contaminated’ its progeny is. For castes, such as Jats who have come late to prosperity, sanskritization and establishing higher social status has been a resident anxiety. I have discussed the complex socio-economic reasons for this in the third chapter in detail. Here, I will focus on the use of caste endogamy (a marker of purity) as a tool to achieve sanskritization (a way of acquiring higher status). It is worth clarifying what we are studying here. We are studying a family of sociological concepts surrounding caste: caste purity, caste status, caste endogamy, caste norms and practices, and finally, sanskritization. What are the relations between them? Given that caste is a hierarchical system, it is in the interests of the upper castes to preserve the hierarchy. To do this, they enforce more strictly than other castes their caste endogamy. Enforcing caste endogamy turns on enforcing the norms and practices that make for the caste’s purity, and marriage norms are one of the most central among those. However, sometimes, in the lower castes, one seeks not to preserve one’s status in the hierarchy, but

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to improve it. This process is, as we discussed at length earlier, called ‘sanskritization’. Here, a caste adopts the practices of a higher caste or castes and preserves endogamy through the enforcing of those practices and norms. In the regions where Jats are dominant, there have tended to be two markers that are relevant to the process of sanskritization and the ensuing preservation of caste endogamy. The first marker of caste purity takes one to the study of the relation of the phenomenon of caste to the phenomenon of clan or ‘gotra’. As I said, the jats came to prosperity relatively late; and once they became a fairly prosperous community, they developed competitive relations with other prosperous communities of the region. In this competition, gaining higher status became a way of gaining ground over rivals, and so a process of sanskritization was adopted to seek closer approximation to Brahmanical lifestyles. Now, one of the features of the society of Brahmin castes is the prevalence of clans called ‘gotras’. Gotras became a part of Jat culture and initially these clans were defined upon material criteria such as cow ownership and land ownership. But in the efforts to cleave to Brahmanical norms, they adopted the more Vedic criterion of a common ancestral past to define gotras. And once this was done, the exogamous nature of gotras began to be paramount in mimicry of Brahmins. Just like in the case of the Peshwas, trying to reserve the right to abolish widow re-marriage only for the Brahmins and citing it as a marker of their higher status, the early Brahmins seem to have marked gotras and gotra-based restriction on marriages only for themselves. Following suit, gotras among Jats adopted norms disallowing intragotra (‘incestuous’) marriages and this began to be a fixation in the internal governance of the Jat community. Clearly the Khap panchayats fixated on these norms so as to aspire to a sanskritization towards greater purity, to greater Brahminical approximation, which requires this greater adherence to Brahminical practices and norms of patriarchy. A leader of the Khap Panchayat declared this aspiration in very unambiguous terms while defending caste endogamy on national television, when he declared ‘the Jats to be Aryans’ and added: ‘The Vedas are our constitution and we will bring reform in the Indian constitution according to the need of our customs’.7

7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu0sArEG-e0.

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Having observed this conservative and Vedic turn in Jat governance due to aspirations to sanskritization, it is also equally important to observe that the fixation on enforcing gotra marriage rules has become more obsessive among the Jats for reasons turning on entirely material considerations as well. This is a turn that came about entirely due to the legal outcomes of reform in post-independent India, in particular after the introduction of the Hindu Succession Act 1951, which allowed daughters the right of succession in paternal property. The opposition to the Act was vociferous among the Khaps who extended the gotra then to include not only the paternal lineage but lineages of grandmothers from both the maternal and paternal sides and even geographic clusters of villages known as the ‘bhaichara’ (brotherhood) so as to marry off daughters to physically far off villages, in order to avoid their claim to inherit right over land, which is the main form of property among this landed caste. In 2009 Pawanjit Banwala, chief of the Banwala Khap Panchayat admitted that harshest punishments such as excommunication is reserved only for intra-gotra marriages, whereas what are incredibly called ‘lesser offences’ such as killing or rape, are not awarded such extreme punishments. This is a clear case of material motivations for preserving socially conservative marriage rules in order to facilitate the sanskritization process for Jats. A second marker of purity that is relevant to issues of marriage and gender may be found in the tendency among Jats to aggressively distance themselves from the lower castes. For instance, Jats, who are agricultural castes and who sit very closely on their land, have resisted attempts at land reforms which would grant some land to the Dalit castes, primarily Chamars who populate these regions. Distancing themselves from these groups, in terms of their own social practices has been an important motivation. This inevitably affects gender and relations between men and women, of which marriage is the most important. In a context when women, increasingly affected by modern trends, associate more freely, control over women in these matters was essential to the purity that was being sought. Jai Singh Ahlawat, a Khap Panchayat Panch articulates this worldview succinctly when he correlates equality (of both caste and gender) with immorality. He says, that it is only the Dalits and some immoral women who want equality which according to him is immoral as it requires the challenging of established ‘order of the society’. The fear of women and their sexuality, which is demonized in the sastras, is also reflected in these panchayati deliberations and decisions.

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Khap diktats run on the logic that the moment a woman chooses to love, she has given in to her ‘vaasna’ or carnal desire and no relationship which is preceded by a woman seeking a union can be moral, precisely because it comes from a position of a women being an equal. In other words, the very experience of a carnal desire in a woman is an act of immorality in the Khap panchayat universe. While within the endogamous boundaries of caste, sexual relations and sexual desire remain socially invisible. But as soon as upper caste women cross those boundaries and associate with lower castes, the deviance from the norm suggests the visible presence of sexual desire that is motivating it, which, as I said, is moral anathema, in the Khap panchayat universe. What is more, such sexual desire in upper caste women is seen as something that is fallen because it is the sort of thing that is thought of as characterizing low caste women’s behaviour and lifestyles. All these inhibitions go into the perceived stigmas and the prohibitions regarding inter-caste sexual relations and marriages, and eventually into the conviction that caste endogamy the only way to elevate the status of the group above the other groups in its vicinity. (c) Negotiating the demands of Brahmanical patriarchy with the need for Female labour Adopting notions of purity in line with brahmanical patriarchy for a caste group, whose subsistence depends on manual labour, cannot be the same as for those castes whose subsistence does not require it. Peasant castes such as the Jats cannot, like the Brahmins of the Peshwa era, relegate the women to the household completely, protecting them from possible contaminating threats from exposure to lower castes, and lower caste men in particular. The Jat women labour the fields and that labour is essential to the material life and well-being of the caste. How, then, do the Jats bring about a negotiation of the two needs—one of ascribing themselves a higher social status by adopting the protective practices for their women of high brahmanical patriarchy and the other need for the labour of its women members. In order to negotiate these seemingly opposing needs, the Jats, while preserving the notion of a woman’s status drawn from her husband, extend the code of her marital status outside the household to cover the entire village or cluster of village. The village, in this sense, becomes her household. The household is writ large to become the village itself.

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These are vital reconceptualizations underlying the negotiation of these two opposing requirements. This can be seen in the khap advocates seeking to blur the division between the bahu (daughter-in-law) and the beti (daughter) when women marry in the same village. As the khap leader states, the bahu is identified in the village by her ghoonghat (veil) whereas the daughters are identified, as those who don’t have to cover their face. If women choose to marry in their own village it breaks down this system of dividing the women according to their marital status. The married woman thus must be covered and her movements must be more restricted in order to maintain the discipline of patriarchy. Whereas, the honour of the married woman is to serve the village into which she is marrying by respecting every man of the village, the honour of the uncovered daughter lies in marrying according to the wishes of the village elders or in most cases the entire khap. She is to consider every young man in the village or the khap as her brother (a natural consequence of the village being viewed as a household); with her physical movement restricted (especially in rural areas) she is not to encounter any man she can think of as a partner in her entire unmarried life. This is an effective mechanism to discipline and control female sexuality, while at the same time not requiring the restriction of women to the household, which itself is now, as I said, writ large by the code to include the entire village. Thus women must undertake physical labour in fields, etc., but by reconceiving the very idea of the village as a household, the purpose of restricting the possibility of selfdriven attraction among the young is achieved. The other male, on this reconception, is now the brother male. Such are the reconfigurations and the requirements for a middle-level peasant, landowning caste like the jats which is attempting sanskritization and adopting brahminical patriarchy. Since the economic situation of the Jats does not allow them to free the women of manual labour, they reconstruct the meaning of the ‘village as household’, with all in it counting as kin. In fact the logic, on this reconceptualization, is exactly the same as the Brahmins of the Peshwa period who due to their economic prosperity could force their women into the family household, with the similar intention of restricting the free expression of female sexuality. As Yashpal Mallik, the leader of the Jaat Aarakshan Sangharash Samiti when asked if such violence against the young couples is justified states: ‘if someone attacks one’s house they are justified in killing them’.

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5 Caste Endogamy and the Political Role of Caste I believe that in the present context, even though patriarchy and the codes of caste honour it rests on, remain important motivations for enforcement of caste endogamy by caste panchayats, it is invariably intermingled with the host of other motivations for which caste honour may be cultivated. These motivations are increasingly political and the language of politics rather than primordialism is employed in their service. This occurs in two senses. The first is this. The modern state ever since Indian independence, as is well known, has first adopted an enabling Constitution for legislation, and then through its parliament and regional assemblies carried out a great deal of social legislation, having thus been enabled. Also this may quite properly be thought of as a social contract under which all citizens fall, a legal contract with wide social effects. But, of course, all this legislation is subject to democratic ratification in electoral politics. And electoral politics turns on the interests that particular groups have when they come to vote. Castes have often used their numbers in this electoral field in reactive ways to the legislation and proposed legislation of the parliamentary institutions at the centre and the regions. In this sense caste today is inseparable, ever since independence, from caste politics. In this political role of caste, caste endogamy is often used to block the effects of modern legislation, with frequently conservative ends motivating such obstructions. Thus assertion by castes uses the language of community and group rights to oppose the legislation of a modern state which is a deeply political act, which is motivated as much by conservative anxiety as by the idea of group interests and identity. Caste endogamy is a presupposed condition for such a political role to be possible. It is only if the caste membership has relatively clear defining boundaries—something that endogamy alone can provide—that it can have an electoral profile and effectiveness of this kind. Secondly, the political culture of benefits targets castes as beneficiaries. This, once again, requires that caste identity defining who belongs to a caste, are clearly made so that quota allocation, welfare benefits, etc., accrue to the caste. In defining it clearly, caste endogamy finds new justification for its preservation. I will say much more about this second aspect of political assertiveness in my conclusion to the book in my next and final chapter.

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Let me conclude the present chapter with a recapitulating discussion of the centrality of the need for control over women in maintaining caste as an endogamous group and to maintain the hierarchy between castes. I have tried to give a broad picture of the preservation of caste endogamy as it occurs at three levels: how it occurs through the appeal to religious texts to preserve the inter-caste hierarchical order of caste; how over time caste endogamy has been reaffirmed by State-level actors either by force or due to the pressures of social legitimacy; and finally how it is employed in intra-caste governance. At the level of intra-caste governance caste panchayats become the enforcers of caste endogamy and each caste devises rules and structures to accommodate its own economic and social needs to the patriarchal framework of endogamy. These caste panchayats thus become an important link between the state, Hinduism’s textuality, and the social structure, enforcing the code of caste-based social hierarchy, which requires the oppression of women, with overt or covert support from the state. When the brahmanical code of purity and status that governs and controls female sexuality in the classic patriarchal forms get spread to the non-Brahmin castes, say cultivating castes, patriarchy has to be balanced with the occupational practices of the caste. Women labouring in the fields seem to prima facie pose a challenge to such a scheme of achieving status through purity. One resolution of this is to extend the idea of the household to the entire village. How does this work? Female sexuality is controlled paradigmatically in the patriarchal household without a problem, so gradually the paradigm is made to disperse and the whole of society, at least in this respect, gets to be modelled on paradigm of the household. The caste panchayat acts as the enforcing agency of this code and though with time its authority in the other spheres has come to recede, so far as the code of brahmanical patriarchy is concerned it still holds with considerable authority. It must be noted that even in contexts where the caste panchayats seem to be replaced by relatively transparent courts the shift can only be understood when one takes into account that these alternative courts get legitimacy and support from both the state and the society as long as they do not challenge the basic precepts of the patriarchal code. The mahila panchayats thus seek concessions for women like ‘the right not to being beaten up’ or ‘the right not to be deserted’ in exchange of complying with the ethic of the ideal Hindu household and the hierarchy of gender roles within the household. It is not unimaginable that any shift from such

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an ethic would not only make these panchayats lose support but they may even be attacked for corrupting the women and the order of the society.

References Bühler, G., & West, B. (1867). A Digest of the Hindu Law of Inheritance and Partition, from the Replies of the Sastris in the Several Courts of the Bombay Presidency. Bombay: Education Press, Byculla. Chakravarti, U. (1993). Conceptualising Brahmanical Patriarchy in Early India: Gender, Caste, Class and State. Economic and Political Weekly, 28(14), 579– 585. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/4399556. Chandgude, K. (2017, October 5). A. Ingole, Interviewer. Chavhan, R. (2013). Bhatkya Vimuktaanchi Jaatpanchaayat (Vol. 5). Pune: Deshmukh and Comapny Publishers. Derrett, J. D. M. (1961). The Administration of Hindu Law by the British. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 4(1), 10–52. Retrieved from www. jstor.org/stable/177940. Devadevan Manu, V. (2016). A Prehistory of Hinduism. Warsaw, Poland: De Gruyter Open. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110517378-fm. Gokhale, B. G. (1988). Poona in the Eighteenth Century An Urban History. Delhi: Oxford University Press Jamison, S. (2006). Women “Between the Empires” and “Between the Lines". In P. Olivelle (Ed.), Between the Empires Society in India 300 to 400 CE (pp. 191–215). New York: Oxford University Press. Jamison, S. (2018). Women: Stridharma. In P. Olivelle & D. R. Davis (Eds.), Hindu Law: A New History of Dharmasastras (pp. 137–150). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jha, V. N. (1970). Varnasamkara in the Dharma Sutras: Theory and Practice. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 13, 273–288. Mail Today (2012). ‘Talibani’ Panchayat: UP Panchayat Bans Love Marriage, Forbids Girls from Using Cell Phones. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiah ome/indianews/article-2172817/Talibani-panchayat-UP-panchayat-banslove-marriage-forbids-girls-using-cell-phones.html. Mody, P. (2002). Love and the Law: Love-Marriage in Delhi. Modern Asian Studies, 36(1), 223–256. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/3876697. Narzary, P. K., & Ladusingh, L. (2019). Discovering the Saga of Inter-caste Marriage in India. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 54(4), 588–599. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021909619829896.

CHAPTER 6

Conclusions

I opened this book by mentioning my interaction with the attendees of the Jaat Panchayat Moothmaati Abhiyaan at Mahad. A co-relation that emerged from these interactions and my consequent engagement with several actors involved with caste panchayats provided one of the chief motivating questions for this book. The co-relation is this: The majority of people who were facing this loyalty enforcement from their respective caste panchayats came from castes that were beneficiaries of what has sometimes been called the ‘second wave of democratization’. Yet, despite this democratization (i.e. the entry of these caste groups onto the political stage—whether it be in the form of being politically organized, being included in the affirmative action bracket, caste members having local or state-level political representation, or being adept in navigating the political bargaining processes of the modern state as a collective) the dominance of what are generally understood to be primordial bodies—such as caste panchayats—over group members seemed pervasive. The co-relation quite obviously stood to refute the modernist assumption that entry of caste into modern politics would completely dissolve the conservative aspects of caste (my concern, in particular, is the aspect of loyalty enforcement by social or physical coercion). Empirical observations on how caste works in India would also stand to refute such

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assumptions. The line of questioning that such a co-relation encouraged was whether caste conservatism was something that was contingently present as a primitive sociological element of caste despite or along with the parallel but independent deepening of political democracy or whether the two were in fact related and mutually supporting one another? My project in this book has been to argue that the latter is true. I have argued that the present strain of loyalty enforcement by the caste panchayats is related to the current political democratization in a specific manner and I have presented, in the chapters of the book, how this relation works and how the scholarly understanding of caste in politics has made this relation invisible. This ‘act of making invisible’ the political nature of the caste panchayats does not amount to a mere empirical fallacy i.e. it is not that it just gives us an incorrect picture of the caste world, but it also amounts to an incomplete analysis of how caste works with politics and vice versa. I, thus, argue that the framework of caste-based political democratization provides a motivation for how caste conservatism is employed by bodies such as caste panchayats in the modern period, in some striking ways continuous with their history of loyalty enforcement mechanisms. I have done this by excavating the ‘long historical view’ of the caste panchayat and showing how it has transformed over time, responding to the changing nature of caste and its relationship to the state. Through this transformation, I have shown how several existing claims about caste panchayats are falsified by this picture of caste panchayats that is recovered from the historical record. I began the book by laying down seven theses that I said were the target of criticism for my work. The careful excavation of the records of caste panchayats and the analysis of this record in the light of a study of the contemporary socio-political context have been my tools in criticizing these theses. The Vedic textual legitimation—even insistence—on intra-caste governance and its compliance by the kingdoms of the early medieval period were invoked by me to falsify the understanding that caste panchayats do not have their roots in the religious sanction and conception of caste. This is not to say that textuality was the only driving force and that they were not also driven by the social-occupational demands that a stratified caste society made on its members. Nevertheless, the religious justification was not only always present, it was also part of the procedural performance of the caste panchayat’s universe such as the seat of the panchayat being considered sacred, etc. This historical examination of these bodies also reveals that they performed deeper sociological functions than just

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being dispute resolution bodies. They were both associational and mobilizational tools for the caste group as well as enforcers of purity and pollution as required by the rules of caste hierarchy. They performed both preservative and sanskritization functions (respectively leading to retaining or reforming caste customs) for group members, depending on the socio-political situation that confronted the group. Another important insight that this long view provides is that it departs in a decentralizing direction from the ongoing centralizing tendency in the scholarship to focus on the village when looking at both local justice dispensation and caste governance (especially at the intra-caste level). It shows us that intra-caste governance through caste panchayats persisted in parallel with village-level panchayats, not only when most villages were not continuously settled but even when the village system became a fixture. Such a decentralization of focus also has the effect of moving us away from the ‘dominant caste’ fixation by showing that it was not the only axis around which caste governance was imagined, even when attempts were made by bodies such as the brahmasabha or some royal courts to impose a doctrinarian standard of inter-caste hierarchy on to the caste panchayats of the lower castes. These refutations of the dominant understandings about caste panchayats supported by this ‘long view’ framework of the book also bring into question larger theoretical claims about caste, which are the basis of these understandings. I have pointed out how the DumontSrinivas debate of the ‘book view’ vs. the ‘field view’ is counterproductive when looking at the organizations like the caste panchayats. This debate shaped much of the academic understanding around caste and aided the orthodoxies around the overemphasis on the village and the dominant caste. The theoretical inferences made on the bases of these categories employed in these debates were accepted almost as reified truths about caste in the theories of modernization and their analyses of the Indian society. Modernization theories, which viewed the primordial nature of caste as a category that would be eventually replaced by modern categories of class or citizenship, presupposed a disciplinary shift while making such predictive claims. It tracked the shift of caste, perceived as a purely anthropological/sociological phenomenon to a phenomenon thoroughly implicated in modern politics and political economy. Categories of secular citizenship and of class now were all set to subsume caste, no longer viewed in primordial terms, within their fold. Apart from the more scholarly theoretical formulations of modernization, the whole cognitive world

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of modernization also shaped the dominant mentalities within the Indian National Movement and as a result, the post-independence ruling class that came largely from the western educated and upper castes, to a large extent adopted such an understanding of caste. The Mahasabhite element in the Congress party may have had some influence in slowing down the subsumption from time to time, but there is little doubt that such subsumptive tendencies were dominant within the Congress party and in national politics quite generally. Though ‘the politicization of caste’ literature (especially the work of Rajni Kothari) sought to question the claims of modernization theories and their subsumptive claims about the diminishing relevance of caste in the post-independence social-political system of India, I have shown how, even they, despite such a commitment, succumbed to an unstated acceptance of a binary—of caste as a normatively regulative force (where caste continued to be invoked as a pre-given primordial identity) as opposed to caste as an associational force (where caste was employed as an instrumental identity for achieving secular-political gains)—that was prevalent in the scholarly literature. Once such a dichotomy is accepted, it becomes easy to fall into a tendency to think that in the modern period, especially with the rise of democratic politics and institutions, the social phenomenon of caste in the former of these two binary senses will give way to caste in the latter of the two binary senses, and such thinking (without explicitly intending it) coincides with the subsumptive outcomes forecast by modernization theory. And, it is worth noting that the Rudolphs too, again despite their criticism of modernization theory, echo this general tendency of thinking on the nature of caste by scholars like Kothari, in the specific matter of how to think about caste organizations such as the caste panchayat. In writing about caste organizations, they introduce specifically the notion of ‘caste associations’ and they see these as voluntary organizations, which gain centrality while the normregulating caste panchayats fade in significance as the modern period develops democratic and secular institutions. This analytical development in the work of the Rudolphs also happens because they have migrated the association/norm-regulation dichotomy that pervades Kothari’s understanding of the nature of caste in general to an understanding of caste organizations specifically—and with the same outcome of ushering out the norm-regulatory aspects of these organizations. This is not surprising since it is natural to think that caste organizations will be conceived in the shadow of an understanding of the nature of caste itself. If caste in

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general is viewed dichotomously in either associational terms or normregulatory terms, then caste organizations may as a matter of historical fact exploit the force of one or other of these understandings of caste in the way they conceive of themselves and their functions; the Rudolphs thus merely echo in a more specific register what Kothari and others have said about caste in general. And it has been my brief in this book that this whole binary or dichotomy which allows these outcomes of the legacy of modernization theories (even in the work of its critics), is misplaced and these outcomes substantially fail to record the survival of the normregulatory nature of both castes and caste organizations right through the modern period down to the present day. To repeat: acceptance of such a binary and its use in formulating their claim that caste (and caste organizations) qualifies as a subject in the study of politics, had the effect of generating an understanding of caste (and caste organizations) only insofar as these exhibits the associational features of secular modern associations, and thus failing to pay attention to the ways in which the regulative aspects of caste were in fact reinvented even within an associational caste ideal. I have demonstrated how this dichotomous categorization theorized from the nature of the functions performed by caste organizations as either regulative or associational is misleading both empirically and theoretically. I have proposed that rather than exclusively stressing functions, a categorization that stresses the methods employed by these caste organizations to purse its functions, is more instructive in revealing the traditional and primordial nature of caste organizations. The broad spectrum of caste organizations may perform regulative, secular associational, explicitly political, or all these kinds of functions simultaneously but employing involuntary enforcement of the primordial authority of caste as a method of obtaining compliance is characteristic of bodies such as the caste panchayats, sabhas, or mahasabhas, and thus a more informed way of categorizing them. Apart from keeping faith with the empirical picture of how caste bodies work, there is a theoretical value in shifting the weight within the analytical frame through which we view caste organizations—from one largely focused on their functions to one based on their methods in pursuing some of these functions. This shift to methods makes it possible to view the employment of top-down coercive or non-coercive associational methods, adopted by caste panchayats and other caste bodies like these panchayats, as being determined in part by the form of caste-based

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politics that is in play. So for example, I have shown how in the immediate post-independence period, the nature of caste politics did not inspire employment of coercive methods by caste panchayats for achieving quotas for their particular castes, as the nature of caste politics in the post-Mandal era did. I have argued that this is so because Mandalisation in general (the electoral rise of political parties with middle-level castes as their major constituency) and the Mandal Commission in particular, gave a political legitimacy to the relationship between the regulative aspects of cas te (such as roti-beti relations and purity pollution practices) and caste-based backwardness, which would become a qualifier for quotas, in a rather direct and unprecedented fashion. Today, even though older motivations such as seeking sanskritization, such as upholding upper caste domination, such as maintaining control over women for various caste panchayati actions, etc. persist, these motivations are now invariably intermingled with the host of other motivations that are increasingly political in nature and content. These bodies, thus, even while using coercive enforcement methods are quite openly (and in fact quite transparently) deploying the language of modern democratic politics rather than the language of primordial caste discipline. All of this cannot be attributed to Mandalisation alone and I have pointed out in detail in the last chapter how two much more general background conditions were responsible for this. First, as I have argued, is the adoption of an enabling Constitution for legislation by the modern state, which then through its parliament and regional assemblies, carried out a great deal of social legislation, once thus enabled. This may quite properly be thought of as a social contract under which all citizens fall, a legal contract with wide social effects. All this legislation is subject to democratic ratification in electoral politics, which turns on the interests that particular groups have when they come to vote; and so castes have often used their numbers in the electoral field in reactive ways to the legislation and proposed legislation of the parliamentary institutions at the centre and the regions. In this sense, caste today is inseparable, ever since independence, from caste politics. And much of what has come to be called ‘identity’ politics today is caste politics. It must be kept in mind, however, that though identity politics of this sort is often understood as being driven to promote the interests of particular groups, when the groups have a caste identity it is not only and always to promote a particular caste’s interests that such a caste identity politics is exploited. Caste politics is often used to block the effects of modern

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legislation, with frequently conservative ends motivating such obstructions, and often using the language of community and group rights to oppose the legislation towards social equality of a modern state. Secondly, the political culture of benefits that targets castes as beneficiaries, though it was given a great impetus by Mandal, had emerged earlier with the commitment to social upliftment of the depressed classes in the Nehruvian period of Congress rule. This, once again, requires that caste identity i.e. defining who belongs to a caste, be clearly demarcated so that quota allocation, welfare benefits etc., accrue to the caste. In defining it clearly, caste as an endogamous group finds new justification for its preservation. It is this second condition of caste-oriented political culture of benefits that is important if one is to grasp the current relationship of caste conservatism and caste-based democratization under what I have called Mandalisation of Indian politics. Since Mandalisation is all about gains for particular castes in the form of benefits and quotas, and since, therefore, electoral politics in which particular groups seek legislative advantage is bound to be driven by groups that define themselves on their caste identities in the pursuit of those benefits and quotas, the role of caste panchayats in this politics of elections, legislation, benefit oriented policy-making, etc. often becomes one of maintaining the coherence and relative rigidity of each caste in this regime of governmentality to ensure the gains to the caste that such governmentality offers. I have used the Foucauldian concept of governmentality to describe a move in the governance apparatus of the Indian state’s approach to particular, often disadvantaged, groups among which castes featured prominently. This began fairly soon after the achievement of independence and then got a very concerted impetus in (and in the aftermath of) the Mandal commission’s report, and acquired a specific character in the neo-liberal period starting in the 1990s that increasingly forced castes into a form of political competitiveness for getting and maintaining benefits. In general, in the post-Mandal political context of the last almost three decades, caste identity became one of the major categories around which the politics of governmentality came to be performed by the neoliberal state. The creation of a continuous bureaucratic demand by which the backward castes were constantly required to establish and prove their backwardness as defined by the Mandal Commission and the Commission’s enumeration, classification and listing of these endogamous groups as the ‘Other Backward Castes’, generated a system of governmentality, whose entrenchment in very specific ways, may have created a conserving

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tendency in caste. I have been careful to make this point with some necessary qualifications. To stress this revitalization of ‘caste conservatism’, as I have done in this book, is not by any means to deny the ameliorations achieved by putting these benefits in place. Nor is to deny that a new form of democratization occurred in the Indian polity with underprivileged groups being able to make increasing demands upon the state. Even so, the very fact that the biopolitics that emerged eventually was not merely in the context of the standard welfarist state familiar from post World War II Western Europe, which had prompted Foucault’s early ruminations on the subject, but rather a neo-liberal state, had effects on caste and caste governance that tended to conservatism. Since the late 1990s as a result of the economic ‘reforms’ that Manmohan Singh’s Congress government had adopted, Mandal’s effects took a specific slant. There was a gradual dismantling of the postindependence dirigiste aspirations towards state-led welfare that had also characterized European national economies since the second world war. The aspiration to create opportunities by massively shifting the weight to the private sector shrunk the public sector employment opportunities created in the first thirty years after Independence. Increasing privatization of the economy and the destruction of organized labour by the contractualisation of employment, created an atmosphere for competition for caste groups to lay claim to the shrinking public sector jobs, which were brought under quotas by Mandal. Every party claiming to represent particular castes and their interests acquiesced in this overall framework of neo-liberal political economy that emerged from the early 1990s. Acting reflexively and unreflectively, the electoral politics that emerged around the Mandalisation of politics, even while invoking an honourable rhetoric for lower caste dignity, remained stuck in demanding more quotas in the public sector for their own respective caste constituencies for material gains. This made it necessary to hold on to and to maintain the caste identity as a marker of social backwardness in a competitive field of seeking gains and any eventual goal of mobilizing the identity to seek empowerment so as to eventually overcome the social backwardness forced upon it by the caste system and to eliminate its hierarchies, seemed to recede as an increasingly remote goal. Ambedkar’s goal of caste ‘empowerment’ was intended to allow, from a position of being so empowered, to on to eventually ‘annhilate’ caste. But, the effects of the neo-liberal state seems to have put these two goals of empowerment and annihilation at odds with another and succeeded thereby indefinitely postponing the latter. I

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have argued that caste panchayats and the conserving role they played in the last three decades (and continue to play) must be understood in this developing political context. My inquiries into the present-day activities of these caste panchayats, taking into account their long history and their re-emergence in the current grammar of caste politics, shows how such bodies have exploited the increasing space opened up for lower caste voices in the demos by employing conservative methods for loyalty enforcement, often for legitimate ameliorative gains for their respective groups, but leading to tightening the grip of caste as jati over its members. Such a tendency, which is not limited to caste panchayats (but caste panchayats are a very clear representative of it), poses an important question about the limitations of the current ways of imagining caste-based ameliorative projects through politics. Is retaining the category of caste as jati a necessary condition for its member population of the lower castes, if they are to make ameliorative gains? Can caste-based empowerment be achieved only by delaying the project of annihilation of caste as jati? These questions are made to seem rhetorical by the present political framework of caste-based democratization and empowerment in which caste as an endogamous group and its primordial social life-world becomes the very category for biopolitics through which ameliorative gains are channeled. Such a framework while acknowledging the constitutional aim of the annihilation of caste, in reality, permanently delays it, securely fastened as it is to the neo-liberal state’s commitment to increasingly transfer all the nation’s resources for the amelioration of disadvantaged groups to the corporate and privileged classes as well as the growing middle class that it’s economic policies have made possible. The lower castes, operating from within this political framework, are quite instinctively motivated to compete with each other in an internecine (caste) identity politics to seek increasingly shrinking gains, thus giving intra-caste governing councils like caste panchayats the opportunity to retain their caste identity conserving mechanisms in place for a long time. In the preceding two chapters of the book, I have shown how the deepest social strictures related to observance of the social life of caste— those of social ostracisation and caste endogamy—are now remodeled as tools for achieving political goals by castes in a modern democracy. The social and political life of castes are thus not two different frameworks but are quite directly integrated, where caste in its sociological sense is

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a category for biopolitics through which the state imagines and operates a political culture of benefits. While operating in such an integrated framework, the subversion of the transformative agenda of annihilation of caste becomes a necessary condition for this integration. Caste, when it is being exploited and reimagined for seeking ameliorative gains in the modern polity, does not merely retain its conservative motivations but utilizes the methods and logics of conserving these motivations for defining and achieving political goals. As I said, this is not to discount the democratization that the post-Mandal era has seen, but its requirements of social backwardness and the accompanying political discourse by the OBC leaders, has allowed the neo-liberal state to arrest the possibilities that such democratization should have otherwise realized. This has considerably blunted the radical possibilities of the politics of social justice, which has been reduced to mitigate the distribution of a limited number of resources and jobs in the shrinking public sector economy. A study of caste panchayats in the contemporary period, thus, shows us how the governmentality of caste operates and how the politics of castebased social justice must engage in a project that requires more radical imagination of caste as an identity. This re-imagination must challenge its definition in the current framework of caste-based amelioration and think of a definition that does not require a self-propagation of primordial aspects of caste for the state to see its caste-based backwardness but one that can facilitate amelioration and annihilation as mutually inclusive goals. Without that the shadow of caste’s long history, which I have tried to trace in my earlier chapters, will continue to darken the present, despite all the modern political contexts in which caste and caste governance now function. Whether this re-imagining can be done without also contesting and combating the neo-liberal state is one of the most pressing questions of our time.

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Index

A Annihilation, 82, 111, 121, 125, 183, 184 Anuloma, 152, 162 Arhsattas, 20, 36

B Balutedari, 52, 53 Brahmanatva, 146, 148 Brahmasabha, 9, 14, 35, 37–47, 57, 59, 60, 72, 137, 138, 153, 156, 177

C Caste associations, 17–19, 21, 26, 62, 63, 67, 69, 77, 86–90, 92, 94–96, 178 Caste endogamy, 2, 7, 12, 21, 130, 143–146, 153, 159, 161–163, 166, 167, 169, 171, 172, 183 Census, 11, 18, 21, 41, 52, 56, 58–61, 63–65, 119, 138

D Daivadhikari, 39 Democratization, 2, 3, 16, 20, 22, 66, 67, 79, 80, 86, 118–121, 165, 175, 176, 181–184 Dharmasabha, 9, 36 Dispute resolution, 5, 11, 31, 36, 37, 103, 177 G Gaavki, 4 Gota, 41, 50, 52, 53 Governmentality, 22, 80, 81, 118–120, 181, 184 H Hindu Law, 100, 145, 153, 154, 156 Honour, 6, 8, 107–109, 143, 145, 153, 162, 163, 170, 171 Honour killing, 7, 88, 92, 166 I Inter-caste, 9, 10, 16, 34, 37, 38, 55, 91, 95, 101, 107, 129–131,

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133, 136–140, 144, 145, 147, 151–153, 155, 161–163, 169, 172, 177 Intra-caste, 5, 9, 10, 16–18, 25, 26, 28–30, 32–34, 37–40, 46–50, 52, 53, 55, 63, 65, 67, 69, 71, 79, 95, 96, 101, 107, 116, 128–135, 137–140, 144, 145, 151, 153, 162, 172, 176, 177, 183

J Jaati sabha, 96

K Khaps, 97–100, 102–106, 109, 138, 149, 166, 168 Kula, 4, 31, 32

M Mandalisation, 81, 180–182 Mazhar, 52, 54

O Ostracization, 5, 9, 21, 33, 47, 125–129, 132, 134–140, 143, 183 P Politicization of Caste, 16, 18, 62, 178 Pollution, 3, 9, 10, 13, 32, 38, 45, 47, 48, 60, 61, 127–135, 137–140, 144, 177, 180 Puga, 4, 31, 32 Purity, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 26, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 104, 107, 109, 127, 128, 130–134, 138–140, 144–146, 148, 153, 155, 164, 166–169, 172, 177, 180 S Sanskritization, 11, 13, 15, 41, 43–45, 62, 63, 73, 89, 98, 134, 140, 146, 148, 149, 151, 156, 159, 166–168, 170, 177, 180 Sreni, 4, 31, 32