This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nijam Gara. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Kapus In Andhra Are Agitating For Reservations, But Can Their Leaders Really Help Them?

More from Nijam Gara

By Nijam Gara:

A rescue worker tries to douse out the flames of a blazing train coach at a railway station in the northern Indian city of Allahabad October 3, 2007. Two coaches of the Mumbai-bound Tulsi Express caught fire at the railway station, but no casualties were reported, a railway official said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash (INDIA) - RTR1UJCB
Representation only. Source: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash

Eerily resembling the Patel agitation for Backward Class (BC) status in Gujarat, a massive stir has been created with the same demand by the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh. Though there are similarities between the two demands, the socio-political differences are aplenty. While Patels are well-entrenched in the political class and have independently led the state of Gujarat, for the Kapus, the political throne in Andhra has remained out of reach. Patels have strong connections with their diaspora while Kapus are actively dreaming of such a nexus. One thing that ties the groups together and perhaps explains the massive scale of these movements is the umpteen number of unemployed or under-employed youth belonging to these castes. But is that a good enough reason to claim reservations?

Kapus are historically an agrarian caste. In the Manuvadi order, they are shudras. However, they gained access to land ownership eons ago. In the quintessential step-ladder caste system, they inched towards ‘upper’ caste status and tended to align themselves ideologically with the Brahminised order. At the village level, being land-owners, they are more often beneficiaries of Dalit labour rather than victims of caste discrimination.

Even in post-colonial India, the Kapus have gained notoriety for their excesses against the downtrodden Dalits rather than being known for their camaraderie with the lower castes. For example, in the infamous 1991 Tsundur massacre, they actively engaged in violence against Dalits along with the feudal Reddys. In 1996, a Kapu MLA (from the Telugu Desam Party) from East Godavari beat up and forcibly tonsured 2 dalit youths for allegedly campaigning against him in the elections. As recently as 2012, Turpu Kapus (a section of Kapus who, in fact, are already BCs) killed 5 Dalits in a North Andhra village in a farm dispute caused by the ‘arrogance’ of Dalit farmers who were ‘supposed’ to stay meek labourers.

But to understand the history of this current Kapu agitation, other socio-political aspects of Andhra Pradesh also need to be kept in mind. The state, either in its current form or in its previous undivided form, has caved in completely to the sway and unmatched money power of perhaps two of the richest castes in India (let alone Andhra) – Reddys and Kammas. Such is their clout that some of the biggest industrialists and entrepreneurs heading major projects in the country and even certain parts of the world today belong to these two Telugu castes.

Unlike in many other states, where typically numerically strong castes have taken up the post of Chief Minister in recent electoral history (Yadavs in UP, Bihar, Patels in Gujarat, BCs in Tamil Nadu, Vokkaligas in Karnataka, etc.), these two castes comprising only 4-6% each of the state population have ruled unopposed for the past 60 years with brief interruptions from Congress-appointed puppets from other castes. Kapus, on the other hand, reportedly constitute at least 18-20% (exact figures unknown; last caste-based census in 1921 pegs their figure close to this after excluding/including certain Kapu sub-sects) of the population if not more. Yet, they have never ruled the state. Many Kapus feel it has been long overdue it is their turn now.

Kapus are a diverse group in the state which adds to the complexity. While members hailing from this community have made a big name for themselves in a variety of fields, there is a vast underbelly of lower-middle class and even poor Kapu families, a fact accepted even by their bitter critics both up and down the caste ladder. Much to their chagrin, Kapus as a group have been betrayed both by leaders of their own community as well as other castes more often than once. Historically, they had a tussle with Kammas and allied with Reddys only to be ignored by Reddy CMs in election after election.

Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of Telugu and Tamil politics will understand the deep nexus between cinema and electoral fortunes. Kapus have always been proud of Chiranjeevi, the once reigning king of Telugu Cinema. His rise in the film industry that was dominated by Kamma stalwarts such as N T Rama Rao (NTR, the founder of TDP) and Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) was a shot in the arm for the Kapu community. Kapus across the state pinned their hopes on him in 2009 when their ‘Megastar’ Chiranjeevi formed a political party of his own. His Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) polled an impressive 18% vote share but quickly closed shop after the elections because his vote share garnered him only 18 seats out of the 294-member assembly. Kapus felt as if their much-awaited meal ticket had been siphoned off.

In 2014, another Kapu film star Pawan Kalyan took up the political mantle but did quite the opposite of his brother Chiranjeevi. He campaigned for the rival Kamma party, TDP, and did the unthinkable. He was instrumental in transferring Kapu votes en masse to Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. It is widely felt in the state that Kapus snatched victory for the TDP from the jaws of defeat in an atmosphere where rival Jaganmohan Reddy was riding high on the sympathy wave of his father Y S Rajasekhar Reddy’s untimely death. After the election, Kapus started realising that they were still miles away from the corridors of political power and that their beloved star may have taken them for a ride (again). It is this angst that has boiled over on the streets of coastal Andhra Pradesh this week.

So, the issue is much bigger than reservations. Kapus are in an ideological flux where they are too comfortable with their upper caste history and social role yet want a ‘BC’ tag to leap out of the problems of unemployment and lack of opportunity. But the right way for this single largest caste of Andhra Pradesh is to take the lead and align with the true ‘backwards’ in Telugu society, i.e., Dalits, Muslims & some of the OBCs and aim for the bull’s eye of political power. That eventually can herald a victory for other classes of Telugu society that have so far only been palanquin bearers for the mighty Kammas and Reddys. Going by early signs, however, such an alignment seems utopian given the fact that Kapu leaders had no time to even shed crocodile tears for Rohith Vemula who was killed just a few days ago in the same state. Finally, to tie it back to the Patel agitation, today’s Kapu movement is evidently disparate because the projected leaders seen on screen are spent forces who already betrayed their cause years ago as opposed to Hardik Patel, a brand new force!

You must be to comment.
  1. prav

    Reddy and Kamma leaders didn't come up on caste. Infact they don't talk about caste. Leaders like NTR and Chandra Babu
    though Kammas came from below middle class family background. In AP, no leader can form govt by using caste. And don't understand what benefit
    common people will get if their caste person becomes the Chief Minister. As for as Rohit is concerned… it is only the media
    that is coming up with stories day after day… for common man… it is just another college issue/fight. Just because a dalit
    got involved doesn't make the issue bigger.

More from Nijam Gara

Similar Posts

By Atul Upadhyay

By Ritwik Trivedi

By FAUZAN ARSHAD

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below