Caste Politics and State Integration: a Case Study of Mysore State

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Abstract

The subject of unification is as vibrant as national movement even after 58 years of a fractured verdict. More than to achieve a physical conjugation it was an attempt for cultural fusion. The aspiration for linguistic unification was a part of the national discourse. The movement, which began with mystic originations, later on turned out to become communal. Political changes during 1799 A.D. and 1857 A.D. changed the fortunes of Mysore state and ultimately led to its disintegration and became the reason for this movement. The concept of unification is akin to the spirit of nationalism, against the background of colonial regime assigning parts of land to different administrative units without taking into consideration the historical or cultural aspects of that place. Kannadigas marooned in multi lingual states experient an orphaned situation got aroused with the turn of nineteenth century. The problem precipitated by the company was diluted by British when they introduced English education. Though the positive aspect like emergence of middle class is pragmatic, rise of communalism on the other hand is not idealistic.

This research paper is designed to examine the polarization of castes during unification movement of Mysore State (Presently called as State of Karnataka, since 1973, which was termed Mysore when integrated) which came into being in 1956 A.D. Most of the previous studies concentrate on two aspects viz ideological discourse and organizational strategies adopted to gain Unification. The course of the unifi cation movement and role of Congress party dominates such studies while some of them concentrate on the leaders of the movement. Other studies are ethnographical in nature. ‘Community Dominance and Political Modernisation: The Lingayats’ written by Shankaragouda Hanamantagouda Patil is a classic example. Mention may be made here of an recent attempt by Harish Ramaswamy in his ‘Karnataka Government and Politics’ which has covered almost all aspects of emergence of Karnataka as a state but communal politics during unification movement has found no place. ‘Rethinking State Politics in India: Regions within Regions’ is an edited book by Ashutosh Kumar which has articles on ‘Castes and Politics of Marginality’ where a reference is made to caste associations and identity politics of Lingayats, but the area of study is neighboring Maharashtra and not Karnataka. Though it contains two articles on Karnataka its subject matter doesn’t pertain to this topic. One more important effort is by ‘Imagining Unimaginable Communities: Political and Social Discourse in Modern Karnataka’ where the author Raghavendra Rao thinks Karnataka and India as two unimaginable communities and discuss primarily the founding moments of negotiation between the discourses of Indian nationalism and Kannada linguistic nationalism. It is more an intellectual history and throws light on nationalism in a colonial context.

Mostly studies concentrate on either the course or the leaders of the movement. Invariably congress as an organization finds place in all studies. But the blemish of such studies is a lesser concentration on activities of major socio cultural groups. The role of socio cultural groups assumes importance because of the milieu at the beginning of 20th century which annunciated a wave of social changes in the state. It is a known fact that the movement for linguistic state was successful in bringing a political integration of five separate sub regions but failed to unite people culturally. This concept of unification which is akin to the spirit of nationalism got expressed at the regional level in the sense of respect for once own culture, language and people. In case of Karnataka this expression had political overtones too which is expressed by some who fought for it (Srinivas & Narayan, 1946 ). Most of the early leaders of unification movement (and for that matter even movement for independence too can be cited here) belonged to one particular caste, and with passing of time has led to the notion of domination of that caste over the movement. This paper tries to give justice in a limited way by giving legitimate and adequate recognition for those castes which deserves it and do away with misconceptions. Two concepts political modernization and social mobility are used. The later derives its existence from the former in this case. The data used here is primarily gained from news papers and secondary sources like books and interviews given by participants. No hypothesis is tested nor any theory is developed in this attempt but historical materials are examined in the light of modernity. The key problem discussed here is emergence of communal politics and the role of social groups in unification. Biases of regionalism, caste and class have been overcome by rational thinking.

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