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Casteism in Andhra Pradesh: Kamma community - a blessing or messing for Chandrababu Naidu?
Hyderabad's ace shuttler Saina Nehwal had once said that she did not believe in casteism, adding that her blood knew no caste. She probably doesn't know how prevalent casteism is in Telugu speaking states!
She might not have noticed a news story titled 'Caste is thicker than blood?' published in English daily The Hindu on August 20, 2016. Below is the published news…

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Our sports person might have missed the above news. But whoever went through it must have noticed the caste favoritism prevalent among Telugu speaking people, particularly so in the case of Kammas, classified as forward caste people, at a higher degree.

The Kammashad played key roles in industrial, agricultural and service sectors in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state. Their prominence redoubled with Chandrababu Naidu becoming the Chief Minister of the bifurcated AP state and another Kamma national leader Venkaiah Naidu's guidance to the chief minister to make Amaravati the new capital. Land values in Krishna, Guntur districts along with west Godavari and Prakasam districts saw an upsurge by umpteen times.

As power, real-estate and key industries are in their hold they are far ahead of other communities in Andhra Pradesh in terms of prosperity. Now it has become a debatable issue whether this lopsided growth would turn as a boon or curse to the ruling TDP and the Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu.

After the formation of AP state in 1953, Congress party ruled the state for 45 years and the Telugu Desam Party was in power for 19 years. Though the Reddy community had an upper hand during the Congress regime, Kammas never lost their ground and nor did they develop any insecurity. During the YSR regime, most Kamma business magnates and industrialists (except for few persons like Eanadu Ramojirao and Andhra Jyothi proprietor cum Editor Vemuri Radhakrishna) earned huge benefits.

From the time of growth of Kammas politically, Reddys lost some of their ground and naturally bore ill will against them. Kapus, who numerically make up the largest caste group in AP, aspiring for political power, are afraid that the Kammas might become a major roadblock for them.

When actor NT Rama Rao came to power in 1983, the Kapus backed him enthusiastically, even though he was a Kamma. They saw him as a means of breaking the Reddy monopoly in the state politics. NTR did break the Reddy domination in state politics, but in the process he created a new Kamma hierarchy. NTR openly promoted many of his caste members to the higher positions in both the bureaucracy and legislature, creating a Kamma elite of sorts. Kapus who were already feeling marginalized in the state's political scene, felt even more sidelined.

The rivalry between the Kapus and Kammas was at it's most acute in the prosperous coastal districts of East, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur. While Kapus were numerically the larger bloc, Kammas controlled the industry, business, trading, media, film industry, real-estate and other vital sectors in the state. The simmering discontent between the Kapus and Kammas needed a spark to set it alight, and that came in the form of the gang rivalry in Vijayawada.

Kamma properties were badly damaged during riots that erupted following the murder of Kapu Congress legislator Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao, who was on fast unto death, in 1988. Later, the Telugu Desam Party was utterly defeated in the Assembly polls. Kammas domination has been reappearing after Chandrababu Naidu came to power in 2014. Unable to digest it, the Kapus set ablaze bogies of the Ratnachal Express during a large scale agitation organized by the Kapus demanding reservation under the leadership of Mudragada Padmanabham on January 31, 2016. Some Kapu leaders openly said that the agitation was aimed at venting their hatred against Kammas and a sort of "message" to them.

Whatever the reasons, babudom is hesitant to take action against those who perpetrated the crime. Even the Kapu leader Mudragada Padmanabham who instigated the train inferno has not been put behind the bars till now.

Kammas are facing opposition not fromKapus alone, but also from other communities in the state.

While a maxim reads that 'those who rise must be accommodative', the community in question is acting otherwise. Self-centredness and highhandedness are increasing among Kammas in Andhra Pradesh. They seem to own everything that comes their way and harass those who oppose them. Few months back Vijayawada Parliament Member and ruling Telugu Desam Party leader Kesineni Nani, a Kamma, openly abused and warned state transport commissioner Balasubrahmanyam. Kamma youth openly drive mobikes and cars with photos of NTR, Chandrababu and Lokesh in place of registration numbers. Today Kammas are hell-bent on seeking approvals for their tenders in contracts.

Kapunadu state president Galla Subrahmanyam recently said that while the Kamma community people in rural areas used to mingle with rest of the communities in a friendly manner during pre-NTR era, but just the opposite started happening after TDP supremo NT Ramarao took over the reins in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state.

He cited the Karamchedu Dalit massacre incident of July 17, 1985 in Prakasam district as an example to corroborate his remark and said it was the result of the Kammas becoming dominant and exhibiting highhandedness towards the hapless Dalits. Six Dalits were massacred in that incident.

On the positive side, Kammas have the unique plus point of unity and inter-community cooperation which is worth emulating by others. Media baron and prominent business magnate Ramojirao ran into rough weather during former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's tenure and paid at one go thousands of crore rupees to Margadarsi chit fund customers for certain defaults. As against this, founder-chairman of Sahara Investments Subrato Roy was jailed as he failed to pay money to his customers. But Ramoji Rao evaded such punishment only because of super rich Kammas of the state who came to his rescue in the hour of his need.

The self-styled community is known for going all out for helping its members as evidenced by the fact that Chandrababu Naidu is probably the only leader who hasn't stepped inside a court room in spite of nearly 25 cases filed against him. His opponents believe that it is only due to the helping hand extended by 'sympathisers' of his community.

It's a well known fact that the confidence level of Kammas was raised in the NTR-era, their unity buttressed in babudom and their assets multiplied incredibly after the announcement of Amaravati as the capital of Navyandhrapradesh. Their presence can be noticed in almost all profit-yielding sectors.

As much as 20 per cent of fertile land is in their hands. The historic land acquisition for Amaravati became easier for Chandrababu as there were more Kamma farmers in the capital region. Other communities, people of north Andhra and Rayalaseema are perplexed over the ongoing development concentrated in the Guntur -Vijayawada belt. If their doubts become a reality, it is likely to transform into a major setback for the Chandrababu-led Telugu Desam Party in the future.

A social activist and Visakhian NN Rao, remarked that the North Andhraites are of the view that Chandrababu Naidu made Amaravati the capital with the sole purpose of strengthening his community. Neither the industrialists nor politicians belonging to northern coastal Andhra came forward to buy land in the Amaravati region because of the high land prices and also due to the rough nature of the local people. Visakha people who are angry with the Kamma settlers in north Andhra for their high-handedness, were hesitant to come to the capital region. Even the Central and state government employees are unwilling to get transferred to Vijayawada-Guntur area, NN Rao said.

Anantapuram BC leader Maddileti who also aired similar views said that the Reddy community is also panicky over the dominance of Kammas in the twin cities. He also cited this as a reason for their not purchasing houses. Rayalaseemaites are also unable to digest the very fact of Amaravati being the Andhra Pradesh state capital and feel insecure to do any business. Their fears doubled with Vijayawada MP Kesineni Nani trying to foist a case against Orange travels pertaining to Rayalaseema, he added.

While disproportionate growth of the Kammas has become an eyesore for other communities, their brazen attitude has added fuel to the fire. This was one of the reasons for uprising of Telangana movement which ultimately led to the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state.

Now in Amaravathi region too, their dominance is growing. It is a proven fact that traders of other communities cannot prosper wherever their influence is more. As the rates of land in their hands are exorbitant, other communities cannot buy them. Further presence of other communities in the businesses and industries run by Kammas is very less. This silent disenchantment of others may indirectly reflect on Amarvati's development and the next Assembly elections. If this happens Kammas who are extending their all out support to the TDP now, might turn as clogs to the TDP neck.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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