Anup Hiwrale
IJDTSA Vol.3, Issue 3, No.4 pp.32 to 41, December, 2018

The Demand for Sub-classification of Reservation Policy: Critical Reflections

Published On: Saturday, January 12, 2019


The Mangs, being the lowest in the hierarchy of the caste system are also lowest within Dalits in Maharashtra. There are four major castes within Scheduled Caste (SC) in Maharashtra- Mahar, Mang, Chambhar and Dhor. Their social location places them one above the other and supposedly there are restrictions to social cohesion due to structured hierarchy. It is important to note that historically they were politically and economically deprived. In the present context, there is an emerging internal inequality among SCs in Maharashtra, especially with Mangs. This paper attempts to understand disparity among SCs with respect to Mangs in Maharashtra. There are various neglected social groups across India demanding for the (re)classification of the reservation among SCs, therefore, it is important to understand the demand and mobilization of the sub-classification or categorization of reservation among SCs.

Key Word: Caste, Dalit, Scheduled Castes, Hierarchy, Untouchability etc.


Caste has been the reality with all its development and contradiction within Indian society. Caste mobilization and agitation has a long history in Indian politics. It has begun in post-colonial period and intensified in contemporary time. The Government of India has brought various policies and programs for the development of the Scheduled Caste (SC) such as reservation. It is one of the important policies of the government towards SCs for their economic and political development. Similarly, the questions has been raised that why the government still continuing reservation policy. The reservation policy is a tool to develop the SCs economically and politically. It is a matter of representation in all spheres of the life of the national importance which was denied to them historically. It is a national policy not only for the development of the SCs but also to the Indian as nation.

The reservation has three important factors such as education, jobs and politics for the SCs to have adequate representation in proportion to their population. It is also considered as a constitutional mandate. Dalit movement had emerged during the colonial period under the leadership of Ambedkar and mobilized the Dalits for their rights. He also had questioned and concerned against the disunity of the Depressed Classes and asked them to be united against caste discrimination and untouchability. The sub-classification of reservation of SCs is nation-wide phenomenon but strongly exists in Maharashtra, Telengana, AP, Bihar and Haryana.

It is important to note the identification of the Untouchables began in colonial period in 1911 census enumeration. The colonial scholars and administrators decided to investigate and demarcated the criterion for the identification and who should be called as the Depressed Classes. It is as followed: 1. denied the supremacy of the Brahmins; 2. did not receive the mantra from Brahmin or other recognized Hindu guru; 3. Denied the authority of the Vedas; 4. did not worship the great Hindu gods; 5. Were not served by good Brahmins; 6. Have no Brahmin priests at all; 7. Have no access to the interior of the ordinary Hindu temple; 8. Cause pollution; 9. Bury their dead; 10. Eat beef and do not revere the cow (Ambedkar 1948:9). These criterion were also important from the sociological point of view because it shows the position of the Untouchables in Indian society. It was important because they had been enumerated separately from the Hindus and this was important departure for them. Dalits are not constituted a homogeneous community socially or culturally, though they have faced the caste discrimination and untouchability. They are homogeneous in terms of caste discrimination and untouchability which could a rally point of the unity and struggle. But they are too having been divided on the basis of their status and position within the structure of caste. However, internal hierarchy and position of the particular is common among the classes of the Hindus society. Mahar and Mang largely settled in rural parts of Maharashtra. However, there is Maharwada and Mangwada in each and every village of Maharashtra1. Since they live most of them in villages have to face discrimination and untouchability and if any resistance to it met with an atrocities or boycott in villages.

Historical Context

Dalits are lowest in the hierarchy of the caste system in India. It is a collective identity rooted in social and political discrimination of the ex-untouchables. Historically, there were known by various names in different regions in India. However, Dalit is a political identity emerged as a unified and pan-India identity for them to be recognized despite their caste identities. Traditionally, each has been allocated occupations depending on their social position. However, the occupational hierarchy had also been trickled in lowest social groups in India. Therefore, it has further deepened and strengthens the identity of the caste and exclusion. Traditionally, Mang’s were the rope maker and musician of the villages and also assigned tasks under the Balutedary system of the village2. As it was noted, there is no social endosmosis within the caste system (Ambedkar 1936:20).3 As a result, there was no social endosmosis among SCs due to internal occupational hierarchy and inferiority against each other which was structured and imposed on them.

It is important to note that traditionally each castes of SCs were paid in the form Batuta and inami land (Atre: 1915: 34-62). There were fifty two privileges were given to them by Bedar Bahamani and Mohmad Shad as a reward to their service (Shinde: 1933:194). It was largely remain within the boundaries and extended to other parts of the regions. As compare to Mahars, Mangs lowest in the hierarchy pursued their caste based traditional occupations such as defiling, drumbeating and rope-making. Also, they remained in Hindu value system and their sanskritised origin of ancient sage like Jambhav and Matang Rishi (Dhere: 2004:60, Enthoven; 1922:434)4.

Dr. Ambedkar’s speech at the Mang Conference in Sholapur in 1937 and was historic from the point of view of the unity of SCs5.

It is a misfortune for all of us that there is no unity among the various such as Mahar, Chambhar, and Bhangi etc. prevailing among the untouchables. The real reason for absence of this unity is the existence of caste distinction (jati-bhed) in Hindu society. SCs are not responsible for this caste discrimination. Caste discrimination is the gutter of dirty water (gatar ganga) flowing to us from above. This is the hell (narak) flowing towards us. And because of this, we have to face the bitter fruits and its consequences. The painful part of it is that, Hindus, not only do not remove the caste discrimination among themselves, but on the contrary, they strive for strengthening the differences among the untouchables, taking undue advantage of their ignorance…….”

It is evident from the speech of Dr Ambedkar that he wanted to foster unity of the SCs against caste discrimination and make them strive for their political and economic rights. He also argued that the process of division initiated by the Congress and Gandhi among SCs. in recent times, the disunity and enmity is fostered by the mainstream political among the SCs for political gain and social advantage. This has a double advantage for them first it divides SCs and secondly it fostered enmity among them to not raise structural issues of caste discrimination and redistribution of resources. Mang were more Hinduised and traditional as compare to Mahars because they have converted to Buddhism and left their traditional. As, they are lower in status than Mahar; took up the demeaning and defiling jobs and occupations quite willingly (Gupta 1979:3-22). It was social vacuum has to be filed and it was field by Mang in most of the villages. They had seen it as occupational opportunity and job within the traditional hierarchy of the caste. On the contrary, the Mahars gradually rejected Hindu Value system when they were exposed to the processes of westernization, migration, militarization and political mobilization (Pathawardhan, 1973:20-21). There was Buddhist conversion movement existed among the Mahar and Mang in Maharashtra which was resulted in leaving the caste (Wankhede 2008). Recently, they are converted to Buddhism under the leadership of Eknath Awad6.

Separate Caste Mobilisation

Caste mobilisation is an important factor of the Indian society because it is a question of the identity and existence; therefore, each caste wants them to be visible in public sphere. Even within SCs different castes are mobilizing around their caste or jati identity to claim for the rights which is evident from Mang caste mobilisation in recent times. There is also shift in symbols of revolution among Mangs such as Anna Bhau Sathe and Lahuji Salve. They both were belonged Mang caste and became the symbols of the community for mobilisation and resistance to raise the issues of the caste. They were divided into two camps as far as symbols of representation is concerned one group held Dr Ambedkar as their symbol and also their won caste icons such as Vastad Lahuji Salve and Anna Bhau Sathe as their symbols in the struggle7.

The symbols and flag as uniting force to them are evolving at the same time. It represents them but at the same time alienate them from the rest of SCs in Maharashtra. It is tendency of the caste to limit SCs within their own circles and boundaries and allowed to them transgress it. Similarly, the evolution of the leadership and leaders is bound by this rule of caste boundaries. In the present context, the Mang faced atrocities by the hand of Upper Caste and attacks on them increasing day by day as it is reported. The main reason behind the atrocities is their deprived condition economically, politically and educationally as compare to the other castes of SCs in Maharashtra. There is growing consciousness towards Buddhism and Ambedkar’s philosophy and ideology. The agitation and mobilisation of the Mang forced the government to form the commission to address their grievances. In that light, the Government of Maharashtra appointed the commission of Lahuji Salve to study the socio-economic condition of Mang’s in Maharashtra in 2003. In the post-independence period the division within the SCs became sharper when Matang began to articulate their grievances. This has also been articulated their relative deprivation by the Mang caste organizations from Marathwada and Western Maharashtra (Waghmare 2010). In the present context, the caste based organization are growing and agitating for the sub-classification of the reservation. However, it is important to note that these agitations are failed to articulate larger issues of discrimination since it is mostly limited Mang and internal hierarchy and deprivation as compare to other SCs in Maharashtra. But it is also a process of politicization of the smaller social group which is articulating their deprivation.

Alienation from Collective Identity

Dalit is a collective identity and has historically originated and has roots in struggle and oppression based on the based. Also, it is important because it is not given but coined and evolved from Dalits. On the contrary, there are other concepts and ideas of the identity given by others without any sense of self-respect and dignity. It is being widely used by Dalit Panther in 1972 and then popularized by them. Even international community and media also used the term while addressing the issues of Dalit at various human rights platforms. However, Dalit as a concept has posed a limitation in the present context because of the caste mobilisation of sub-caste within Dalit in Maharashtra. Rather, it has forced many scholars and activities to revisit or relook its operation in the present context because of the growing intra-group inequalities and mobilisation. It should be noted that castes are mobilizing on sub-caste line at the same time disassociation or non-acknowledgment with larger identity of Dalit because of the Brahminisation or Hinduisation. The sub-caste identity is much stronger than collective and they rally around it. Therefore, it is important to understand the case of the Mang in Maharashtra to have more nuance understanding in contemporary period. In today’s context, Dalit politics is in critical condition with all the contradiction with it supposed fight. The Internal hierarchies and sub-caste identities and struggles are taking momentum. This should have been addressed by the movement at larger level to build collective consciousness. Dalit movement has created a collective identity but limited collective consciousness. The collective identity and consciousness are strengthens the movement and politics to raise larger issues of caste discrimination, policies and atrocities. Also, it helps to move away from the internal contradiction as it exists in case of Mang’s in Maharashtra.

Role of the State

The relationship of Dalits with the State has been historically evolved and developed around the idea of subjugation and discrimination. Also it is evolved around the idea of historical injustice because they had faced worst kind of discrimination as compare to other communities and denied access to avenues that can make human life more dignified and respectful. However, the State has a very intricate and complex relationship with the caste system in India. It seems that the State as a modern institution has been influenced by traditional hierarchies of the caste system and perpetuated and maintained the traditional hierarchy while capturing it by the dominant forces which do not allow the marginalized section to overcome traditional hierarchies of the caste system. The State had been completely molded by the caste system which has kept the dominance of higher classes over the institution. However, the Indian state had come into existence with the emergence of British Empire in India. The relationship of the Dalits with the state has been evolving after independence of India from the British Empire. The Constitutions of India recognized their existence and promised their development as par with other citizens of the country. It promises to every citizen in general but in particular to Dalits that their rights will be protected from any kind of injustice and discrimination. However, the commentators had also pointed out that Dalit studies have failed to pay sufficient attention to two issues, namely the differential impact that the reservation policy has on different sub-sections and the need to distinguish between the most deprived Dalits from those who have benefited more (Dushkin: 1998:212, Shah: 1986:9).

Dalits were always been critical of the State because it has failed to protect them from the caste discrimination and implementation of the policies guarantees by the Constitution of India. It is important to note that they held constitution as a sacrosanct because it was written by the Dr Ambedkar and they say that, “it is written by our father (savidhan amachya bapane lihah ahe)”8. Therefore, they think that they should protect the constitutional mandate and force the State to implement more efficiently. The State governed by the mainstream political parties takes a division stand for the demand of the Mangs in Maharashtra. The sub-classification of reservation is critical issue for the Dalit movement because it has brought the unresolved issues at the forefront. These are the contradictions exist within Dalits and in movement to address the issues of internal hierarchy and discrimination. The scholars and activist are divided over the sub-classification of reservation. But here the role of the State is also important to understand because it is going to be decided by the State and political parties.

The Government of Maharashtra issued the government order the various department of the government. The Vastad Lahuji Salve commission had given 82 recommendations to the government for the development of the Mang out of which 68 were approved or agreed by the government and it has rejected the recommendation of the sub-classification of SCs reservation9. The government has established Anna Bhau Sathe Financial Development Cooperation to address the specific issues of Mang for their development but it lacked funding and resources. The Constitution of Indian provided three types of protection to SCs. Firstly there are reservations that help reserved seats in legislature, the reservation of institutions. Secondly schemes are evolved allotments; thirdly special protections are provided (Galanter: 1997: 186). As a result, there is a positive change within SCs but not significant enough to alter the situation of SCs and large number of them away from it. Scholars argued that it is largely due to lack of implementation of the constitutional mandate which was meant for their development.


The sub-classification of reservation issue has divided the SCs especially Mahars and Mangs. Even intellectuals and activist are divided over the demands of Mangs in this respect. The State also takes divisive stand in order to divide SCs further for the political again. The mainstream political parties also take the advantage played a vote bank politics since Mang second largest within SCs in Maharashtra. They also promised to implement all the recommendation of the commission but never met the demand of Mang. Dalit movement has to deal with internal contradiction in order to foster unity among SCs to fight against the structural issues of discrimination and untouchability at larger level. Though there is considerable positive change but it has to be extended to all the SCs to lead towards Buddhism. However, the internal inequality is due to caste structure and tradition and lack consciousness among Mangs in Maharashtra. If it continues it will further weaken the struggle and mobilization of Dalit movement in Maharashtra.


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End Notes

1 Maharwada and Mangwada are known as the localities of Mahars and Mangs. They are living outside the village.

2 Balutedari is occupational hierarchy of the caste system where certain traditional jobs or occupations were assigned to each caste based on the principle of purity and pollution.

3 Dr Ambedkar had written in Annihilation of Caste, undelivered speech later on published by him.

4 Jambhav and Matang Rishi were the mythical figure and originator of the Matang vansha or kul.

5 It was speech to foster the unity of SCs in Bombay presidency.

6 Eknath Awad was a leader struggled for land and political rights of Dalits in Maharashtra. He was important figure in spreading Ambedkarism and Buddhism among Mangs.

7 Vastad Lahuji Salve was raised his struggle against the British oppression and Anna Bhau Sathe was main literary figure in Dalit movement in Maharashtra they.

8 This was slogan which was visible in all the protest of Dalits especially in Maharashtra. If you talk to any activist they proudly say that.

9 The Government of Maharashtra issued Government Rule to implement the recommendation given by the commission on dated 31st Dec 2011.

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