Political parties are reaching out to the Kashyap community, categorised as Other Backward Classes in Uttar Pradesh, ahead of the 2022 state elections. On 30 October, the Bharatiya Janata Party held a “Samajik Praatinidhi Sammelan,” or social-representation conference, for five communities that fall in the OBC category—Nishad, Mallah, Kevat, Bind and Kashyap—in Lucknow. These castes—along with others, including the Kahar and Dhivar communities—are often referred to as a part of the Nishad caste group. Many people in the Nishad caste group use Kashyap as a last name. The Samajwadi Party is also slated to hold a conference for the Kashyap community in Uttar Pradesh on 11 November. In July, Akhilesh Yadav unveiled a statue of Manohar Lal Kashyap, a known leader of the Nishad community, in Uttar Pradesh.
There is no official figure about the number of Kashyaps in Uttar Pradesh. According to a 2001 report by a social-justice committee constituted by the state government, about twenty-five lakh members of the “Kahar/Kashyap” caste reside in the state. The report divided OBCs into three groups—backward castes, more backward castes and most backward castes—and placed “Kahar/Kashyap” in the last category. This year, a social organisation named Kashyap Ekta Kranti Mission has been holding conferences in the state for the community. The organisation has urged the attendees to vote en bloc in the 2022 state elections for a party that pays heed to their long-standing demand to increase the reservations granted to them. “We are holding these gatherings to tell political parties that the Kashyap community has a huge number of people,” Anand Kashyap, an attendee of one such conference, told us. “We can bring any party we want to power.”
In late September, we attended a conference organised in Shamli district. About 2,000 to 3,000 people were present at the conference, most of them were in their twenties. The attendees raised the slogan, “Aarakshan nahi, toh vote nahi”—No reservation, no vote. Ajay Kashyap, the president of Kashyap Kranti Ekta Mission, told us that the social organisation was formed in 2016 and works on issues that the community faces. He said the organisation has units in 40 districts of Uttar Pradesh and also works in Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. “Our organisation aims for the Kashyaps to get its share on a social, political and administrative level—we are nowhere in these spheres. Our community has been struggling for a long time. It is poor, comprises daily wagers. And day by day, it is becoming more backward,” Ajay said. “Reservation can solve every problem of our society, including societal, political and employment problems.”
Ajay said that the reservation for the community can be increased in two ways. The first way would be to categorise it as a Scheduled Caste. Jaipal Singh Kashyap, who represented the Aonla constituency in the Lok Sabha in 1980–1984, was among the first to demand for the Kashyap community to be categorised in the Scheduled Caste category.
Since then, three governments have made attempts to place the Kashyaps in the Scheduled Caste category. “In 2004-05, the Mulayam Singh Yadav government had sent a proposal to the Centre for shifting of these castes from OBC to SC,” according to a report in India Today. “The Centre, then under the Congress-led United Progessive Alliance (UPA), did not approve it and the Allahabad High Court later quashed the state government order.” His son, Akhilesh Yadav, revived the proposal in 2016, but the centre did not give its assent. “Mayawati, who had originally opposed the move by Mulayam Singh Yadav, took a different stand after coming to power in 2007,” the India Today report mentioned. “She added a rider saying her government would go ahead with the caste-rejig for quota in jobs provided the share of SC is increased from 21 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. The proposal did not move any further.” In 2019, the Adityanath government also included these castes in the SC category, but the Allahabad High Court stayed the move.
Ajay believed that it was only logical to categorise Kashyaps as Scheduled Castes. He said the Turhaya, Majhwar, Beldar communities are classified as Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh. “We are synonymous with them. Humaara roti beti ka sambandh hai”—We forge family relations with these castes—Ajay said. “So we should be included in the same category as them.” Ajay said that Kashyaps have voted for different political parties previously. “But they have cheated us.”