No reservation, no vote: Kashyap organisation holds conferences ahead of UP elections

In late September, a social organisation named Kashyap Ekta Kranti Mission held a conference in Uttar Pradesh for the Kashyap 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. CK VIJAYAKUMAR FOR THE CARAVAN
31 October, 2021

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.”

Ajay thought that the second way to increase the reservation for the community would be to hold a caste census and give proportionate reservation. “You can count us and give us our share in the 27-percent quota for OBCs accordingly. Divide the quota,” he said. Ajay added that the government can implement the OBC Social Justice Committee’s report of 2018—the state government had formed this under the chairmanship of the former Allahabad High Court judge Raghavendra Kumar. Seventy-nine OBC castes were classified in three groups—other backward classes, more backward classes and most backward classes. The 27-percent reservation was split between these three categories—7 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Kashyaps were categorised as most backward classes. The report’s suggestions have still not been implemented.

Ajay said that one aim of these conferences is to unite the community for the purpose of this demand of increased reservations and then vote for one party that promises their upliftment. “If no party offers us a solution, we will press the NOTA button,” he said. “Whichever party speaks about our rights, we will support it in the 2022 elections.”

The youth we met at the conference repeated Ajay’s assertions. “Our leaders want our community to be enumerated so that it has a distinct identity,” Ankur Kashyap, a resident of Haider Nagar in Muzaffarnagar district, said. “If we [are not promised] reservation in 2022, we will not vote. If we are united, no one will oppress us. We will fight for our rights. Wherever this panchayat is held, we will go there.”

Most of the youth spoke of poverty and lack of education as their main issues. “Our community is very poor,” Pradeep Kashyap, a resident of Shamli, said. “Our people want to study, but they do not have money. I am a graduate, and I wanted to study more as well. But I couldn’t. Due to my family’s poor financial condition, I had to work instead … This is why I think, if we had reservations at that time, my fee would not have been that much and I would have completed my studies.” Pradeep said he had to work as a daily wager while completing his graduation. “Now, some other [OBC] communities are getting education, tuition, everything,” he said. “If we have to work along with studies, how will we compete with them? If there is a race between a motorcycle and cycle, then who will win? Obviously, the person with the motorcycle will win and the one on the cycle will lose.”

About 2,000 to 3,000 people were present at the Kashyap Ekta Kranti Mission’s Shamli conference. Most of them were in their twenties. CK VIJAYAKUMAR FOR THE CARAVAN

Many of the youth also spoke about unemployment. Pawan Kashyap, from Bijnor district, said he held a bachelor’s degree in commerce. “I have also cleared the first stage of the Army recruitment exam twice. But I do not have a job till now,” Pawan said. He believed that the solution to his community’s problem lay in being united and voting for one party. “If we are one, our leaders will work properly,” he said.

Most of the youth at the conference said that they suffered due to their caste location. “Our caste is subjected to a lot of oppression. No one listens to our pleas in police stations,” Lokendra Kashyap, a 25-year-old college student from Bijnor, told us. Lokendra said he will vote for the first time in the upcoming elections. He added that he found out about the conference through social media and planned to spread its message of uniting the community behind one party in different villages. Anand Kashyap, a second-year college student from Baghpat district’s Barka village, told us, “Even if the government doesn’t want to do a census, it should give us reservations based on our economic and our social condition itself.”

Attendees of the conference said that they will only vote for the BJP if the party increases the reservation granted to them. Anand said that he used to consider himself a “Hinduwadi.” “As I grew up, I realised that we were only being used in the name of Hinduism,” he said. Anand spoke about the BJP’s strategy of appealing to his community to vote as Hindus. “This BJP divides us into Hindus and Muslims just for votes,” he told us. “They think we are Hindus, so we should go and vote as Hindus,” he said. But, he added, “Hindus are completely divided. The upper castes do not consider us to be Hindus. Today, when BJP is spreading propaganda about Hindus, at this time, a Hindu is only committing atrocities on a Hindu. I was watching the news—a two-year-old child goes to the temple and then the temple is said to have become impure. How can this happen with a two-year-old? But the BJP has brought this stuff.” Anand said that the party was diverting people’s attention from other issues. “We need employment, which this government is not giving,” he said. “So many people lost their livelihood during the lockdown. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.”

Anand said that it is for these reasons that the youth of the community were now mobilising. “The youth of our community are going from village to village, uniting people and making them aware of our society’s problems,” he told us. “And asking them to fight for their rights or even the next generation will be slaves. We tell them, ‘If you do not speak for yourself, if you do not unite, then the oppression on your people will keep increasing. Take note of your rights and fight for them.’”

Like Anand, several attendees spoke about the importance of uniting the community behind one party. Pawan said that despite their problems, “No one even takes the name of our caste.” He added, “If we become united, then some party will listen to us.”