The Jagan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh fulfilled one of its election promises for BC welfare in Oct 2020, after a year of coming into power. It was decided that every BC community with a population of over 30,000 will have a separate Corporation and funds will be allocated to them. Accordingly, 56 BC Corporations were established. The expectation is that micro-targeting will help those marginalized communities within the BCs.
However, the move is reminiscent of British rule in India’s history. After the British took charge of administration from the East India Company in 1857, a charge levied against it was the divide and rule policy adopted to maintain control over the local populace. Divisions primarily in the name of religion were done to pitch one against the other- Hindus against the Muslims, to further take advantage of their rift and weaken the opposition to government. Part of these tactics is also the partition of Bengal in 1905 on religious lines, and the sanction of separate electorates to Muslims in 1909.
A practice that served this tactical method of division for the British was based on how administration divided people into categories with the census. A census is not a passive account of statistical tables, rather it also engages with the world through categories and definitions. These categories and definitions impose themselves on how people make sense of themselves. The use of a census exercise is done by the government, while the effect of it is formed on the subject. The world view of British, that was also part of this exercise of categorization, had the effect of changing Indian social relations, culminating in Communalism in the earlier 20th century. History is evidence to the extent communalism has gone in the name of two nation theory and the partition of India.
A part of these colonial imaginations is also the perception towards the caste system in India as an unchanging social entity. This thinking permeates Indian minds even today. Coming to how YSRCP formed the BC Corporations, the move is possible only because of better targeting capabilities achieved through data governance. Targeting is not just a measure of governance and statistical analysis for budgeting purposes, the categorization involved in targeting makes people identify themselves with some imaginations. In this case, building on the colonial imaginations of caste, the AP government’s targeting is to divide the BCs into subgroups based on their caste only augments the casteism prevalent in society and furthers the assertion of micro-identities.
While the division by British is targeted towards its main opposition- the people of India, division by YSRCP is targeted towards its main opposition- Telugu Desam Party, as BCs constituted the traditional support base of the party. This division may serve YSRCP’s interests, but may not serve the social cohesion of Andhra Pradesh.