Sons of Krishna : the politics of Yadav community formation in a north Indian town
This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of the inter-locking relationships between politics, popular democracy, religion and caste/community formation in a North Indian town. This study is conducted through an exploration of the political rhetoric and political participation of a community of Yadavs in Mathura town, western Uttar Pradesh. The Yadavs were traditionally a low- to middle- ranking cluster of pastoral-peasant castes that have become a significant political force in Uttar Pradesh (and other northern states like Bihar) in the last thirty years. The analysis of Yadav political culture involves the historical exploration of varying local conceptions of caste, race, primordialism, socio-religious segmentation, factionalism, history/myth, politics and democracy. Throughout the thesis runs a concern with the elaboration of a theoretical framework which makes sense of the transformation of the caste system, and its interrelations with modern politics and Hinduism. It is concluded that in order to understand contemporary processes of ethnicisation of caste, attention should be paid to descent and kinship, and to the ways in which the 'traditional' caste ideology of hierarchy has been usurped by the religious ideology of descent. The thesis demonstrates how the successful formation of a Yadav community, and the political activism of its members in Mathura, are partly linked to their descent view of caste, folk theories of religious descent, horizontal caste-cluster social organisation, marriage patterns, factionalism, and finally to their cultural understanding of 'the past' and 'the political'. It is concluded that Yadav socioreligious organisation directly and indirectly helped the Yadav community to adapt to the modern political world. In so doing, the political ethnography of Mathura Yadavs sheds light on why certain groups are more apt to successfully exert their influence within the democratic political system, and why others are not, regardless of the fact that in many instances they have similar economic and political incentives and resources.