The Kamma cultivators who migrated from Andhra region made considerable economic progress with their superior agricultural skills.
Hyderabad: This article is in continuation to the last article focusing on the Jai Telangana Movement (1969-70), which is one of the important topics for the government recruitment examinations.
The colonisation scheme introduced by the Nizam’s government attracted the attention of the coastal farmers and a large number of them migrated from Guntur and Krishna districts. As the land values were very high there, by selling a few and all of their landed property they could acquire substantial estates in Telangana very cheap. The investment in land purchase in Telangana was a profitable venture for the coastal farmers. Given the superior agricultural skills and shrewdness, they were able to make considerable economic progress.
Although the coastal Andhra settlers were drawn from different castes and socio-economic groups, the Kamma cultivators are conspicuous by their overwhelming presence in the irrigated zones of Telangana, whether it is Nizamabad or parts of Khammam, Warangal and Nalgonda districts. An examination of the settlement pattern and geographical spread of this community of farmers suggests that they were primarily concentrated in localities around irrigation projects and black-regur soils.
The intensive cultivation practices adopted by them also necessitated/facilitated concentrated settlement patterns. Thus, in many parts of Telangana, the Kammavaripalle or locations of Kamma households present a unique sight.
The Turupa Kamma/Kapu settlements are referred to by the local people as sights representing a particular type of habitation and lifestyle. The distinct caste configuration of a Kamma settlement is normally away from the main village. Local expressions like Kotturu (new village), Guntur palle, Kaamagudem and Turupu Kammawada indicate the specific character of their habitation and settlement.
The Kamma peasantry do not easily fit into the local caste system in Telangana, for they are numerically insignificant and distinct from the other dominant castes like the Reddys and Velamas.
The presence of an enterprising community in the midst of an economically poor, socially oppressed and less well-to-do groups in backward Telangana villages was also a source of jealousy, hostility and hatred. The hard-working and dynamic migrant farmers displayed their skills and accumulated wealth and immensely prospered in certain parts of Telangana. The spectacular progress made by them was manifested in terms of their higher standards of living in the rural areas.
In their quest for rapid material progress, competition with the other dominant and well-entrenched communities of the locality was inevitable. It was very much evident during the Telangana agitation of the late 1960s. Thus, the hostility of local people towards the outsiders was closely linked to the nature of property holding and corresponding social relations.
Certain socio-cultural factors also contributed to the mutual suspicion and distinction between the local population and outsiders. Among the settler cultivators, the Kammas tend to exhibit a particular type of kinship relations, marriage pattern or network, lifestyles and interpersonal relations, which are thought to be different from the locals. The images of a settler community that it is aggressive, ruthless, arrogant, etc., made the local population to think that “the other” is different.
A popular saying reads thus, Kammavaru Cherite, Kadama Kulalu Tolugutai (on the arrival of Kammas, other castes go away). The strong, intensive kinship relations among them and their concentrated habitation made others view the community as homogenous and unified. Although it is internally differentiated, the structure of its property ownership makes it appear to be a coherent group.
In economic class terms, the vast majority of Kammas in Telangana region belonged to the middle and rich peasantry. Therefore, the Kamma rural rich could and did diversify its accumulated surplus and entered the business world. Caste/community kinship network and connections facilitated their entrenchment in such areas as commercial farming, agro-industries, real estate, finance, etc.
The distinct pattern of marriage and dowry system among the Kammas provided additional advantages, in terms of resource mobilisation and caste solidarity. The aspect attracted the attention of local people and also became a source of antagonism.
Since the Kamma caste could not be assimilated into the local caste structure of Telangana, they were compelled and also felt secure in developing close caste/community networks among themselves and with their coastal relations often cutting across political/ideological boundaries. Marriage alliances and informal cultural organisations also played a significant role in cementing the community bonds. Hence in the popular perception, the coastal Andhra settler in Telangana continues to remain an outsider/non-local.
To be continued…