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    HomeAndhra Pradesh"Why Past Proposals for Boyas' ST Status Were Rejected Despite Jagan Government's...

    “Why Past Proposals for Boyas’ ST Status Were Rejected Despite Jagan Government’s Current Efforts”

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    The Andhra Pradesh state Assembly recently adopted a resolution proposing that the Union government include Valmikis/Boyas and their subsect communities from the Rayalaseema region in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST). However, several Adivasi groups in the state that are currently classified as STs are demanding that the government withdraw the resolution. The Registrar General of India (RGI) had previously rejected a similar proposal from the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in 2017, which sought the inclusion of Valmikis and Boyas across Andhra Pradesh in the ST list. The Valmiki/Boya communities presently belong to the Backward Classes (A) category in the state, except in Scheduled Areas where Valmikis enjoy ST status. The estimated population of the Valmiki/Boya communities in Andhra Pradesh is around 20 lakh, according to a study conducted by the state government in 2017.

    The inclusion of Valmikis/Boyas in the ST list may lead to social conflicts like those in Telangana where disputes have been increasing among the Gond, Koya and other communities ever since the Lambadas were included in the ST list in 1976 in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. The Gonds and other tribal communities in Telangana allege that this was done for political reasons and have been demanding the exclusion of the Lambada community from the ST category, alleging that they are unfairly availing of limited opportunities in jobs and education. The disparities and rising imbalances between developed tribes and developing tribal groups have led to growing tensions among them in Telangana. Along similar lines, Adivasi groups in Andhra Pradesh are opposing the inclusion of the relatively developed Valmiki/Boya communities of the erstwhile districts of Anantapur, Kurnool, Kadapa and Chittoor in the list of STs, as they believe the move would affect their development and rights.

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    The RGI had previously rejected the TDP government’s justification for the inclusion of Valmikis/Boyas in the ST list twice, citing various grounds. The RGI cited the Census Report of 1901, which said that the ‘Boya’ call themselves ‘Valmikas’ and ‘Dorabiddas’ (children of chiefs) and claim to be the descendants of the sage Valmiki and Poligars – a powerful feudal class of chieftains. It also said that they closely resemble ‘Besthas’ (a fishing community presently classified under Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Andhra Pradesh) in their customs. The Census Report of 1921 said that Boyas were involved in occupations related to the food industry such as running hotels, as well as trading in clothing, toiletries, fuel etc. The subsequent Census Report of 1931 stated that the Boyas are one of the “great castes” of the Deccan region.

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    Opposing the TDP government’s stand, the RGI had also noted that according to the Andhra Pradesh District Gazetteers, 1992, Boyas were divided into two classes — Gunta Boya and Pedda Boya — and that services at Vaishnavite temples were performed by Brahmins, Satanis or Boyas. Further substantiating its rejection of the state government’s proposal, the RGI cited Edgar Thurston’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India (first published in 1909), which said that Boyas take the help of Brahmin priests in conducting marriage rituals, and refers to them as “the old fishing castes.”

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    In light of growing concerns among Adivasis in Andhra Pradesh, there is a need for the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government to review the recent resolution passed by the Assembly. As an alternative, a development board may be constituted to undertake development activities to address the backwardness of Valmiki/Boyas in the Rayalaseema region and to resolve their issues. It is advisable to discuss the matter with the opposing tribal groups and elected representatives from ST communities, before taking further action on the proposal to include Valmikis/Boyas in the ST list.

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    Rajesh M
    Rajesh M
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