ndia: The Ambalakarar caste, including its position within the caste system and its relation to the Kallar caste; the situation of the Ambalakarar caste in Tamil Nadu (2012-June 2013) [IND104480.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Ambalakarar Caste in India

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), a campaign that aims to eliminate caste-based discrimination (n.d.), provided the following information on castes in India:

[t]he general doctrine of caste divides the population into four varna: the Brahmins, vedic priests; the Kshatriya, kings, governors and soldiers; the Vaishyas, cattle herders, agriculturists, artisans and merchants; the Shudras, labourers and service providers. Dalits fall outside this division (outcaste), and since considered potentially polluting, live excluded from the rest of the population, and treated as untouchables. (NCDHR 25 June 2013)

Sources indicate that the Kshatriya caste is associated with rulers and warriors (IndiaNetzone 23 June 2011; Mount Holyoke College n.d.). According to the NCDHR, the "Ambalakarar caste is indubitably included in the varna system, being considered a sub caste of the Kshatriya, and have nothing in common with the Dalit community" (25 June 2013). Corroboration could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Ambalakarar Caste in Tamil Nadu

Information regarding the situation of the Ambalakarar caste in Tamil Nadu was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, a Scheduled Caste is defined as "Extreme social, education and economic backwardness arising out of the traditional practice of untouchability (India n.d.b). India's National Commission for Backward Classes Act of 1993 states that "'backward classes' means such backward classes of citizens other than the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as may be specified by the Central Government in the lists" (India 1993, 3). The Act also states that

'lists' means lists prepared by the Government of India from time to time for purposes of making provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of backward classes of citizens which, in the opinion of that Government, are not adequately represented in the services under the Government of India and any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India. (ibid., 3-4)

The NCDHR representative said that the

State has come [up] with "scheduled" lists, which determine ... untouchability and [has] named them as "Scheduled Castes." Some of the Shudra castes are brought under the "backward castes" and "most backward castes." And as the castes are [a] very state or regional specific phenomenon and have different names from state to state, different states have categorised the castes under Scheduled list, or OBC (other backward castes) or MBC (Most Backward Castes); these have been contested and want to be shifted this way or the other. Of course, there are mistakes of a few castes going below or above the line of 'touchability' and so some castes have still disputes and political demands or even court cases. (26 June 2013)

According to the NCDHR representative, the Other Backward Classes list and the Most Backward Communities list have some privileges such as affirmative action for state-run educational institutions, state employment, and running for elections (26 June 2013). He added that "there is both clamour for and a stigma attached to these categories" (NCDHR 26 June 2013).

The Ambalakarar caste is on the Government of India's National Commission for Backward Classes "Central List of OBCs [Other Backward Classes] for the State of Tamil Nadu" (India n.d.a, 1). The NCDHR representative stated that the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission has included the Ambalakarar in the "Most Backward Communities List, and in Denotified Communities List (DC) in Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Tiruchirapalli, Karur, Perambalur and Pudukottai districts" (25 June 2013).

The NCDHR representative stated that, according to a 2007 book entitled Caste on Question, Identity or Hierarchy by Dipankar Gupta, a "'denotified'" community refers to a group of people who, "in the later half of British rule in India," were considered to be "'criminal tribes'," but that after independence, the criminal label was "formally abandoned" (25 June 2013). The NCDHR representative also said that the Ambalakarar caste is considered to be a "'denotified community'" because, historically,

the Nadu-Ambalakarar institution by which justice was traditionally dispensed in regions dominated by them was ... abolished to make way for the penal and judiciary system introduced by the British. Deprived of their traditional occupations, a large section of the Tamil military castes became, in the eyes of the colonial government, a delinquent mass, a danger to the rural social order. (25 June 2013)

The NCDHR representative also indicated that, according to Gupta's book, in some cases, "denotified 'criminal' tribes" may still face stigma for being "'hereditary criminals'" (25 June 2013).

According to the NCDHR representative,

In general, the [Ambalakarar caste] has lost economic power and prestige in comparison with the past, but they are still well positioned in terms of caste. In fact, they are still considered dominant caste, and as historical records point out, there have been serious episodes of intolerance between Ambalakarar and Dalits. (25 June 2013)

The NCDHR representative provided the example of the 1997 "Melavalavu massacre," in which six Dalits were killed by members of the Ambalakarar caste (25 June 2013). The Hindu, an independent Indian daily newspaper (Factiva n.d.), corroborates that six people from the "Scheduled caste" were killed in the "1997 Melavalavu massacre" (22 Sept. 2009).

3. Relationship between Ambalakarar Caste and Kallar Caste

The NCDHR representative indicated that the Ambalakarar is a sub-caste of the Kallar caste, and stated that there are "various" Kallar sub-castes (25 June 2013). He described Ambalakarar as the "most important" Kallar sub-caste (25 June 2013). According to him, there are approximately 1,263,000 Kallar in India, who are mostly located in the "Madurai, Tirchuripalli, Ariyalur and Sivaganga districts in Tamil Nadu" (25 June 2013). The NCDHR representative indicated that the Kallar caste is one of the three castes that constitute the "'Mukkalathor' confederacy" (25 June 2013). The Hindu reports that, according to the Deputy Secretary of the Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and Minorities Welfare Department, a government order passed in 1995 changing the name of the Mukkalathor community, consisting of Kallar, Agamudaiyar and Maravar, to "Thevar" (4 July 2011).

The Kallar caste, including Easanattu Kallar, Gandarvakkottai Kallar, Koottappal Kallar, Piramalai Kallar, and Periasooriyur Kallar, is on the National Commission for Backward Classes' "Central List of OBCs [Other Backward Classes] for the State of Tamil Nadu" (India n.d.a, 4). A 10 January 2000 letter by the National Commission for Backward Classes advising the central government to include the "Kallar Kula Thondaman" on the central list of Backward Classes for Tamil Nadu, indicates that the "Kallar Kula Thondaman" are manual labourers and that the "percentage of households living in katcha houses, households taking subsistance loans for living, dropout from schools and illiteracy is more than that of the State average" (India 10 Jan. 2000).

The NCDHR states that

[t]he Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission includes Kallar in the Backward Class Communities List, and in the Denotified Communities List. This division, though, should not convey the idea of a weak community ... although a high percentage of the members are still agriculturalists, many have also progressed up the social ladder as doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians and civil servants. A large number of people from the community are in the National Armed Forces of India, or serves in the Tamil Nadu Police Department. (25 June 2013)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In the Economic and Political Weekly, a social science journal published in Mumbai (n.d.), D. Karthikeyan, Stalin Rajangam, and Hugo Gorringe wrote that in Parali Puthor, southern Tamil Nadu, "tea shops serve both Mutharaiyars and Dalits with separate glasses because they are seen as lower than, and as a threat towards, Kallar supremacy" (8 Sept. 2012). According to an article published in August 2008 in the Journal of Genetics, the Kallar caste is "middle class" (Kanthimathi et al. 2008, 176). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Economic and Political Weekly. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 26 June 2013]

Factiva. N.d. "Source Search." [Accessed 26 June 2013]

The Hindu. 4 July 2011. "Decision on MBC Status for Thevar Community after Caste-based Census." (Factiva)

_____. 22 September 2009. J. Venkatesan. "Supreme Court Reserves Verdict in Melavalavu Case." (Factiva)

India. 10 January 2000. National Commission for Backward Classes. NCBC Advice No. Tamil Nadu 107/2000. [Accessed 19 June 2013]

_____. 1993. National Commission for Backward Classes. NCBC Act, Rules & Composition. [Accessed 2 July 2013]

_____. N.d.a. National Commission for Backward Classes. Central List of OBCs for the State of Tamil Nadu. [Accessed 18 June 2013]

_____. N.d.b. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. "Scheduled Caste Welfare - Frequently Asked Questions." [Accessed 2 July 2013]

IndiaNetzone. 23 June 2011. "Kshatriya Indian Caste." [Accessed 19 June 2013]

Kanthimathi, S., Vijaya M., and Ramesh, A. 2008. "Genetic Study of Dravidian Castes of Tamil Nadu." Journal of Genetics. Vol. 87, No.2. [Accessed 18 June 2013]

Karthikeyan, D., Rajangam, Stalin, Gorringe, Hugo. 8 September 2012. "Dalit Political Imagination and Replication in Contemporary Tamil Nadu." Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. XLVII. No. 36. (Factiva)

Mount Holyoke College. N.d. "History of the Caste System in India." [Accessed 19 June 2013]

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). 26 June 2013. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. 25 June 2013. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "About NCDHR." [Accesed 26 June 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following individuals and organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Author of Thenpandi Singam; Centre for Dalit Rights; Chancellor of University of California, Berkeley; Department of Social Sciences, Tamil University; India – Ministry of Home Affairs, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Scheduled Castes; Madras Institute of Development Studies; Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Professor, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; Professor of History, University of Toronto; Voices for Freedom; Writer and Research Scholar of Dalit History, Culture and Religion. The following individuals and organizations could not provide information for this Response: Navsarjan; Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; ecoi.net; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; India – National Commission for Scheduled Castes; United Nations – Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld; United States – Department of State.