The rise of the other backward classes (OBCs) is certainly one of the main developments in the Hindi-belt politics over the last ten years. The OBCs are castes in the Indian social system that are situated above the Untouchables but below the forward castes (the “twice born,” Brahmins, Kshatriyas [warriors] and Vaishyas [merchants]) and the intermediate castes (mostly peasant proprietors and even dominant castes). They form the bulk of the Shudras—the fourth category (varna) of the classical Hindu social arrangement. The OBCs, whose professional activity is often as field-workers or artisans, represent about half of the Indian population, but they have occupied a subaltern position so far. Their rise for the first time seriously questions upper-caste domination of the public sphere.

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