Kancha Ilaiah

Kancha Ilaiah
Kancha Ilaiah at Kerala Literature Festival in 2018
Kancha Ilaiah
Born (1952-10-05) 5 October 1952 (age 67)
Papaiahpet, Warangal, Hyderabad State, India
(now in Telangana, India)
OccupationDirector, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive

Policy (CSSEIP) at Maulana Azad National Urdu University,

Known forWriter and speaker on Indian political thought
HonoursMahatma Jyotirao Phule Award

Nehru Fellow 1994-97

Manyawar Kanshiram Smriti Mahanayak Puraskar

Kancha Ilaiah, who now refers to himself symbolically as Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, (born 5 October 1952) is an Indian political theorist, writer and activist for Dalit rights. He writes in both English and Telugu.

Early life[edit]

Kancha Ilaiah was born in the village of Papaiahpet, Warangal district in erstwhile Hyderabad State.[1] His family belonged to the sheep-grazing Kuruma Golla caste, a community designated by the Government of India as an Other Backward Class group.[2] Ilaiah credited his mother, Kancha Kattamma, as pivotal in shaping his political thought.[3] According to Ilaiah, she was at the forefront of the Kurumas' struggle against the forest guards' discriminatory behaviour. Kancha Kattamma was killed during a violent confrontation while protesting against police brutality.[4]

A Dalit activist,[1] Ilaiah is often identified as being a Dalit himself in news reports,[5][6] although he was in fact born into an Other Backward Class community.

Professional life[edit]

Ilaiah received an M.A. degree in political science and an M.Phil., awarded for his study of land reform in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.[1] He has been a recipient of the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Award and was a Nehru Fellow between 1994-97.[1]

Ilaiah earned a Ph.D on the basis of his work exploring the political dimension of Buddhism, culminating in God as Political Philosopher - Buddha Challenge to Brahminism.[7].

Ilaiah has encouraged proficiency in the English language for Dalits, arguing that it would allow Dalits in India to intellectually engage the world outside India without non-Dalits speaking "for them".[8][9][10] In May 2016, in protest against "Brahmanic hegemony" he claims continues to persist in India, Ilaiah appended "Shepherd" to his name. Ilaiah identified in this choice recognition and reaffirmation of his family origins. As an English-language proper noun rather than its equivalent in an Indian language, "Shepherd" is meant to demonstrate a symbolic break with the cultural norms Ilaiah believed "Brahmins" sought to "impose" on Indian society. Ilaiah characterises his name change as a tool for the upliftment of Dalits.[11]

Currently, Ilaiah is serving as director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad.


While working as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Osmania University, several of Ilaiah's colleagues as well as academics affiliated with the university expressed, in an open-letter, their concern with respect to certain articles and opinions Ilaiah had contributed to a local newspaper and advised him against writing material that could inflame sectarian discontent or prejudice.[1]

In February 2013, at the Jaipur Literary Festival, Ilaiah and Javed Akhtar engaged in a heated discussion over the implications of religion in Indian social life.[12]

Ilaiah has also been criticised for believing in the Aryan invasion theory.[11][13] In November 2015, Ilaiah stated that if Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of India credited with forging national unity amidst the intense violence and bloodletting that followed the creation of Pakistan, had been Prime Minister of India, India "would have become Pakistan".[14]

In April 2016, Ilaiah gave a controversial remark that vegetarianism is anti-nationalism.[15] On 18 September 2017, T. G. Venkatesh, a member of Indian Parliament representing the Telugu Desam Party and a prominent leader of Arya Vysya said at a press conference that Ilaiah was a traitor and should be hanged.[16][why?]


Among Ilaiah's official appointments have been:[17]

  • Director, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
  • Member of National Research Committee constituted by the Ministry of Social Justice, New Delhi
  • Member – Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi
  • Former Member of the National Book Trust, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, New Delhi for three years
  • Member of the Planning Commission Sub Committee to formulate an agenda for land reforms for the XI Five Year Plan
  • Member of the UGC Constitutional Committee to oversee the implementation of OBC reservations in all Central and State universities in India
  • Former member of the Executive Council of Periyar Maniammai University (Tamil Nadu)

Selected publications[edit]

English language publications:

Telugu language publications:

  • ఐలయ్య, క. మన తత్వం: దళిత బహుజన తాత్వికత. హైదరాబాద్: హైదరాబాద్ బుక్ ట్రస్ట్


  1. ^ a b c d e "The attempt to censor my writings is part of a larger game plan". Rediff. 24 May 2000. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  2. ^ "How a caste reference in his 2009 book has come back to haunt Kancha Ilaiah".
  3. ^ "How cow protection laws brutalise our culture".
  4. ^ "Kancha Ilaiah". Ambedkar.org. 16 November 2000. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  5. ^ India's President Ram Nath Kovind takes oath, Aljazeera
  6. ^ Good Shepherd: Dalit thinker Kancha Ilaiah on name, caste, May 27, 2016, Sudipto Mondal , Hindustan Times
  7. ^ "Modi should ask sadhus to clean the streets".
  8. ^ "Introduce English in all schools, says Dalit scholar Kancha Ilaiah".
  9. ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/interviews/Kancha-Ilaiah-Even-if-10-dalit-children-got-English-education-India-would-change/articleshow/18503625.cms
  10. ^ "In defence of English: Blame the Indian education system, not the language".
  11. ^ a b "Good Shepherd: Dalit thinker Kancha Ilaiah on name, caste". Hindustan Times. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  12. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jaipur-literature-festival-ends-but-controversy-lingers/article4354622.ece
  13. ^ "Who are real Dalits of India".
  14. ^ "If Sardar Patel was PM, India would've become Pakistan: Kancha Ilaiah". Hindustan Times. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Vegetarianism is anti-nationalism: Kancha Ilaiah on Ambedkar's food democracy".
  16. ^ "TD MP TG Venkatesh says 'Hang ilaiah' for his book". The Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  17. ^ "3rd Cycle of Accreditation – NAAC, Self – Study Report, 2013" (PDF). Osmania University. 2013. p. 48. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.

External links[edit]