Kancha Ilaiah

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Kancha Ilaiah
Born (1952-10-05) 5 October 1952 (age 63)
Papaiahpet, Hyderabad State, India
(now in Telangana, India)
Education MA in political science, MPhil on land reforms in Andhra Pradesh

Director, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) at Maulana Azad National Urdu University,

Known for Writer and speaker on Indian political thought, Dalit-Bahujan movement

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Award Nehru Fellow 1994-97

Manyawar Kanshiram Smriti MAHANAYAK Puraskar for contribution in awakening of depressed masses in India.

Kancha Ilaiah (also known as Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd; born 5 October 1952) is an Indian academic, writer and activist for Dalit rights. He is a prolific writer in English and Telugu. His books include Why I am not a Hindu, Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution, God As Political Philosopher: Budha's challenge to Brahminism, A Hollow Shell, Turning the pot, tilling the land: Dignity of labour in our times, Untouchable God: A Novel on Caste and Race, The State and Repressive Culture, Manatatwam (in Telugu), and Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism.

Early life[edit]

Kancha Ilaiah was born in the village of Papaiahpet, Warangal district, then in Hyderabad State.[1] His family belonged to the sheep-grazing Kuruma Golla caste (OBC). Ilaiah cited his mother Kancha Kattamma as one of the people who shaped his political ideas.[2] According to him, she was at the forefront of the Kurumas' struggle against the forest guards' discriminatory behaviour and was killed during a violent confrontation while protesting against police brutality.[3]

Professional life[edit]

Ilaiah has 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 has a Ph.D related to Buddhism. His paper was on God as political philosopher- Buddha challenge to Brahminism.[4] 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 contributed to a local newspaper and advised him against writing material that could inflame sectarian discontent or prejudice.[1] Currently, he is serving as director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad.

Illaiah has supported the English language as a way for empowerment of Dalits.[5][6][7] In May 2016, in protest against what he considers to be Brahmanic hegemony, Ilaiah revealed that he had appended Shepherd to his name. This choice recognised his family origins and, being an English word rather than Indian, was a symbolic break with the cultural norms that he believed Brahmins sought to impose on Indian society. He saw it as a tool for the upliftment of Dalits.[8]


In February 2013, at the Jaipur Literary Festival, Ilaiah had a spat with Javed Akhtar over religion and Buddhism.[9] Ilaiah has also been criticised for believing in the now discredited Aryan Invasion theory.[8][10] In November 2015, Ilaiah said that if Vallabhbhai Patel had been Prime Minister of India, India would have become Pakistan.[11]


Among Ilaiah's official appointments have been:[12]

  • 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 – ICSSR, New Delhi
  • Former Member of National Book Trust, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, New Delhi for three years
  • Member of Planning Commission Sub Committee to work out in agenda for Land Reforms for the XI Five Year Plan
  • Member of UGC Constitutional Committee to oversee the implementation of OBC reservations in all Central and State
  • Universities of India
  • Former member of Executive Council – Periyar/Maniyamma University, Tamil Nadu

Selected publications[edit]


External links[edit]