Profile of Backward Groups

Attar Saibulu or Attarollu

They have been studied for People of India by Shaik Abdul Azeez Saheb. He describes them as “an occupational group of the Muslim community” which is endogamous and whose “traditional occupation is preparing and selling the perfume known as attar……They are easily identified as they generally carry a glass frame box on their shoulders containing the attars and aggarbattis….. due to lack of knowledge in the traditional technique of preparing attar, youngsters are shifting towards the preparation of agarbattis (incense sticks) and started small scale  industries”. Manufacture of agarbattis has become their secondary occupation. In recent times, they are not preparing attar in the indigenous method but buying it from cities like Bangalore and Bombay and selling it on retail basis. There is little education of girls among them.

About their status, Saheb states that “self-perception of the community at regional level is low. The Hindu communities consider them as inferior to them in the local social hierarchy”.

Dhobi Muslim/Muslim Dhobi/Dhobi Musalman

They have been studied for People of India by S S Sastry. Citing Hassan, Sastri says that they are called Turka Chakla or Turka Sakala, Turaka Chakali in Telangana District and, citing Thurston, he says that they are also called Tulukka Vannan in the erstwhile Madras Presidency and, again citing Thurston, they are called Tsakalas, Sakalas or Chakalas in the Andhra area.

A significant fact Shastri mentions is that a majority of them belong to the Shaikh division and use the title Shaikh with their name. Based on the Krishna District Gazetteer he says that in this District, the Shaikhs outnumber the other endogamous Muslim groups. He says that Dhobi Muslims are endogamous. The ‘Encyclopaedia of World Muslims’ mentioned in Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment in the Muslim Community Reservation [Archana Reddy] Case also mentions that in Andhra Pradesh Dhobi Musalman are also known as Sheikh Musalman.

Their women have a role in economic activities like agricultural operations and animal husbandry and are also experts in cloth embroidery and leather embroidery. They value education but boys drop out after secondary level due to economic reasons. Most of the girls drop out at primary or secondary level. Only the rich among them go for higher education upto post-graduate level.

Dhobi who are Hindu are included in the A.P. list of Backward Classes by the name of Rajaka, and in the lists of Backward Classes or in the lists of Scheduled Castes (wherever they have been found to be victims of untouchability) in all States by various local names. Muslim Dhobis are also included in the list of Backward Classes of a number of States like U.P., Bihar, Delhi etc.

Faqir/Fhakir Budbudki

This is a nomadic or semi-nomadic Muslim community of mendicants with the traditional occupation of begging. All such communities have been included in the lists of SEdBC/OBC of different States and the Central list for different States, except those who are already included in the list of  Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Darvesu, which is in the State list of Karnataka and in the Central list for Karnataka is another name for the same community. This is the Muslim counterpart of Budabukkala, which is already in the Andhra Pradesh State list.

Garadi Muslim

This is an entertainer-cum-mendicant community. Communities providing traditional entertainment and making their living thereby which is a form of mendicancy, are included in the list of S.Ed.BC/OBC or in the list of SC (depending upon whether they have been found to be the victims of untouchability or not and subject to the proviso in the Presidential Order) in all States including Andhra Pradesh like, for eg. Dasari (formerly engaged in Bikshatana, i.e., Beggary), Gangiredlavaru, Dommara, Pamula, Balasanthu / Bahurupi.

Gosangi Muslim

This is a Socially and Educationally Backward Class. If the members of this community were Hindu or Sikh or Buddhist, this community would have been covered by the entry Gosangi in the existing list of Scheduled Castes for Andhra Pradesh. They are not covered by that entry on account of the provision to Clause 3 of the Presidential Orders which notified the Scheduled Castes State-wise. It fulfills one of the two criteria of the Mandal Commission for identification of S.Ed.BC/OBC among non-Hindu religious communities, viz., converts from or counterparts of Scheduled Castes.

Guddi Eluguvallu, Elugubantuvallu

This is a nomadic community of traditional entertainers, now also engaged in sharpening of sickles and knives, agricultural labour etc. It is clearly a socially and educationally backward class.

Hajjam, Nai Muslim, Navid Muslim

This is a small occupational group with the same traditional occupation as Nai Brahmin already included in the AP list of BCs and is clearly a socially and educationally backward class. Communities whose traditional occupation is hair-dressing and related work are included in the list of Backward Classes in all States by the local names. Muslim Hajjam and their synonyms (like Salmani wherever such synonyms are prevalent) are included in the BC lists for a number of States like UP and Delhi.

Labbai, Labbi

This is a community which is small in Andhra Pradesh, but the major Muslim community of Tamil Nadu, whose traditional occupation includes skin and hide tanning and their processing and trade with a number of subsidiary occupations. Though small in Andhra Pradesh, they are the main Muslim social formation in Tamil Nadu encompassing a number of social groups which have lost their separate old caste identities. Labbai has been in the list of Backward Classes from the earliest post-Constitutional list of Madras Presidency. Taking the People of India and Susan Bayly’s account together, they are a socially low status community and constitute a socially and educationally backward class.

Quresh (Muslim butchers), Khatik/ Khatik Muslim/Kasab

This is a community, the traditional occupation of which is butchery. It has low social status and is looked down upon. It has the same disabilities as is Hindu counterparts namely Katika and Are-Katika and the social status of both is at par. It is also educationally backward. It is clearly a socially and educationally backward class.

In fact, it was included in the State list in 1986 on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes (N. K. Muralidhara Rao) Commission. It was deleted inadvertently and unintentionally. The NCBC has advised its inclusion in the Central list of Backward Classes for Andhra Pradesh and accordingly the Central Government has so included it. It is also included idn the Central list in respect of many other States like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as noted by the NCBC in its advice.


This community has been described in Anthrpological Survey of India’s People of India series India’s Communities, Volume “All Communities: A-G” as a “numerically small community concentrated in the Rayalaseema districts of Andhra Pradesh”.

It is also known as Deera Pakheerulu or Dheera Pakher.

Traditionally nomadic mendicants, recently they have shifted from their traditional occupation of begging to making mats with palm leaves. Bore means mat. Their subsidiary occupation is wage labour. They can be identified by the musical drum called Deera with they use while seeking alms, and by their peculiar traditional dress. They are endogamous.


They have been studied for People of India by Shaik Abdul Azeez Saheb. According to him, this is a small Muslim butcher community with synonyms like Khasab, Marati Khasab. To elevate their status, the butcher community of Andhra adopted the name of Qureshi and thereby seeking to trace their origin to Mecca and Madina, Qureshi being a trading and mercantile community of Mecca to which the Prophet of Islam belonged. PS Krishnan said added that this is true not only of this community of Andhra but also of other States. Another aspect is that this type of psycho-semantic self-upgradation is a common practice in the sub-continent, cutting across religious communities.

Muslim Katika who are sub-divided into Chinna-katika and Pedda-katika has been noticed in Telangana and is also the same as Qureshi. Their traditional and present occupation is kasab or butchery. They are educationally backward and mostly illiterate. They are distributed in Palamaner, Tirupati, Cuddapah, Damalcheruvu and Chittoor areas of Andhra Pradesh, Srirangapatnam, Bangalore and Channapatnam areas of Karnataka and Vellore, Vaniambadi, Salem and Madras areas of Tamil Nadu.

Khatik/ Khatik Muslim/Kasab

This community has been studied for the People of India separately by Md. Azeez Mohidden, but this is the same as Qureshi/Kureshi/Khureshi described above. According to Mohidden this community calls itself Khatik, Katke or Kasab, but are popularly referred to as Kasab and Khatik by Muslim and Kasai by Hindus. The name means butcher. The Muslim Khatik is divided into two endogamous groups, viz., Chota Kasab or Bakar Kasab (goat/sheep butcher) and Bada Kasab or Gayi Kasab (beef butcher). They are distributed throughout the State, particularly major towns and cities. Gayi Kasabs are concentrated in Kurnool, Guntakal, Cuddapah, Hyderabad city and outside Andhra Pradesh in Bellary, Arakonam, Madras and Pondicherry. Mohidden records that a number of them use Khatik as initials but most of them suffix the title Qureshi. Regarding the spread of the Sheik category, the finding of Mohidden that many Gayi Kasab use Shaik as their title is significant.

Very few of them are in white collar-jobs. Political leadership has emerged at local levels.

Quresh (Muslim Butchers)” was included in the Andhra Pradesh list of Backward Classes by GO No.166 dated 15th July 1986 on the basis of the recommendations of the second Backward Classes (N.K. Muralidhara Rao) Commission 1982 which reported that the butchers among Muslims suffer from the same disabilities as the Hindu butchers viz., Katika and Are-Katika, who had already been included in the list, and their profession is treated as unclean. The Commission noted that they are looked down upon in the society of Muslims and in social status they are on par with Are-Katika and Katika who are Hindus. They are also educationally backward. On this basis, their inclusion was recommended by the Commission and acted on by the Government.

The GO of 15th July 1986 had also increased the reservation of the Backward Classes to 44% in the place of the previous (and the present) 25%, thereby raising the total reservation for all the reserved categories much above 50%. The High Court of Andhra Pradesh struck down the GO of 15th July 1986 on the ground of exceeding the 50% limit, by its judgement dated 5.9.1986 in Writ Petition No. 9457 of 1986. Following the judgement, the status quo ante prior to the GO was restored in respect of Backward Classes by Government Memo No.1551/P2/32-83 dated 24.10.1986. Thereby this community which was one of the 9 communities newly added on the recommendation of the Muralidhara Rao Commission was unintentionally left out.

This needs rectification by their re-inclusion in the list. The Commission has recorded that their population was reported to be about 5 lakhs out of the total population 35 lakhs of all Muslims in the State according to the 1971 Census.

It is also to be noted that the National Commission of Backward Classes, by its Advice No.A.64/67/2002 dated 4-7-02 advised the Government to include ‘Quresh (Muslim butchers)’ in the Central list of Backward Classes for Andhra Pradesh along with ‘Are-Katika and Katika’ as follows, “62, Arekatika, Katika, Quresh (Muslim butchers)”. The Government of India accordingly included this community in the Central list of Backward Classes for Andhra Pradesh. This was on the request of All India Jamait-ul-Quresh, Andhra Pradesh, General Secretary, Mohd. Yaqoob Qureshi Bol. The NCBC also noted that they had been included in the Central list in respect of many other States like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.


There is some confusion about this group. This confusion arises from two contradictory aspects. On the one hand, according to the generally established pattern Shaik is one of the groups in the Ashraf category, and within that category it stands second only to Syed, both tracing their origin to Arabia. This is true of most of regions of India including neighbouring Tamil Nadu. On the other hand, this is the main category to which upwardly mobile groups have migrated. This has happened in a number of regions. But in most these regions such mobility is confined to communities with limited numbers belonging to upper castes before conversion. An example of this has been graphically described by Imtiaz Ahmad in his study of the Sheikh Siddiquis of U.P. who were originally Kayasthas of Allahabad district and who after migration to Lucknow to avail themselves of the new opportunities of service under the British rule, obliterated their earlier track and manufactured a new Sheikh geneology.

Sheikh is the category into which such upward mobility shifts were less difficult compared to Syed, Pathan and Moghal, like the Kshatriya category among Hindus. But in U.P. and many other regions, even after such accretions, Sheikh remains, in social terms, an Ashraf elite category constituting estimatedly a small proportion of the total Muslim population. This is true even of Tamil Nadu, where the Sheikh population of 1,19,446 is just a little more than the Syed population which is 93,396 according to the data furnished by the State Government to the NCBC in 1998.

But in Andhra Pradesh, in Kashmir and possibly West Bengal, the position is different and in these regions, Sheikh has got a different connotation. Here different communities belonging to the lower castes including “untouchable” castes assumed the name and identity of Sheikh. After moving into this larger collectivity they have tended to lose their separate caste identities making Sheikh a single large group. This has been described by T.N. Madan in the case of Kashmir as explained in Chapter IV. In 13 villages studied by Ranjit K. Bhattacharaya, the Sheikh constituted 85% of the Muslim population. An interesting light is cast by a report by Avijit Ghosh in the Times of India dated 6th June 2007. In this piece Ghosh describes the concerns of rag pickers in a slum of East Delhi called Ghazipur. Of 120 odd families of rag pickers in that Slum, not less than 80% are migrants from the Nandigram Block of East Medinipur District of West Bengal.

Back home most of them are marginal farmers or landless labourers. The events relating to the SEZ in Nandigram is a matter of concern for them and Ghosh’s topic is their views on the SEZ issues. What is of interest to us in this report, is that of the four names of rag pickers he mentions in the piece, three are Sheikhs, Sheikh Khursheed, Sheikh Abu Hassan and Sheikh Abed. This in an incidental way corroborates Bhattacharya’s study and certain other references which need not be elaborated here, regarding the changed connotation of Sheikh in West Bengal.

This trend has over time acquired maximal expansion in Andhra Pradesh. Many of the District Gazetteers of the 19th as well as 20th centuries, pre-Independence as well as post-Independence, attest to the fact that they constitute the largest number of all the Muslim groups. The Manual of North Arcot District, 1881, by Arthur F. Cox, which included the present Chittoor district, says about the Dudekulas or Pinjaris that they were original Shayks indicating the wide sweep of the category of Sheikhs; there are similar references in some other descriptions.

Some of the Gazetteers even give population estimates. The District Gazetteer of Cuddapah, 1915, by C.F. Brackenburry, ICS estimates the population of Sheikhs to be more than 5/8ths of the district’s population which works out to more than 62.5%. The Telengana District Gazetteers for six districts, or as at present seven districts, with the exception of only Hyderabad, Rangareddy and Medak districts, all published in 1940, gives district-wise population percentage of Sheikhs, Syeds, Pathans and Moghuls in a table titled “Statistics of chief castes” based on the 1931 Census. These show that except in Adilabad District, Sheikhs are in a majority among Muslims in all districts. In Adilabad they are just short of the majority mark. In the remaining five districts, corresponding to six districts at present they are more than 60%. Out of these five, in four, corresponding to five districts as at present, they are over 70% and in one district they are 80%.

It is normal for elite upper caste groups to be small, though all small groups need not be elite. The relative size and proportions of the population of Sheikhs in Andhra Pradesh do not go with the normal profile of an elite group. The huge population and large proportion of Sheikhs and the process described in some other regions, especially Kashmir and Bengal points to the Sheikh of A.P. not being the hierarchically high Sheikh of foreign ancestry but a variety of indigenous communities which have coalesced and lost their individual caste boundaries.

PS Krishnan, in Chapter IV and Chapter VI of his report, has explained the movement of 1,70,000 persons of the communities of Madiga, Mala, Adi-Andhra and Arundhatiar, comprising 2.2% of the total 1921 (subsequently re-named as Scheduled Castes) depressed classes population during the period between 1921 and 1931, as reported by M.W.M. Yeatts Superintendent of Census, in the Report of the Madras Volume of Census 1931. This has also been mentioned by Kingsley Davis. This and the consequent large increase in the population of Muslims in Coastal Andhra occurred principally in the districts of Guntur and Nellore, and chiefly in the Sheikh Tribe.

These narrations by Yeatts is indicative of the large-scale movement of communities now known as Scheduled Castes to the Sheikh category and help to appreciate the meaning of the Sheikh category in the Andhra Pradesh context.

Where are all these “untouchable” and other lower communities gone?

Small communities like Mehtar and Gosangi Muslim etc. are too small to account for them. They cannot also be in Syed, Mughul, Pathan, Arab, Irani, Bohra, Cutchi-Memon, Khoja etc. groups. They are all in the large Sheikh pool which is the collectivity of a large number of “untouchable” and other lower castes, which were not in the category of “occupational” castes at the time of their movement since they were agricultural labourers, other labourers, agricultural tenants-at-will, small peasants, etc. which are occupations but are not covered by the term “occupational groups” which term in common parlance refers to non-agricultural occupations of a specialized type like those of artisans. It is such occupational castes that continue to be engaged in the same occupation both when they were Hindus and after they became Muslims and therefore retained the related identity and name; this is why the backward classes of Muslims in North India could all be fully accounted for by their specific caste or caste-like name which is based on their occupation since it is such artisan and occupational castes that mainly took to Islam in North India, while upper category communities of or claiming foreign descent or who were originally upper caste Hindus have also retained their separate identity.

The conversion pattern in the South facilitated the obliteration of individual caste identities in the South as taken into account by the NCBC in its Findings and Advice on Muslims of Kerala and Muslims of Karnataka. It is only a small number of the population of Muslims at the two ends of the spectrum that retained their identity – occupational groups, like Dudekula and Mehtar, and mendicant and indigent groups like Fakir/ Fakir Budbudki/ Darvesh and Gosangi Muslim, Muslim Dhobi, Muslim Nai etc. at the lower end, and Syed, Pathan, Moghal, Khoja etc. at the upper end. The vast concourse of the “untouchable” and other lower castes in a common category constituting the main body of Islamic society in the South was recognized and accounted for in the shape of Mappila in Malabar and Labbai in Tamil Nadu. Sheikhs in Andhra Pradesh occupy the same slot as Mappila and Labbai in their regions.

Unfortunately available socio-historical knowledge did not facilitate recognition of this fact. This was compounded by the concentration of all efforts from the Muslim civil society representatives to get the entirety of the Muslim population recognized as a backward class, which as events have shown from 1968 till now, was a futile exercise. Various original socially low groups that merged into the Sheikh category have resulted into a large category being socially backward as a continuation of their separate pre-Islam castes.

In the light of these facts, PS Krishnan concluded that Sheikh of Andhra Pradesh is a socially backward class. The statistics of educational backwardness given in respect of Muslims as a whole is reflective of the educational status of the Sheikh and the other socially backward classes of Muslims.


It is a community which was brought to India for personal service as body guards and guards of palaces and at present engaged in rickshaw pulling etc., Though of foreign origin, they, unlike Syed, Pathan etc., are not of “prestigious” foreign origin.

The Presidential notification of Scheduled Tribes for Gujarat, includes them in the list of Scheduled Tribes for Gujarat. It is included in Karnataka’s State list of S.Ed.BC. On the advice of the NCBC, after public hearing, the Government of India has included this community in the Central list of Backward Classes for Karnataka. This is a socially and educationally backward class.


This is a small Muslim community distributed in all parts of Andhra Pradesh” whose “name is derived from their occupation of making the chakke (grinding stone). They have synonyms like Kakkukotte Zinka Saibulu, Chakkitakanevale, Terugadu Gontalavaru, Thirugatigantla, Rallaku Kakku Kottevaru, or Saibulu, and Pattar Phodulu. Their ancestors were very good artists and experts in stone carving who used to carve on the temple stones, houses etc. They are now more into stone-cutting and breaking it into required sizes. Men, women and children are engaged in this work for their livelihood.

Their literacy rate is very poor. Though they value education, there are many drop-outs on account of their poor economic conditions.

In some respects they seem to be comparable to the Hindu Backward Class of ‘Odde, Oddilu, Vaddi, Vaddelu’ who are included in the Andhra Pradesh list of Backward Classes.