ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hundred Years above the Line

Caste, Religion, and Politics of the Akali Dal in Punjab

Region, Religion and Politics: 100 Years of Shiromani Akali Dal by Amarjit Singh Narang, New York: Routledge, 2022; pp 420, $128 (paperback).

Since its establishment in 1920, the Shiromani Akali Dal has been a dominant part of Punjab politics. In more than 100 years of its existence, the Akali Dal has influenced the sociopolitical structure of Punjab both as a movement and as a political party. In precolonial Punjab, the Akali Dal movements association with the Sikh Gurdwara Reform Act of 1925 is well known. In postcolonial Punjab, the party came to power several times and has ruled for more than 20 years throughout different terms. Its association with the Punjabi Suba movement has been well talked about in general and academic discussions. Especially from 2002 to 2017, the party maintained the most dominant position in Punjab through its coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was in 2020 that the party broke its alliance with the BJP and was subsequently defeated by the Aam Aadmi Party in 2022. Given its massive influence on the Punjabi polity and society, the Akali Dal has been a prominent subject of study for historians working on understanding regional politics, religious identities, and minority politics in India.

As the study of Akali Dal is clearly of broader import, historians would have expected from Amarjit Singh Narang an unravelling of understudied aspects and unexplored primary sources in his book, Region, Religion and Politics: 100 Years of Shiromani Akali Dal. However, the book does not seem to ignite the interest of a historian who is deeply excited by historiographical novelty and advanced exploration of archives and themes relevant to contemporary needs. First, the book is not situated in an extensive study of primary sources, as is evident from the references. It is at best a summary of the 100 years of the Akali Dal movement based on the literature readily available on the subject. Given this heavy reliance on secondary sources, the book suffers from the same pitfalls and gaps as present in other historical works. Furthermore, the book does not do enough justice to the investigation of themes such as the Akali Dals interaction with caste and Hindu communalism, which need to be deeply probed into, given the presence of caste and religious conflicts in modern India.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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