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

Religion and CitizenshipSubscribe to Religion and Citizenship

Welfare Work and Politics of Jama'at-i-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Sceptical of the role of religion in politics, liberal political theorists interpret investments made by religious political parties in welfare work as electoral politics. This paper examines the extensive social welfare network of the Jama'at-i-Islami, the largest Islamic political party in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and finds this voter-centric explanation inadequate. Instead, it argues, such investment serves a more fundamental purpose, that of establishing the religious identity of the party. It further shows that religious political parties plan strategically to balance their religious commitment and practical survival needs: the welfare programmes implemented by the Jama'at in the two countries differ to accommodate the socio-economic and political peculiarities of each context. Why the Jama'at, especially in Pakistan, fails to translate this extensive welfare work into securing more seats in parliament is a question worthy of further investigation. The answer possibly rests in the limited enthusiasm of the Pakistani public for a society based on the shariah.

Plural Societies and Imperatives of Change

Development has been an attractive and powerful idea. It has dominated the political landscape of countries in the South ever since their decolonisation, mostly after the second world war. Notwithstanding criticisms and condemnations it continues to be an important component of state policy in most...

Religions, Democracy and Governance

This paper examines the dynamics of religion and democratic politics by looking at political mobilisations of marginalised groups in Punjab and Maharashtra. It argues that even when religious identity remains the bedrock of social life and individual experience, democratic politics brings out new configurations and alignments, in which neat boundaries of religious difference are occasionally blurred or overwritten by other identities. The Indian experience also reveals that religious groups are not homogeneous. While political mobilisation tends to unite them as communities with common interests, development policies have invariably disaggregated them, reinforcing the internal divisions and diversities within religious communities.

Religious Transnationalism and Development Initiatives: The Dera Sachkhand Ballan

This paper examines the general assumption that transnationalism is creating new divisions and iniquitous social hierarchies in caste-based social movements. By drawing on a detailed case study of the Dera Sachkhand Ballan, Punjab, it argues that for organisations such as the dsb, which are engaged in modes of subaltern religiosity, transnationalism can be a powerful agent of religious and social change. By cultivating its transnational links, especially in the United Kingdom, the dsb has now emerged as the main driver of Ravidassi identity in Punjab. This achievement would not have been possible without the material support of overseas followers for whom the building of social and religious institutions in Punjab has been intimately linked with the search for a separate Ravidassi identity and the need to demonstrate to higher castes in Punjab their sense of collective achievement. Transnationalism has thus been central to a process of differentiation between the followers of the dsb and Sikhism and has accelerated this trend since the Vienna incident in 2009.

Social Constructions of Religiosity and Corruption

Religion coexists with what may be described as a liberalised, cosmopolitan and global outlook among Indians and remains an indispensable part of the cultural ethos and social fabric of Indian society. However, interpretations of both religion and corruption are extremely diverse. Notwithstanding the existence of deep-seated faith with strong moral values, religion is not seen as contributing to the moral or spiritual fabric of the nation in present times, while corruption is regarded as pervasive. Very few of the respondents canvassed in this study thought that we should count on religion to make a difference in people's general attitudes towards corruption. Respondents indicated that their confidence in the accountability of religious organisations is low, and it is therefore problematic to assume that religious organisations are likely to be either appropriate or effective vehicles for fighting corruption. In fact, religion is looked upon as a discredited entity by many, largely due to a sense of popular disillusionment with its "caretakers".

Buddhist Engagements with Social Justice: A Comparison between Tibetan Exiled Buddhists in Dharamsala and Dalit Buddhists of Pune

This paper contrasts two forms of Buddhism in India and their respective engagements with concepts of social justice. It highlights the phenomenon of pluralism within religions, arguing that subtle differences often exist in how different branches of one tradition relate to and express concepts of rights and equality. In this regard we present two case studies: in Dharamsala, Tibetan Buddhists are embedded in a struggle for national freedom, while in Pune, the sociopolitical context of caste means that dalit people have sought to find a coherent strategy to fight the injustices they suffer. In Pune, Navayana Buddhism provides a practical system of morality which supports a strong sense of social justice and human dignity, underpinning political action. In Dharamsala, Tibetan interpretations of spirituality bolster welfare activity, but do not lend themselves well to the struggle for Tibetan sovereignty.

In the Name of Development: Mapping 'Faith-Based Organisations' in Maharashtra

Based on an empirical survey carried out in two towns in Maharashtra (Pune and Nagpur), this study provides a broad mapping of "faith-based organisations". This paper focuses on the historical context in which the faith-based sector emerged in India and its involvement with development-related activities; the nature of the organisational structure and membership of these bodies; and their perceived visions and values in relation to development-related issues, with specific reference to the historically marginalised groups of Indian society and women.
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