Punjab Research Group

New Paper on Social Democracy in India by Ronki Ram

Posted in Articles, Conferences, News/Information by gsjandu on November 17, 2014

Jagtar Singh Dhesi Annual Lecture 2014

As part of this annual lecture, a revised 2013 paper, CASTE, NEO-LIBERAL ECONOMIC REFORMS AND THE DECLINE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IN INDIA has been sent in for circulation. The paper reports on the at times inchoate and at other times ancient relationship between wealth generation, distribution and the hierarchical societal dichotomy of India’s democracy. Ram reflects contemporaneously on the asymmetrical relationship between the copycat “buzzword” of “economic liberalisation” in the circles of academic social sciences and the more predictable failure of this corpus to ignite change in not just political sociology but also I would suggest local and national governance ideology. As Ram concludes, “It seems that market and caste have joined hands to pose a most serious challenge to the nascent institution of social democracy in India.” (pp. 25)


Below is an excerpt outlining the paper.

“This paper is divided into four parts. The first critically examines the institution of social democracy in India while distinguishing it from that of social democracy in Europe. In the second, complex but intricate relationships among caste, poverty and neo-liberal market economy are delineated at some length. This part is based on a premise that neo-liberal market economy in India does not only deepens poverty but also strengthen the asymmetrical structures of caste, which in turn entrench the already existing social exclusion in the society. Part third deals with the phenomenon of social democracy as articulated by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the ways it facilitated downtrodden to improve their living conditions. How the institution of free market economy scuttles the essence of nascent institution of social democracy in India and the new challenges it throws on the socially excluded sections of the society are also discussed at length. The fourth part draws on heavily on the implications of the neo-liberal economic reforms for the emancipatory project of social democracy in India and the birth of new contradictions that it gave rise to the disadvantage of Dalits.” (pp.4)

The full text can be found here, pol1-13 Ronki Ram.


First publication source, Punjab Journal of Politics, Amritsar Vol. XXXVII, Nos. 1-2, 2013


G.S Jandu


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PRG Conference 27-28 June 2014, Coventry University – revised programme

Posted in Conferences, PRG Meetings by Pippa on June 11, 2014

As you know this year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Punjab Research Group. To celebrate this milestone we have teamed up with Dr Churnjeet Mahn, University of Surrey, and are planning a two-day conference at Coventry University. The conference will be supported by the AHRC project, ‘A Punjabi Palimpsest: Cultural Memory and Amnesia at the Aam Khas Bagh’. A website connected to the project can be found here: http://www.thegtroad.com.

Attached are all the details for the conference, including the programme and abstracts. If you would like to attend please complete the registration form and send this to me by Thursday 19 June. Please note that the programme for Saturday has been revised and extended.


PRG 27-28 June 2014

Useful Information

blank registration form

PRG Meeting at University of Wolverhampton 3 Nov 2012

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 29, 2013

The meeting was very kindly hosted and arranged by Meena Dhanda, University of Wolverhampton

Doris Jakobsh

Doris Jakobsh

 Doris Jakobsh, Negotiating Sikh Female Identities Online: Image, Narrative and Text

The ‘marked body’ of the Sikh male has long been the focal point of coming to an understanding of Sikhism at large.  When speaking of Sikhism, it is the highly visible Khalsa Sikh male, complete with external signifiers known as the 5Ks (kirpan – dagger, kanga – comb, kes – uncut hair, kacchera – breeches, kara – steel bracelet) and the turban traditionally worn by Sikh males, that have come to characterize the Sikh community, both in the Indian homeland of Punjab and within Sikh diasporic contexts.  This paper examines the negotiation of Sikh female identity, in essence the religious particularization of Sikh women, taking place through varied means on the WWW.  Through increasing and repeated imaging and iconization on the internet, novel attempts are being made to mobilize, legitimize and historicize Sikh female identity to more closely resemble the Khalsa Sikh male.  The paper will address historical antecedents of these online gender constructions.  It will also examine notions of authority in terms of Sikh female identity-making and whether these virtual constructs in fact reflect the ‘offline’ realities of Sikh females.


Shazia Ahmad

Shazia Ahmad

Shazia Ahmad, Categorizing Muslims: Colonial Definitions of ‘Sect’ and ‘Community’

The political economy of the Punjab in the late 19th century shaped how the colonial administration defined religious categories in Islam. Categories of ‘sect’ and ‘minority community’ were interlocking but distinct categories. While ‘sect’ was politically defined by a group’s relationship to traditional forms of religious authority, and thus their relationship to non-Muslim rule, ‘minority community’ was a legal construction defined in the Punjab by the application of personal law. This paper argues that the influence of Henry Maine on agrarian policies, especially in the application of Muslim personal law in urban areas and customary law over agricultural lands, complicated how ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy’ were constructed, leading to the sometimes contradictory identifications based upon locality and belief. This was demonstrated by the complex identity of the Ahmadiyya community, which was defined both by its dissent from ‘Church fathers’ within ethnographic descriptions and by the location of its religious authority within the agrarian Punjab in the law.


Meena Dhanda, Certain Allegiances, Uncertain Identities: the fraught struggles for recognition of Dalits in Britain

This paper foregrounds what dalits in Britain say about their affiliations to the members of their own caste groups as well as about their relations to the so-called ‘upper-castes’. An ambiguity of self-identification as dalits is noted, accompanied by an inner tension often expressed in decisions about whether or not to support the exit options taken by the second and third generation of Punjabi migrants in choosing to marry out of caste. Of significance is the complex positioning of dalits apropos the so called ‘upper-castes’ in the socio-economic sphere in Britain, where some dalits have acquired significant wealth and accompanying status. Considerable energies are spent in checking the spread of fissures caused by intra-organisational politics that regularly threaten the otherwise congealed allegiance of groups to their respective places of worship and congregation. For Ravidassias, Buddhists and the Valmikis, the Jat Sikhs emerge as a common ‘enemy’, highlighting the fact that the upturning of the everyday relations of domination are the key to understanding the position of the dalits in Britain. It is argued that the driving force for reform in the UK is not an intellectually inspired criticism of casteism so much as a repugnance of the way in which Jat Sikhs are seen to assert their superiority.


Parmbir Gill with Pritam Singh

Parmbir Gill with Pritam Singh

Parmbir Gill, Pious Rebels: The Religiosity of Ghadar Prose and Practice

My paper aims to investigate the relationship between religion and politics in the writings and activities of the Ghadar Party, a North America-based immigrant organization which sought to overthrow colonial rule in India in the early twentieth century. Though a diverse array of writings on this movement has emerged over the decades following its defeat, extant English-language scholarship has invariably characterized its politics as secular in form and content. Celebrating Ghadar’s secularism as an alternative to the more divisive faith-based mobilizations against British rule operating at the time, this historiography has, I argue, mistakenly assumed an identification of the religious with the communal, and has sacrificed an engagement with the former at the altar of principled opposition to the latter. As a result, the indispensability of religious language to Ghadar’s political project, as well as the rebels’ own transformation of pre-existing notions of religious identity, have both been precluded from serious analysis. I seek to redress this omission by tracing the currents of religiosity which pervade not only the Party’s newspaper and poetry but also the concrete activities of its non-writing mass base. In so doing I hope to open up possibilities for rethinking the historical existence of the Ghadar Party as well as our own attitudes toward the place of religion in political struggle.


Gurinder Singh Mann

Gurinder Singh Mann

Gurinder Singh Mann, British and the Sikhs: The Impact and Legacy of Colonial Dominance in the Punjab

The British came into India under the premise of trade and commerce. Over time their motivations and political ambitions became a dominant factor in establishing themselves as rulers of the country. This paper looks specifically at the institutions of the Panjab and the how the religion of the Sikhs was changed. As a direct consequence the Panjab became subservient to the new colonial powers. The paper looks at the various acts of UK parliament that influenced the lives of those living in Panjab. This includes the relatively unknown Charter Act of 1813 which produced tensions between The East India Company and the Christian missionary movement. Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) consolidated his base as the ruler of the Panjab and became a champion of European innovations. The interactions between Ranjit Singh and the British were a compelling narrative of the Nineteenth Century. With the advent of the Anglo-Sikh wars and the annexation of the Panjab, the British ushered in a new era of expansionism as a result a significant legacy was left on the Panjab. This legacy still influences the Panjab to this day.


Sukhwinder Singh

Sukhwinder Singh

Sukhwinder Singh (Prof Sukhpal Singh, Professor, IIM, Ahmedabad, India and Prof Julian Park, School of Agriculture, University of Reading, UK), Sustainability of Agriculture in the Indian Punjab: Indicators and determinants

Punjab has been at the centre stage in India since the green revolution days because of its exceptional performance in agriculture sector. However, the recent developments in agriculture in Punjab are quite concerning. The current cropping pattern using the modern green revolution technologies has started impacting the sustainability of agriculture in Punjab in terms of declining net farm incomes and mining of natural resources, especially soil and water. Subsidy and MSPAP (Minimum Support Price and Assured Purchase) driven policy regime has been encouraging mono-cropping (i.e. wheat and rice cultivation on more than two-third of Punjab’s gross cropped area) for the last four decades resulting into low crop diversity leading to a number of bio-diversity implications for farmers in Punjab. On the other hand, agricultural policy and research have been unsuccessful up to large extent in providing economically viable alternative cropping pattern to farmers in Punjab. Centre and State agricultural research institutions have been continuously facing major human and financial crunch due to squeezing of public expenditure on agriculture. Agricultural sustainability in Punjab is a complex phenomenon. Therefore, it becomes imperative to outline its main indicators and determinants to help understand the current and future implications of agricultural development in Punjab. Based on currently available literature on agricultural development in Punjab and a field survey conducted in 2010, this paper examines the current state of agriculture in Punjab, outlines the main indicators and determinants of agricultural sustainability in Punjab and infers policy suggestions for restoring the lost splendour of agriculture sector in Punjab.


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Anand Patwardhan’s Portraits of India

Posted in Events, Film by Pippa on February 12, 2013

jai bhim comradeThe work of India’s foremost film essayist
23 – 25 February 2013
Legendary film maker Anand Patwardhan brings a cinematic eye to pressing issues facing India and the world today. Fiercely independent and never afraid to take on the censors, he writes and edits passionate, probing, timely and timeless films.

To open three days of introduced screenings and discussion we will show the award-winning film, Jai Bhim Comrade. A special event to follow will feature Anand Patwardhan in conversation with poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson.

“Legendary director Anand Patwardhan’s epic doc about dalit people is a massive, musical, magnificent, masterpiece” – Mark Cousins on Jai Bhim Comrade

“…a tour de force, beautifully shot and often darkly funny…” – Duncan Campbell on War and Peace in The Guardian

Further details: http://www.bfimessages.org.uk/t/ViewEmail/y/4C53B01AE72E9A13/70E856DF948D6100419C69E1CEBE89F9

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Posted in Events, Film by Pippa on October 26, 2012
Documentary screening: Sufism and the Dalits of East Punjab

Followed by discussion with the director Ajay Bhardwaj and Prof. Amin Mughal
Time: 7pm, Tuesday 13th November 2012
Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Hosted by: SOAS Pakistan Society
This film explores the idea of Punjabiyat, in ways seen and unseen, in the way it continues to inhabit the universe of the average Punjabi’s everyday life, language, culture, memories and consciousness. This is the universe that this film stumbles upon in the countryside of East Punjab, in India. Following the patters of lived life, it moves fluidly and eclectically across time, mapping organic cultural continuities at the local levels. It is a universe, which reaffirms the fact that cultures cannot be erased so very easily. It is where the love of Heer and Ranjah rather than the divisions of the priestly class are celebrated. This is a universe marked by a rich tradition of cultural co-existence and exchange, where the boundaries between the apparently monolithic religious identities of ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘Sikh’ are blurred and subverted in the most imaginative ways.

“Bhardwaj’s film further attests to the great pull the soil exercises over the people who were once rooted in it but had been forced to leave, “ Ishitaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University.


Poster: SOAS poster 2
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Dalit Pachan, Mukti Atey Shaktikaran (Dalit Identity, Emancipation and Empowerment) by Ronki Ram

Posted in New Publications by Pippa on March 1, 2012

Ronki Ram’s second book on Dalit Pachan, Mukti Atey Shaktikaran (Dalit Identity, Emancipation and Empowerment) in Punjabi is released on February 1, 2012 at the International Punjabi Development Conference (February 1-3, 2012), organized by Punjabi University, Patiala (India). This book is a detailed account of Dalit identity as it emerged in the border state of Punjab in North-West India where concentration of Dalit population is highest in the country. The central thesis of the book revolves around the critical processes of the emergence of Dalit identity and the ways it facilitates Dalit emancipation and empowerment since the beginning of the Dalit movement (Ad Dharm) in the state in the second half of 1920s. The book also provides an in-depth account of the role of the philosophy and teachings of Guru Ravidass, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Shaheed Bhagat Singh in the rise of Dalit consciousness in Punjab. How the complex process of Dalit identity has been represented in the grass-roots Dalit poetry is another interesting aspect of this book, which lays special emphasis on the importance of doing research in Punjabi for the better understanding of Dalit question in Punjab. The book is based on ethnographic study done during the last two decades in the villages of East Punjab.

The book is published by the Publication Bureau, Punjabi University, Patiala (India).

How caste matters and doesn’t matter by Surinder S. Jodhka

Posted in Articles, News/Information by Pippa on February 10, 2012
How caste matters and doesn’t matter
Although caste is indeed one of the operative parameters of Punjab politics, there seems to be very little competition among the caste communities of Punjab.
Punjab appears to be an odd case in this national framework of caste politics. Although caste is indeed one of the operative parameters of Punjab politics, there seems to be very little competition among the caste communities of Punjab. The Jats, who constitute only around one-fourth of the state electorate, have remained virtually unchallenged. The last non-Jat who could become chief minister of the state was Giani Zail Singh, and that was way back in the 1970s. The two major political parties, the Congress and the Akalis, are both Jat-led and Jat-dominated. Even the Khalistan movement was largely a Jat-dominated phenomenon.
Read full article: http://www.livemint.com/2012/01/24233008/How-caste-matters-and-doesn8.html
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Waiting for Spring by Nirupama Dutt

Posted in Articles by Pippa on May 8, 2010

The emergence of a Dalit identity in East Punjab is a recent development, spurred in part by the failure of Sikhism to abandon caste discrimination as it initially averred to do.

For us trees do not bear fruits
For us flowers do not bloom
For us there is no Spring
For us there is no Revolution …
– Lal Singh Dil –

These are lines from the last poem of Lal Singh Dil, hailed as the foremost revolutionary poet of Punjab. He passed away in 2007. The despondent note of the poem is both surprising and telling, for a poet who had once declared that the song and dance in his heart would not die, no matter how dire the circumstance. It took Dil a lifetime to discover this sad yet provocative truth, against the backdrop of the complexities of caste in Punjab. Yet centuries before Dil’s birth, the same frustration with caste was intricately linked to the emergence of the Sikh religion.
Read full article: Waiting for Spring. Punjabi Dalit Poets. Nirupama Dutt. Apr 10

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Dalit Chetna : Sarot te Saruup by Ronki Ram

Posted in New Publications by Pippa on May 8, 2010

Ronki Ram’s Dalit Chetna : Sarot te Saruup (Dalit Consciousness: Sources and Form) in Punjabi is out. This book is a detailed account of how Dalit consciousness emerged in Punjab, what turns it has taken over the last nine decades since the beginning of glorious Ad Dharm movement led by Babu Mangu Ram Mugowal and the rise of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar movement in Punjab spearheaded by Seth Kishan Dass of Bootan Mandi. The Book also provides an exhaustive account of some of the pioneer Dalit poets, prose writers and Dalit autobiographies as well as activists. Dalit Deras and the question of emerging Dalit identity figures prominantly in this field study based book in Punjabi.

The book is published by Lokgeet Parkashan, S.C.O. 26-27, Sector 34 A, Chandigarh-160022 (India) Ph. +911725077427, 5077428 e-mail and is very reasonably priced Rs. 200. Total Pages: 264.

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Transnational Punjab Literature and Culture: Challenges and Opportunities

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on February 28, 2010

PRG meeting 31 Oct 2009

Posted in PRG Meetings by Pippa on October 18, 2009

Punjab Research Group meeting

VENUE: De Montfort University, Leicester, DATE: 31 October 2009

Speakers included:

Eleanor Nesbitt and Kathryn LumKaveri Harris and Tej Purewal             







Kathryn Lum, European University Institute, Florence, Italy A Community at a Crossroads: A case study of the Ravidassia Sangat in Barcelona’  © Presented at the Punjab Research Group, 31 October 2009. Please do not cite without the authors permission K lum PRG paperpt

Navtej Purewal, University of Manchester Articulations of Caste through Religion: Codes of Hegemony and Invisibility in West Punjab’

Dave Morland and Steve TaylorScreening of Kitte mil ve Mahi by Ajay Bhardwaj








Meena Dhanda, (University of Wolverhampton), Dave Morland, (University of Teesside) and Steve Taylor, (Northumbria University) ‘Eastern Punjabi Dalits and Religious Conversion: A case study of Wolverhampton’ © Presented at the Punjab Research Group, 31 October 2009. Please do not cite without the authors permission PRG Leicester

Ajay Bhardwaj, Independent film/documentary maker Screening of Kitte Mil Ve Mahi (Where the twain shall meet)

Full programme and abstracts: PRG programme oct 09

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CFP: Contemporary Amritsar: Society, Economy, Polity

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on October 18, 2009

Department of History, DAV College, Amritsar
Venue: Seminar Hall, DAV College, Amritsar
Date: 30 November 2009 to 01 December 2009
Time: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM

Interested scholars who wish to present a paper should submit their work address, provisional paper title and one page abstract of around 500 words to the organising committee at contemporaryamritsar@gmail.com by 30th October 2009.

Further details:Seminar Schedule and Seminar- Concept Note

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