Religious mobilization for development and social change: A comparative study of Dalti movements in Punjab and Maharashtra, India: Using religion to achieve social change and increased prosperity (2010)

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This research focuses on the place of religion in two lower caste movements for social change in the Indian states of Punjab and Maharashtra. The paper notes that both groups faced the challenge of distancing themselves from Hinduism, whilst at the same time developing a cultural and critical system that would give coherence and legitimacy to the movements.

The document points out that both movements attacked the Hindu religion for supporting the practice of untouchablity and the caste hierarchy. However, rather than pursuing a secular approach, they assumed a religious character. Yet, the authors deem that in India, movements of the socially marginalised have to engage with religion considering the following facts: 
  • caste and religion in India have been the primary source of identity and social organisation
  • they have often been critical for the distribution of material resources
  • caste and religion in India have often been critical for state patronage.
The paper finds that the two movements have used religion as an instrument to achieve social change and increased prosperity. Furthermore, it concludes some policy implications for movements trying to make social change regarding the ex-untouchable caste in India: 
  • political influence and policy change are necessary but not sufficient to overcome deeply engrained system of discrimination and prejudice 
  • rejection of the caste system doesn’t necessarily means rejection of religion, where religion that reject caste can provide an alternative source of meaning and identity 
  • investment in the development of spiritual and material religious resources is needed to secure understanding of allegiance to 'new religious traditions' and the continued vitality of them 
  • in addition, investment in social facilities, especially education, serve multiple functions, including improved access to employment opportunities and healthcare.
Year: 2010
Language: English
In: International Development Department, University of Birmingham,UK:,



 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2013-01-17