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Religious Identity and the Indian Census.docx

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Political Science
POLI 322
Narendra Subramanian

Religious Identity and the Indian Census, Kenneth Jones We look at: - i.) The relation of the census to the Hindu community - ii.) Its most fundamental impact= its influence on the conceptualizations of religion, of community, and of rely, and the relation of all of these to the state - Hindu ancestries and fear continued in free India as the census interacted with Indian society - The total impact of the census needs to be established INTRODUCTION - The Indian census reports were used by British officialdom in debates over questions of administration and government policy - What remains unexplored is the historical role of the census and its impact on the world around it (scholars have already looked at its creation, the methods used by the census commissioner) - The census exists not only as a recorder but as a catalyst for change, it both described and altered its environment - Kenneth jones will explore the census’s role as a force for change. Concern is not about the accuracy of the census - Census was a crucial interaction point between the British-Indian government and its subjects First consider the nature and origins of the census - Categories necessitate definition and definitions impose order e.g. what it means to belong to a specific social class will be formally defined in a way in which it did not exist prior to the creation of the census. So, by nature the census acts to reshape the world it will examine and so it is not a passive instrument - The census imposes order and order of a statistical nature (as people find themselves fixed as members of various groups) - In the creation of a new ordering of society by the census, the census will act to reshape that which it sought to only describe. The impact of a census depends on how it is used by the government and the citizens - For the census in Britain slowly the scope, the questions asked and subjects covered grew. The British census is an ancestor to the Indian census providing a contrasting pattern of development with different political climate - The roots of the Indian census lies in the 18 century as the foreign British government sought to gather information on the individuals and territory - There were studies of particular districts which would later be formally called district gazetteers - The fact that India was foreign dominated meant that these gazetteers had a fundamentally different purpose than the census’s used in England and abroad - These gazetteers were studies of a civilization, to learn about the people “a comprehensive description of a district”. As an authoritarian government, neither public opinion or representative institutions existed - The impulses that led to the creation of the gazetteers led to the introduced of the census eventually which took place on a provincial level initially (rather than by district) then an all-India census - Because the census (and gazetteers) were introduced for the purpose of providing information to the foreign government, they both followed a pattern of broad inquiry into south Asian life - In the process of gathering data the census would evolve into the most significant institution created during British rule - The Indian census was broader in the scope, questions asked. Religion was asked as a question, a most fundamental category to the census actually. - Religion was a primary concern to British Indian officials - E.g. they would ask if you were a ‘native’ Christian or European Christian - The attempt to provide accurate data on religions proved difficult especially with regard to Hinduism. The number of Hindu’s depends on how you define Hinduism, search for a satisfactory definition. E.g. Sikhs were initially included in the definition of ‘Hindu’ but later had their own category. - Another issue was if untouchables castes should be included with the Hindu community or listed separately - The division of castes into religious groups would become a standard element in future census reports - The difficulty in defining Hinduism centered on two groups, tribal’s and untouchables who may or may not be considered Hindu’s. The issue remained unresolved - First all-India census in 1871 - Religious for census officials was a factor which cut across nearly all of human existence - The census focused greater attention of religious competition as it heightened though the conversions by Christians, Muslims and the development of reconversion by aggressive Hindu movements - The Indian census showed a strongly ethnological character both in its attempt to describe the culture of south Asians and to trace changes in cultures - Subdivisions of religious were treated in the same manner as religions and the census sometimes mentioned a particular movement; giving these groups a sense of legitimacy - He comes to 2 conclusions o 1. From the beginning religion was a fundamental category for organizing data and for attempting to understand Indians o 2. The census reports provided a new conceptualization of religion as a community, an aggregate of individuals united by a formal definition and given characteristics based on qualified data o Religion became communities mapped, counted and compared with other religious communities o This is was not a static concept, as each decennial (10 year) census measured changes for good or bas in the state of the community and might reshape a community through a new definition - Thus, the census created a concept of religious community more exact than prior to the census. The concept underlying a religious community is fundamentally insecure and open to change which may or may not be favorable - In this way the census created a new way of thinking about religion and in turn this created a new conceptualization that would flow from the census reports back to the literate Indians who were initially seen as only the subjects of these reports - The potentiality of the census to affect the world it sought merely to describe depends upon its audience. If only British officials read it, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. - Interaction between the census and its subjects must be seen in terms of developments with in each religious community and against the background of growing religious competition, Kenneth argues - He creation of the British colonizers exacerbated the conflict between religious communities especially Muslims and Hindus - Emerging English educated elites found new forms of competition with elites from other religious communities - Hindu’s found jobs and new forms of wealth quickly concerning competition wit other religions - Christian missionaries posed a direct threat through their system of missions, control of schools, entrance into the educated class - There were both Muslims and Christians that converted people but Hindu’s didn’t have a same method to add to their own numbers - With the establishment of municipal boards the British provided a new arena of competition which was being grasped by opposing religious elites - Increasing conflict and rising anxiety would set the stage for a period of discovery by literate Indians of the census report - Although the census could not create fear or a sense of religious identity, it would interact with these factors of religious identity and fear to reshape or intensify both - By the 1880’s articles began to appear in the press citing census data in debates between relig
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