Law Society Culture Programme
The Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme is an academic-practitioner collaboration to map and generate knowledge that will enhance the understanding of pluralism in relationship to changing notions of identity, social prejudice and intolerance of faiths other than one's own. The programme works towards developing understanding and strategies, including strategies for grassroots level social action, with a view to increase spaces for cultural pluralism and social diversity in practice. click here to download the full document
Outline of the International Programme
The international programme on Promoting Pluralism is a collaborative venture between Hivos and the Kosmopolis Institute at the University of Humanistics, Netheralnds. The programme has academic institutional partners in Indonesia (Centre for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Gadjamada University, Yogyakarta), India (Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore) and Uganda (Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda, Kampala).
The Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme-India (PPKP-India) had a preparatory phase during 2007, during which a scoping study and the final proposal have been pursued. Technically the PPIP should have been continued from January 2008. However, the process of formalisation of the programme, in terms of putting the overall structure in place at the international level and the modes of transfer, agreements between partners etc., took some time and thus more substantively it began to function from May 2008.
The PPKP-India has an active working group on pluralism that both advises on the activites and research as well as contributes actively to its content. the Regional Team is the following:
1. CSCS team
a. Sitharamam Kakarala (Coordinator)
b. Shahrukh Alam (Research Fellow)
c. Serene Kasim (Research Fellow)
d. Lakshmi Arya (Associate Fellow)
e. Elizabeth Thomas—Research Associate
2. Hivos Regional Office Representation
a. Jamuna Ramakrishna
3. Partner Organisations/Consultants
a. Khalid Ansari (ethnographies of Faith and Fundamentalism)
b. Somnath Vatsa (Pluralism and Human Rights—Gujarat)
c. Arvind Narrain (Pluralism and Human Rights—Gujarat)
d. Sonal Makhija (Gender and Religion)
4. Invited Activists/Scholars
a. Ghanshyam Shah (Academic and Activist, Ahmedabad)
b. Mihir Desai (Senior Lawyer and Activist, Mumbai)
c. Flavia Agnes (Senior Lawyer, Majlis, Mumbai)
d. Ajit Muruken ( VAK, Mumbai)
e. Lancy Lobo (Director, Centre for Culture and Development, Vadodara)
f. Lawrence Surendra (Independent scholar and activist)
The most striking form of developments in India that pose serious challenge to the idea of pluralism are related to diversity of religious identities and the growing tendency of monolithic or undifferentiated stereotypes of the ‘other’ and the consequent widespread religious prejudice, identity conflict and inter-religious strife. However, given the complex web of life in India both the source of strife as well as their resistance are diverse and have both local as well as global linkages.
Besides the above background, India also has a long tradition of secular activism, both in politics as well as in the field of arts and culture. The predominant strategy deployed by the secular activists is often the constitutional route of upholding the principles of equality, freedom of expression and conscience of the individual, minority rights and rule of law. This rich tradition of activism, which is still the most prominent form of expression even today, however, appears to have reached a kind of impasse, in the sense of a glaring failure of the secular state in responding to the violations and inter-religious strife, a backlash on minority rights principles and the ideology of secularism, the prolonged and often politicised process of justice, the inability to deal with critical ‘human’ problems within the framework of retributive or compensatory justice frameworks.
Against such a background, what emerged as the conceptual framework for the India programme is a two-pronged approach that addresses both the core processes mentioned above. They are being pursued through two themes of knowledge, namely (i) Human Rights, Pluralism and Rethinking the Secular State, and (ii) Faith and Diversity.
Human Rights, Pluralism and Rethinking the Secular State
This theme will engage with the challenges faced by the tradition of secular activism in India. The objectives of this activity include,
(a) Codifying and documenting the nature of data emerged from these activities and interventions with a view to provide a comprehensive archive of materials that indicate core political perspectives, social and legal strategies emerged from these interventions;
(b) Engage, with analytical objectivity, with the outcomes of processes of these interventions with the intention of help us rethink and strengthen those strategies and processes;
(c) Respond to what may appear as a highly politicised or trivialised debates on culture, identity and social conflict issues from knowledge activism vantage point to help reframe the terms of such debates and also provide broad-based understanding of those issues;
(d) More generally, to analytically reflect on the perspectives and strategies of secular activism and thought with a view to rethink constitutionalism and human rights to help energise them.
Under this theme, currently there are three kinds of activity being pursued:
1. First, generating resource lists, materials and documentation of the existing secular activism is being done from the LSCP-CSCS location.
2. Second, a more focused study and documentation of social and legal strategies that emerged in the Gujart 2002 and its aftermath is being pursued by Somnath Vatsa.
3. Third, another focused study is being under preparation to understand the developments emerged over the last few years in the form of attacks on Christian faith in different parts of India. The focused work will at the first instance look into the socio-cultural contexts of Karnataka west coast. This in turn has two kinds of activity: first, a workshop is being planned to be organised soon; second, documentation on freedom of religion and conscience in history.
Faith and Diversity
This theme will engage with the issue of ‘faith’, which has not been the focus of secular activism and thought in India, from two vantage points:
1. The issue of globalisation and diversity of faiths and the emerging challenges within that context.
2. Diversity in faith.
Globalisation and diversity of faiths is perhaps widely addressed in the western scholarship under various themes such as multiculturalism, identity politics and the problem of recognition etc. While these debates have some history and also numerically voluminous contributions, the predominant and somewhat uncritical liberal vantage point in majority of writings makes them vulnerable to recent reflections emerged from critical and the post-colonial vantage points. This has already complicated the dichotomised constructions such as the separation of the ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’, for example, as the distinction between them is no longer perceived to be self-evidently opposing, and they are, in fact, related more intimately than what the liberal scholarship so far taken into cognisance. This has also opened up a number of issues around the theme of ‘faith’ itself. The issue of diversity in faith has been emphasized by social anthropologists for a while. However, the simplistic and often prejudiced stereotypes of the ‘religious other’ continue to predominate every discussion. This indicates the need to do new knowledge generation on the diversity issue within a faith, and its effective dissemination as an important requirement in the engagement with the idea of promoting pluralism in India.
Both these vantage points are being pursued through (i) collaborative activity with the Patna Collective, which currently focuses on ‘ethnographies of faith’ with the intended objective being documenting everydayness of religion/faith as mediated by categories of class, caste and gender and the consequent implications for the issue of faith in its socio-economic context; the field work is currently in progress (ii) A review study on contemporary thought and action on multiculturalism and identity politics with a view to identify critical areas of reflection that need to be brought into contemporary theory and action. Both these activities are being coordinated by Shahrukh Alam from LSCP-CSCS.
Under the PPKP-India, a youth internship programme has been developed with a view to engage with young students to make them participate in both research and action on pluralism issues. So far seven students have completed their internship activities under the programme
Themes that were covered under the interships:
a. freedom of conscience
b. gender and religion
c. common worship sites
on Pluralism, Bangalore
This consultation was organised with a view to bring various civil society organisations, including partner of Hivos, with a view to forge a conversation between secular, human rights organisations working on issues of pluralism and communalism and faith-based groups.
2. Inter-Regional Meeting on Promoting Pluralism, Bangalore
The Inter-Regional meeting on Promoting Pluralism was held in Bangalore during August 2008. teams from Indonesia, Uganda, India and Netherlands participated in the discussions on the developments in the Programme. Click here for the full report of the meeting.
3. Summer School on Human Rights, Human Development and Pluralism
The Summer School on Human Rights, Human Development and Pluralism is an annual event that brings together activists and academics from Netherlands, Indonesia, Uganda and India. the summer school is an intense and energetic way of engaging with crucial themes in the area of human rights pluralism and development and create networks of concerned and informed individuals and organisations that could potentially bring new energy and vigour to the debates and practice. the school in 2008 was held in Bangalore and was sponsored by Hivos, Netherlands and coordinated by Kosmopolis Institute at University for Humanistics, Utrecht and CSCS, Bangalore.
Working papers of the international Programme