«SUMMARY | APRIL 2 WORKING PAPER No. 030 | May 2015 Religion, Land and Politics: Shrines and Literacy in Punjab, Pakistan Adeel Malik and Rinchan Ali ...»
26 Punjab District Gazetteers. Volume XXIV - A. 1935, p. 93.
27 Punjab District Gazetteers: Gujarat District. Volume XXV - A. 1921, p. 54 and 63.
28 Punjab District Gazetteers: Montgomery District. Volume XVIII. Part A. 1933. p. 117.
29 Punjab District Gazetteers: Multan District. Volume XXXIII. Part A. 1923-24. p. 138.
30 Punjab District Gazetteers: Muzaffargarh. Volume XXIXA. Part A. 1929. p. 81.
31 Punjab District Gazetteers: D. G. Khan. 1883-84. Revised Edition. p. 51.
32 Bahawalpur State Gazetteer.
33 As the Rawalpindi Gazetteer noted, “About 20,000 persons attend the fair (of Barri Latif Shah) annually”. Punjab District Gazetteers: Rawalpindi. Volume XXVIII - A. 1907. p. 102 and p. 103.
34 Another distinguishing factor among shrines is their belonging to a specific mystical order (silsila or tareeqa). The following sufi orders are particularly important in Punjab: Suharwardy, Qadri, Naqsbandi and Chishti. While the former three orders were historically known for being more open to the world of rulers, the Chishtis arrived later on the scene and were initially hesitant to engage with men of power. However, such differences in the nature of engagement with worldly power dissipated over time. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Chishtis were as enmeshed in local and national politics as shrines of any other orders. See Nizami (2002) for a more general account of 13th century India, and Shahzad (2007) for a more contemporary analysis on Punjab.
35 The term, riverine, is loosely used to denote shrines that are proximate to the river.
There is a sense in which the political economy of riverine shrines is radically different from their more distant peers. Firstly, there has historically been a greater concentration of Muslim populace along the river. It was a core spiritual constituency. As Darling (1928: 62) notes, “it is a curious feature of riverain tracts that they are mainly inhabited by Muhammedans”. Apart from settled communities, the riverine regions have also traditionally attracted Punjab’s nomadic and pastoral communities who move to riverine regions in between seasons.
The pastoralists have typically depended on settled communities for “rituals and belief structures”, especially in a context where many nomad tribes lacked definite religious allegiance, “masters” and “social hierarchy” (Eaton 1984). Access to river also expanded the spiritual constituency by affording greater mobility of people, especially in an age when other means of communication were under-developed, and many river crossing points served as important logistic nodes.
Riverine tracts also have some of the most productive agricultural conditions, especially “when wells were few and canals not at all, the low-lying lands along the river were best, and greedily seized by the invader” (Darling 1928: 63). Superior agricultural possibilities in riverine tracts made them a preferred destination for earlier saints, since they usually preferred cultivation over wage employment (Shahzad 2007: 82). Importantly, in regions where access to river made it possible to bypass the insecurity of rain-fed agriculture, land became a prized economic asset. As Darling (1928: 98) notes, “all down the Indus...the landlord is common”. A similar tendency is observed by Albinia (2008: 107): “lands along the river bank are the domain of powerful landlords”. It is therefore easy to understand that shrines in such regions are often controllers of both religious and material resources.
With economic power comes political influence. The political brokerage of landed shrines can set them apart from other shrines. It is this confluence between religion, land and politics that is likely to be consequential for development and which, we argue, is best captured by riverine shrines.
“STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATIONS” DURING THE BRITISH ERAGiven their “intermediary” position, prominent shrines have been patronized by all past rulers. In fact, “[N]o major ruler passed by the area without showing deference to” their “spiritual power”. 37 While colonial patronage for shrines is part of this long tradition, its reward structure was more systematized and associated with significant legal and institutional changes that arguably led to greater elite entrenchment. A key turning point in the British era was the establishment of formal property rights. Absolute property rights did not exist before the British. Prior to the British, “jagirs and pensions offered by the state…were non-portable and at the mercy of the government” (Roseberry 1986: 81). While land grants by Mughal rulers could easily revert back to the ruler upon the death of the sajjāda nishīn, they were preserved under the British through a formal property rights regime. 38 Shrine properties were now also subject to state adjudication of property law. 39 Though the British officially disavowed government interference into the operation of shrines in the 19 th century, the fact that shrines controlled property meant that courts became a venue in which legitimate authority at shrines was adjudicated. Though property characterized as personal might be divided among heirs, endowed property passed on intact to the successor. In such cases, there was usually no accepted law of primogeniture.40 All of this made hereditary succession of shrines a powerful economic proposition.
While the Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1900 forbade the sale of land to non-agrarian castes, Muslim religious elites, such as Syeds, Sheikhs and Qureshis, were considered as “agrarian castes” and deemed eligible for landed gentry grants, 41 in spite of the fact that colonial documents described Syeds and Qureshis as “of no great usefulness in the capacity of colony landlords” and taking “little personal interest” in agriculture.42 As Talbot 36 “All along the riverbank in Sindh”, Albinia observes, “there are shrines of Sufi saints”. See Albinia (2008: p. 79) 37 Eaton (1984: 347). Referring to the case of Baba Farid’s shrine, Eaton notes how many past Mughal rulers, from Akbar and Shah Jahan to Timur, sought the intercession of shrine guardians in worldly matters.
38 We were informed in an interview with the present guardian of the Makhdum Rashid shrine in Multan that the shrine had received a land grant by the Mughals, but it reverted back to the ruler after the caretaker’s death.
The discussion here is based on an email correspondence with David Gilmartin.
40 There was some variation in this pattern since the British, in such matters, gave precedence to prior customary practices at the shrine.
41 When Michael O’Dwyer objected to the inclusion of certain religious families in the list of agrarian castes the criticism was set aside on account of their influential role. See Talbot (2008).
42 Jhang District Gazetteer 1883-84. It was also noted that, in lands controlled by religious families, “khudkasht is practically unknown”.
(2008: 211) argues, “[T]he Punjab government’s recognition of the Syeds who were generally pirs…as agriculturists and eligible for ‘landed gentry’ status possessed profound political repercussions. It gave them common interests with other controllers of land”. Although not typically known as agrarian castes, religious families “had SUMMARY | APR to be incorporated into the British system of social control’ in the canal colonies. 43 This systematic absorption of religious elites cemented the nexus between religion and land from an early period.
DATA AND EMPIRICAL STRATEGYIn this section we describe the core variables used in our empirical analysis, along with their data sources. We subsequently set out the empirical strategy for this paper. Our dependent variable is the total literacy rate measured for household members aged 10 or above (or 15 and above). Literacy is defined as “being able, with understanding, to both read and write in any language. 44 The source for the literacy data is the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS, 2007/8 Round) that provides information at a sufficiently disaggregate level, tehsil.45 The right hand side controls include a range of explanatory variables (historical, contemporary and geographic in nature).
These shall be described in the course of our analysis. In this section, we restrict our discussion to describing variables that measure two principal dimensions: concentration of shrines and land inequality.
Data on Shrines To capture the influence of shrines on literacy we compiled a unique database documenting the number of shrines in every tehsil of Punjab. This involved a detailed and laborious effort involving several field researchers, interaction with various departments and consultation of eclectic data sources, both published and unpublished. It resulted in three complimentary databases on shrines that capture both historical and contemporary information on the presence and significance of shrines. These databases and the multiple sources used to compile them are separately described below.
THE AUQAF LISTThe primary source for our database on shrines is the Punjab Auqaf Department. Established in 1959 the Auqaf Department was originally made responsible for the administration, construction, decoration and management of shrines. To fulfil these functions it maintains a detailed list of shrines across different regions of Punjab. These lists provide information both on shrine names and their location. Shrines are categorized, however, by ‘circles’ that sometimes contain several overlapping district and tehsil boundaries. The first challenge was to slot each shrine to its contemporary tehsil boundary. The Auqaf lists are an old compilation; several tehsil and district boundaries have changed since the list was first compiled. However, information on sub-tehsil units (Moza) and Union Councils was frequently available, which together with files from the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), allowed us to assign each shrine to its relevant tehsil. Shrines with missing or incomplete location details were separately treated through specialized interviews with informed respondents in each district circle.
Although an exhaustive list, the resulting database largely covers small and medium-sized shrines that came under Auqaf administration and depended on it for their sustenance and upkeep. 46 The Auqaf only maintained a list of shrines that came under its administration. Many influential shrines in rural areas that functioned with the blessings of powerful religious families were allowed to retain their independence. Only few of these were taken over by the Auqaf Department.47 Despite this omission, the Auqaf list provides a convenient building block for a shrines database, especially since smaller less noted shrines are more difficult to map. The Auqaf lists
were supplemented through information from the following sources:
Government of Punjab websites: The website of the Auqaf and Religious Affairs Department lists ‘important’ shrines, which also includes shrines not currently under its administration. Websites of various TMAs (Town and Municipal Authority) also display names of prominent shrines in the area. 48 All TMA websites were systematically consulted for this purpose. 49 43 Talbot (2008: 213). Such accommodation was conspicuously absent for Hindu religious families.
44 This excludes Quranic reading, if this was the only response.
45 MICS is an international household survey programme developed by UNICEF. The MICS Punjab provides up-to date information on the situation of children and women and measures key indicators that allow countries to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed upon commitments. Additional information on the global MICS project may be obtained from www.childinfo.org. For further information, see: http://www.bos.gop.pk and www.pndpunjab.gov.pk.
Several prominent shrines were not part of the Auqaf list. For example, Darbar Hazrat Syyad Abdullah Shah Gillani of Pindigheb and Darbar Bibi Pak Daman of Lahore were excluded from the list.
47 These were mostly in Sind.
48 These are usually contained in the section: “Important places”.
49 As an illustration, the TMA website for Sargodha is: http://tmasargodha.com/ Google and other web resources: Generalized Google searches were carried out using combinations of district and tehsil names with words, such as “shrine” or “Darbar”.50 Shrines thus identified were reconciled with Auqaf lists, with additional names added to the database. A complimentary source was Google SUMMARY | APR Maps, which usually highlights key shrines in the area. Separate Wikipedia pages for different districts and tehsils also highlight influential shrines. We used these web resources to supplement the shrines database.
District-level interviews. After exhausting all resources we ran our shrines list for each district with a knowledgeable resource person on that district (typically a shrine caretaker). Any major errors or omissions were likely to be identified and corrected at this stage. This consistency check tried to ensure that no shrine worth a mention is excluded from a district list. 51 Where available, pertinent books in Urdu were also consulted for shrine names. 52