How Did Communal Politics Gain Strength in Pre-Partition Sindh?

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


In her 2006 article, Rita Kothari investigates the role of the Arya Samaj, an institution for social “reform,” and argues that it contributed in creating “mutually exclusive categories such as Islam and Hinduism” for Sindhis. The work of the Arya Samaj paved the way for the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha’s success in Sindh. Kothari says that this stood in contrast with “Sindh’s tolerant syncretic tradition.”

Anand Chandavarkar responds to Kothari, arguing that she has not only omitted major events in her historical account of religion and social relations in Sindh, but that she has also made methodological errors by relying on oral histories and a limited sample of respondents. Chandavarkar adds that religious syncretism goes against the “very core of Islam” and that the only “true” followers of it are Sindhi Hindus.

Kothari replies that it would be incorrect to overlook the fact that Sindhis from both religions followed the beliefs of both Hindu and Muslim sufis. In terms of methodology, she argues that she has qualified claims made by her interlocutors, supplementing them “with written and published documents.”

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Tracing the Partition | EPW Engage, 2017
  2. The Early History of the RSS: A Reading List | EPW Engage, 2018
  3. Sindhis: Hardening of Identities after Partition | Rita Kothari, 2004
  4. Defining a Border | Farhana Ibrahim, 2005  

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—"History and Religion."

Curated by Abhishek Shah []

Image courtesy: Modified. Wikimedia Commons/SHAHBAZ SAF [CC BY-SA 4.0]

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