Re-Interrogating Civil Society in South Asia : Critical Perspectives from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh book cover
1st Edition

Re-Interrogating Civil Society in South Asia
Critical Perspectives from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

ISBN 9780815385264
Published March 31, 2021 by Routledge India
328 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers an overview of the history and development of civil society in three major nations of South Asia – Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – from colonial times to the present. It examines the liberalization of civil society since the 1980s, the needs it created for civil action, the professionalization of civil society organizations, and the extent to which civil society may benefit society at large in the context of local, national and global transformations in the economy, political regime and ideology.

The reader will find new insights on the interaction between the liberalization of multifaceted civil societies in the three countries, presenting contrasts such as restrictions put on women’s organizations or labour unions and acceptance of religious organizations’ activities. The volume looks at forms of transfer of civil society models, representation and democratic legitimacy of civil society organizations such as nongovernmental organizations, government organized NGOs and faith-based organizations, along with the structuring of civil society through legal frames as well as female, religious, and ethnic mobilizations around language and literature. Using wide-ranging empirical data and theoretical analyses, it deals with civil society issues relating to human rights and political challenges, justice, inequality, empowerment, and the role of bureaucracy, women’s movements, and ethnic and linguistic minorities. It also presents early responses to the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 which created significant pressure on the states and on civil society.

This book will be useful to scholars and researchers of political studies, development studies, sociology, public policy and governance, law and human rights, as also to professionals in think tanks, civil society activists and NGOs.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Dissemination of Civil Society in South Asia: Introductory Considerations

Peter B. Andersen, Rubya Mehdi, Amit Prakash and Yasir Sharif


Part I: Multifaceted and Local Civil Societies in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

Chapter 2: Building Civil Society in Colonial India during the Long Nineteenth Century

James Jaffe

Chapter 3: Civil Society in India: What Is It and Where Is It Going?

Sumona DasGupta

Chapter 4: Clearing Misconceptions about Civil Society in Pakistan

Shafqat Munir Ahmad

Chapter 5: Civil Society, Human Rights and Political Antagonism in Bangladesh

Morten Koch Andersen


Part II: Civil Society’s Multiple Hues and Roles

Chapter 6: Thieves and Khoji’s in a Non-State, Collectivist System of Justice under Transformation: An Example from a Village of Southern Punjab, Pakistan

Rubya Mehdi

Chapter 7: Dilemmas Facing Civil Society Institutions in Pakistan: A Case for Organized Labour

Charles W. Amjad-Ali and Karamat Ali

Chapter 8: Bureaucratic Empowerment as a Tool for Reproduction of Inequalities

Anna Romanowicz

Chapter 9: Entertaining the Possibility of Society’s Radical Transformation: A Personal View of Women Front (1974–1976)

Fauzia Rafique

Chapter 10: The Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan: Ideology and Functioning

Rubina Saigol

Chapter 11: Madrasas and Religious Maslaks as a Case of Skewed Civil Society in Pakistan

Yasir Sharif and Peter B. Andersen

Chapter 12: Striving for Space in Pakistan under COVID-19

Sohail Akbar Warraich


Part III: Civil Mobilization among Ethnic and Linguistic Minorities

Chapter 13: The Organization of the Writers’ Community as a Linguistic Minority: The Santal Tribe

Peter B. Andersen, Kumkum Bhattacharya, Ranjit K. Bhattacharya and Boro Baski

Chapter 14: Imagining Santal Rationality as Empowerment

Marine Carrin

Chapter 15: Santals: Language, Lyricism, Emotions and Identity

Kumkum Bhattacharya and Ranjit K. Bhattacharya


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Peter B. Andersen is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Rubya Mehdi is Senior Researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and has been Visiting Professor at Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan.

Amit Prakash is Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.


‘Coming at a critical time when civil society in South Asia is facing multi-faceted challenges, this anthology is useful in many respects. While tracing the past milestones and analyzing the present malaise, this brilliantly conceived and executed volume provides insights into what possibly could be done to keep the role of civil society intact and ensure its relevance in future.’

Syed Jaffar Ahmed, Institute of Historical and Social Research, Karachi, Pakistan


‘As the world in general and South Asia in particular descend into deeper political and social turmoil, questions pertaining to the complexity, the real and perceived roles, and the multiple dimensions of what has come to be known as Civil Society take on heightened significance. This book is a very timely and perceptive study of this vibrant phenomenon as it has come to distinctively evolve in South Asia. From its western philosophical roots and constructs as well as its colonial antecedents, the authors astutely analyze the fascinating development of Civil Society into something organic, multifarious, contested, persecuted, defiant and emancipatory.’

Osama Siddique, Author of Pakistan’s Experience with Formal Law: An Alien Justice (2013)


‘This edited volume is an example of uniformly excellent scholarship, adopts a varied set of approaches to dissect the nature and impact of civil society in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Its thorough coverage of various types of civil society by well-established experts is a must-read for scholars and students with an interest in civil society studies in South Asia.’

Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden