Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab

By Harnik Deol | Go to book overview

5


The agrarian crisis and the rise of armed resistance

The socio-economic impact of the green revolution

I have discussed the transition of the Sikh congregation into an ethnic community (in Chapter 3) and then into a nation demanding a state of its own (in Chapter 4). I now turn to the latest phase of the Sikh nationalist movement and its demand for Khalistan. This involves an understanding of how two aspects of social change in the latter half of the twentieth century have come together. The first of these is the green revolution and its radicalization of a section of the Sikh peasantry who spearheaded the ethno-nationalist movement. The second concerns the rise and impact of the vernacular press. In this chapter I deal with the green revolution and the social composition of the Sikh nationalist movement; in the next chapter I consider the revolution in communication, which spread the ideals of religion to wider sections of the population.

So far, the explanation for the emergence of Sikh ethno-nationalism in the late 1970s and its development up to the present time has focused on the socio-economic impact of green revolution strategy as an agent of change on the Sikh peasantry. The central task of this chapter is to bring into focus the nexus between the dislocation and alienation experienced by a section of the Sikh peasantry as a consequence of the green revolution and the subsequent demand for a sovereign Sikh state.

To comprehend fully the complex processes of social change initiated or accelerated by the technologies and policies associated with the green revolution strategy, we must first understand the agricultural system that is being changed, then discern the process of change and finally ask where the change is leading. The main focus of the chapter is on what happens to the social structure of the rural society as the processes of technological change proceed. The chapter is divided into three sections. The first section comprises three parts: the first part examines the origins of the green revolution and is followed by an exploration of the consequences of the green revolution on agrarian social structure. The third part describes the subsequent emergence of Sikh activists and establishes their socio-economic background. The second section looks at the situations that favour a peasant-led ethno-regional struggle as a consequence of the transition to commercial agriculture. Finally, the process of overseas Sikh emigration from rural Punjab is explored.

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