Pluralisation challenges to religion as a social imaginary: Anti-caste contestations of the Muslim quota in India

Religions, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI),


Postcolonial democratic deepening brings new challenges to religion as a social imaginary in India. Increasing cultural differentiation and pluralisation are countered by fundamentalisation, but also challenge existing minority/​multicultural imaginations. Religion, as the overarching identity category, has come under scrutiny given the politicization of caste among Muslims, who form the country’s most significant religious minority. Through social-justice and anti-caste politics in the 1990s, lowered-caste Muslims started to enact a new identity named Pasmanda, which means those who have been left behind”. The Pasmanda discourse emphasises internal heterogeneities and hegemonies and pluralises the Muslim”. It thus ruptures the imaginary of Muslims as a homogeneous minority in a culturally diverse country and problematises the majority – minority framework. An important site of contestation is the reservation (quota) policy in public employment, education, and the legislature. While privileged-caste Muslims generally prefer a quota based on religion, the lowered-caste Pasmanda Muslims increasingly mobilise for a caste-based quota, thus challenging systems of recognition and redistribution.