Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2014
This chapter is aimed at understanding, evaluating, and mapping the multiple exclusions in the village society along two trajectories, namely caste and religion, in Punjab. The purpose of such an exercise is to look for areas where the members of society have been denied equal opportunities for a good life. In this context, the trajectory of exploration covers caste and religion, both being equally important in the developed agrarian economy of Punjab. Punjab is believed to be more inclusive than other states, but such claims are largely impressionistic and made on the basis of a general impression that Sikhism is an egalitarian religion. However, there are clear-cut distinctions between religion and community and the two must not be made coterminous just because the former has egalitarian appeal. Even if we ignore class inequality, religions have by and large failed in creating a desirable community anywhere in the world. Sociologists have made it clear that certain social formations are a consequence of material conditions, culture, practices, and institutions, which cannot be overturned by ideology. Tat is why race, ethnicity, culture, caste, gender, etc., continue to weigh heavily on the project of achieving egalitarian societies, even when they share common religion.
Religion remained the exclusive indulgence of the upper strata of the village societies and the lower castes never figured in this context. The economic dependence of the lower castes on upper land-owning castes ascertained that the structure of relationships remains intact.