Live Blogging – the Economics of Religion in India

Dr. Sri Iyer is talking about her book.

riots INCREASE the vote share of the BJP by 5-7% /

(1.) What is Religion?

‘Religion is what societies hold to be sacred, comprised an institutionalised systems of symbols, beliefs, values and practises focused one questions of ultimate meaning.’

Galileo, Voltaire have forecast the end of religion since 1700’s.

(2.) 84% of global pop reports a religious affiliation; Dharmics are roughly 22/23% (Hindus 15% Buddhists rest). Sikhs and Jains are in the other religion category along with Bahai’s and Zoros but Jews get their own slice at 0.2%.

(3.) Hindu and Muslim median age is very young. Muslims 23, Hindus 26; oldest are Jews at 36.

(4.) What is the economics of religion? Application of economic and statistical tools to evaluate the role of religion in society. This stems from Chicago School but has historical precedent (Smith in 1776 wrote about this in Wealth of Nations). Lots of other scholars include Max Weber but many more

– rational choice

– macroeconomic growth

-Economic History

– Demography, health & Education

-Terrorism and conflict

– Insurance & Service provision

(5.) The economics of Religion in India; Dr. Iyer’s book published in Harvard University Press 2018.

(6.) why do we need the Eco of Religion in India.

– very little research on the Economics of Hinduism

– highest incidences of religious violence

– since 80’s rise of over Hindu nationalism and BJP

– Indian religion historically and contemporary attitudes towards it

– Survey of 600 Hindu, Muslim, Xtisns, Jain & Sikh religious orgs across 7 Indian states and their religious and non religious service provision

– Religious education, modernising the Madrasa

(7.) Distribution of religions census 2011

Hindus 79.8%

Muslims 14.23% (150mm ppl)

Xtians 2.3%

Sikhs 1.7%

(8.) Evolution of Hinduism from IVC. Dr. Iyer traces core Hinduism but states that Hinduism has been extremely adaptable.

– World Value Surveys (1990, 1995, 2001) / Questions on God, religion, reincarnation, influence of religion on social and political outcomes

– Indians very religious but secular.

(9.) Belief in God near-universal but pragmatic about religion. 70% of Buddhists believe in God; +94% for Xtian, Hindu, Muslim (98%), Sikhs (second at 95).

Thirupathi and Golden Temple gets 30,000 visitors a day (GT) and Thirupath (100k+)

Devotional music 1/3 of music market. 400crore rupee market

Religious attendance averages about 25%

Amartya Sen wrote about Hindu beliefs a long time / “it would be naive to assume a Hindu taking part in Saraswati rituals believes a lady in Heaven sitting on a swan.” I’ve paraphrased.

(10.) Hindu fundamentalists and Hindu-Muslim conflict since 1950

– Dr. Iyer believes Hindu fundamentalism encourages Islolationism but is less so than Abrahamic fundamentalism because the former tries to incorporated untouchability and lower castes.

– Hindu Muslim conflict dataset. 39 religious riots each year (1950-2006). On average 2574 people killed, injured or arrested each year.

– relationship between economic growth and riots – her data source is Times of India (1950-2006). Dr. Iyer showing the methodological framework of data collection.m around about 20-30 variables.

(11.) Snapshot of findings on Hindu-Muslim riots

– Mainly urban riots and certain towns are more prone (Surat Mumbai). Not to say there aren’t rural riots but the trend is in one direction. spatial correlation in riots (riots happens in spurts; it spreads through district to district).

– Cause is riot. Religious (public rituals Holi/Muharram, animal slaughter,desecration or attack’s in a place of religious worship).

– Political and Other. Musics in front of a mosque. Usually overlooked for instance Babri Masjid is Prime land (public property) in Ayodhya so there is often a property angle to these religious riots.

Omg riots INCREASE the vote share of the BJP by 5-7%

They created a “festival instrument”. When Hindu festival fell on a Friday (both religions milling about). Very high correlations % between riots and “Hindu Friday Festivals.” U can actually swap that and it can control relationship between riots and election.

(12) Capacity for innovation in Hinduism is great

– book starts to focus on social service provision in India.

– Dr. Iyer argues that Hinduism will innovate on “periphery” rather than core. If Hinduism provides more social service it might mitigate conflict.

(13.) the Indian Religion Survey (2006-2010). Lots of discussion about how the survey was conducted. Very systematic.

-Hindus and Muslims (organisations) more likely to describe themselves as very strong religiously while the others Xtian/other likely to describe as very mild.

– Christian and Muslim organisation much more focussed on religious education.

– Which social practises associated with religion /

Interestingly caste identity is weakening but marriage within caste has stayed the same.

Lots of “progressive value”; there was feeling among researchers that Orgos were telling them what they wanted to hear.

– Interesting in non-religious services Muslims step in for the state quite dramatically. Hindu orgs mainly providing food distribution / Muslims and Xtians provide health, education and child care.

Picture of a food distribution. Large scale, costly operation. Followed by a pic of a girl Madrassa. Then a cricket match between Hindu temple and Muslim madrassa in Maharashtra.

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5 Replies to “Live Blogging – the Economics of Religion in India”

  1. See the ‘Riot’ as a last resort pressure measure by Hindus as systems in India don’t work.

    Secular parties use ‘Minority’ strongmen while Right wing uses ‘Majority’ strongmen to take the fight to the ‘other’ side at local level.

    After local incident the regional & national narratives are created. Here lies the most crucial aspect of ‘Narrative’ –

    The local conflicts turn into riot & then it is used as a proof of radicalization, majoritarianism etc. in academic circles.

    Now think about the issue –
    The situation got to riots because ‘secular’ parties & govt. system has failed to dispense justice & resolve conflict and in this case the riled up people are bound to go to the the ‘Principal’ opposition i.e. BJP {Take the case of Bengal}. BJP does tries to bring in Hindutva to further increase the electoral benefits but the real problem lies with how Secular politics has moved forward in India.

    So it’s obvious why BJP’s vote rises but is it really majoritarianism or failure of secular parties in providing justice to the majority of the nation ?

    The Secular parties – Used the argument ‘The system will do it’s job’ or ‘The police will do it’s job’ or ‘let the facts come out’ etc. but conflicts never gets resolved & both sides’s frictions keep increasing. What these ‘secular’ parties want a status quo where the conflicts remain hidden & system remains in their control.

    Right Winger – Instead made claims along Identity lines as that’s the only option they had when the nation got formed. We can’t say what they exactly want & yes there is a section of people who hate ‘Others’ but a large section that is supporting them now is because of secular parties ‘Hypocrisy’ politics & not because of ‘Hindutva’ politics.

    There is no better articles about this phenomenon that were published on BP itself –
    https://www.brownpundits.com/2016/12/05/islam-is-rock-on-which-liberal-order/
    https://www.brownpundits.com/2019/05/25/a-quick-reaction-to-indian-election/

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  2. “Omg riots INCREASE the vote share of the BJP by 5-7%”

    I think the data is a bit old now. The BJP/RSS no longer need riots to win just as it no longer need Ram temple to win. It has moved on and found something better.

    In Modi it has found someone who is the most pure distillation of Hindutva. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta says “What kind of an alchemy is it where a leader produces not just a sense that he is better than the other, but a sense of deep identification? He won because India identifies with him. What that says about India is something we will figure out over the next five years.”

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    1. “He won because India identifies with him.”

      This poses problems, because Modi won’t live forever. The BJP needs to become more than the Modi Cult of Personality, or the entire project could fall apart.

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  3. Well the cycle goes on. The BJP will fall too but its how they “manage” their fall . It took the Congress nearly 30 years to really fall from being the numero uno party to party with coalition to losing party (1980-2010). If the BJP manages that it will always be in there and there about at the centre.

    Modi is once in a lifetime politician, and in a way has done what Reagan sort of did to republican-ism and american politics. Reagan sort of precipitated the rise of Bill Clinton (Republican-ism with Democratic characteristics). This consensus held strong till the rise of Bernie Sanders.

    Similar to what Nehru did in India’s founding moment. Shift the politics itself in a decisive way that your party will always have an upper hand even when they are down.

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    1. Right, this makes sense. The way I’ve seen it argued before is that “Clinton Ratified Reaganism.” And together, the two created the centrist-technocrat neoliberal consensus that persisted until 2015, when it began to face serious challenges from both the Right and the Left.

      Modi will leave his mark, and we’ll probably settle into a “Secular Democracy with Hindutva Characteristics” modus vivendi that shall persist for a generation, until it faces challenger ideologies from both Right and Left.

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