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The Art of Resistance: The Bards and Minstrels’ Response to Anti-Syncretism/Anti-liminality in north India

  • MUKESH KUMAR (a1)
Abstract

This article addresses the issue of passive resistance by the Jogi and Mirasi musician castes against the puritanical notions of their former patrons, Meos. After the Meo patrons embraced the Tablighi Jamaat's version of Islam, the Jogis and Mirasis feel pressured to give up performing. Their artistry is also their livelihood which they value very much. By using James Scott's understanding of ‘passive resistance’ and ‘hidden transcript’ this article shows the use of poetic art for passive resistance. In doing so, the Jogis and Mirasis do not compromise with the civility of the art and positively use the lyrics of their new songs against the Meo patrons’ versions of religious purity on one hand, and extremist Hinduism on the other. They, in fact, emphasize a version of righteousness that is universal and thus needs no organised religion.

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The concept of syncretism, and particularly how the term is used, is highly debated among scholars. Many Scholars (Shail Mayaram, ‘Rethinking Meo Identity: Cultural Faultline, Syncretism, Hybridity or Liminality’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 17.2 (1997), pp. 35–45., Dominique Sila Khan, ‘Liminality and Legality: A Contemporary Debate among the Imamshahis of Gujarat’, in Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict edited by Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld (Delhi, 2004), pp. 209–232.), prefer the term liminality over syncretism to denote the cases of religious interactions. Syncretism in its use carries a bias of creating binaries by ‘either-or’ usage while liminality gives importance to the betwixt and between statuses. Though I prefer the term liminality over syncretism depending upon the nature of a religious interaction here my usage of anti-process of these two processes refers to both anti-syncretism and anti-liminality terms. The term anti-syncretism was popularised by Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw in a very influential work. By using anti-syncretism or anti-liminality terms in this article, I refer to the ideologies which oppose the cases of religious synthesis, such as reform organisations, and want people to follow a pure religion, in the same sense of Stewart and Shaw usage of the term. For more details about the concept of anti-syncretism, see, Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw (ed.), Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis (London, 1994).

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2 The term, Indic, was used almost two decades ago by Lawrence, Bruce D. and Gilmartin, David (See, Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, (Florida, 2000), pp. 14) in the similar manner of Marshall Hodgson's use of the term ‘Islamicate’. To describe the diverse nature of Islam over a widespread geographical region from West to Southeast Asia, Hodgson disputes a single notion of Islam over such a vast territory, despite, the region had historically been under the political influence of Muslim rulers. The Islam developed in close connection with local ideas. The term Islamicate, thus, refers to the local embeddedness of Muslims. Similarly, Indic refers to cultural practices which cannot be confined to one religion, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or any other among many in India. It has specific themes in it which are characteristically limited to India only and influenced by some shared South Asian idioms. For instance, the endearment of cows among Muslims and Christians, performance of the great epics, and pervasiveness of caste structures across religions are some of the Indic symbols.

3 Two castes, Jogi and Mirasi, are different from each other and inhibit different social status in caste structure. More information about them is given in the latter portion of this article. However, it is important to remember that the Jogi is a colloquial umbrella term variously used for designating: a community, a hermit, a person with spiritual intent, and a wandering minstrel etc. There are three types, Hindu, Muslim, and the converted Jogis in Mewat.

4 Mewat is situated in the triangular zone of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur cities covering parts of Alwar and Bharatpur districts in Rajasthan State, Nuh of Haryana, and some parts of Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh. It derives its cultural identity after the majority peasant inhabitants known as Meo Muslims.

5 I do not wish to discuss the details of Hindu extremist politics in this article.

6 The bulk of the field work for this article was done among those Muslim Jogi and Mirasi singers who still practice their art in Alwar. Much of their inspiration oscillates between symbolism of art that draws on Hinduism e.g. praying to the goddess of knowledge Saraswati, and their personal religious faith–Islam. Not only do they see themselves rooted in caste society but they also consider local practices, such as venerating Hindu gods and goddess, as a completely natural phenomenon. Thus, their indigeneity creates a different Muslim self rooted in local practices. An idea of a Muslim ‘other’ enters their narratives indicating a version of Islam alien to their cultural world.

7 For instance, subaltern works such as: Guha, Ranajit, Elementary aspects of peasant insurgency in colonial India (Durham, 1999); Dominance without hegemony: History and power in colonial India (Harvard, 1997); and, Bhadra, Gautam, “Four rebels of eighteen-fifty-seven.Subaltern Studies IV: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi, 1985), pp. 229275., articulate only violent forms of resistance to colonial power domination. From critique perspectives of this lacuna in subalterns’ works, see, Urban, Hugh B., ‘Songs of Ecstasy: Mystics, Minstrels and Merchants in Colonial Bengal’, The Journal of the American Oriental Society 123, no.3, (2004), pp. 493519; and, Bayly, C. A., ‘Rallying Around the Subaltern. Review of Subaltern Studies’, vols. 1–4, Journal of Peasant Studies, 16, (1988), pp. 310320.

8 James Scott is the pioneer thinker on the issue of everyday resistance to power through passive means. His numerous published works analyse the hidden meanings in actions of powerless groups. Borrowing from his understanding as found in his book, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (Yale, 1990), the purpose of this article is to look for messages of resistance in the new songs of minstrel castes in the wake of pressures like religious disciplining and intolerance.

9 The writing of Hugh Urban notes passive resistance in the context of the religious sphere but his focus too is on secrecy as the weapon of the marginalised. See, ‘The Torment of Secrecy: Ethical and Epistemological Problems in the Study of Esoteric Traditions’, History of Religions (1998), pp. 209–248; Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics and Power in the Study of Religion (California, 2003); ‘Secrecy and New Religious Movements: Religious Secrecy and Privacy in a New Age of Information’, Religion Compass, (2008), pp. 66–83.

10 Scott refers to ‘Hidden Transcripts’ in the context of discussion about the public roles played by powerful and powerless groups, and the mocking, vengeful tone they display off stage—which he divides into the public and the hidden transcripts. Both groups create public and hidden transcripts in their own ways. A hidden transcript is an off-stage product that works behind the back of power in the case of subordinate groups. As far as the Mewati bards are concerned, their songs respectfully present the issue of religious divide without radically denigrating or mocking the power. Probably, the art requires them to remain civil in expressing anxieties. However, their songs are not hidden or off stage completely. But, they are performed for a different audience at the back of Meo patrons. In my approach, I consider, the very act of making, producing, and performing a song provides a distinct domain for the performers to convey their messages, in the guise of art, that cannot be told directly to the powerful.

11 Scott, Domination and the Art, pp. 77–90.

12 Foucault, Michel, ‘The Subject and Power’, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Summer 1982), pp. 777795.

13 The Jajmāni was a traditional organisation of castes in India. Those who owned land were patrons for the numerous serving castes of varying status. This system was primarily an economic arrangement and a display of caste relations but at the same time it had cultural and social implications.

14 The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is an Islamic revival organisation which began working from the Mewat region before becoming a successful transnational organisation. Its present headquarters is in Delhi. The TJ in Mewat is supported by the majority Meos. More information about the TJ is supplied in subsequent sections.

15 For musicians, the patrons normally belonged to landowning peasant class. Other than the Meos, the Jogi also rendered services to castes like Ahir, Meena, Gujjar, and Jat in the area.

16 The reason, I call, the Jogis and Mirasis memories a ‘Human Archive’ is simply because of their ability to remember tales of historical and mythological importance. Their tales and songs do not differ from an official state archive. If the memory of the folk-singers could be contested so could the facts kept in archives. The data for this article was collected during my doctoral thesis fieldwork carried out between Dec. 2015-Oct. 2016. During an eleven months-long stay, I interviewed many bards and singers who not only helped me in understanding the Meo's and Mewat's history and past but also their tradition of telling folktales and folklore. In subsequent pages, many ethnographic descriptions have been recorded from them. I contacted both artistic and non-artistic bards for the information, and it is their voices which run throughout this article.

17 Mewāti bāt is a style of folktale rendition. The term bāt literally means ‘the lines in quotidian dialogue or conversation’. For a little more information on it, see, Mayaram, Shail, ‘Kings versus Bandits: Anti-colonialism in a Bandit Narrative’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 13, Issue. 3 (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 315338. Ibid., pp. 318–319.

18 Ibid.; Mayaram, Shail, Against History, Against State: Counter perspectives from the Margins, (New Delhi, 2004), p. 42.

19 Vyas is a Brahmin scholar specialising in reading religious stories and tales. He is invited to narrate vārtā kathās (fasting tales) such as Satya Narāyan ki kathā–a widespread story in north India attributed to the Hindu god Vishnu.

20 A detailed description on Vārtā is given in an essay of Wadley. See, Susan S. Wadley, Vrats: Transformers of Destiny’, in Essays on north Indian Folklore (New Delhi, 2005), pp. 3652.

21 In this style of oral reciting, the Jogi and Mirasi engage themselves in dialogues on the stage. When somebody in the group poses questions seeking answers, the lead singer gives them a reply in couplet form.

22 The term doha-dhani is made of two words, dohā meaning couplets and dhāni, a form of classical raag.

23 Shalini Ayyagari, ‘Spaces Betwixt and Between: Musical Borderlands and the Manganiyar Musicians of Rajasthan’, Asian Music (2012), p. 13.

24 Peter Manuel, ‘The Intermediate Sphere in North Indian Music Culture: Between and Beyond “Folk” and “Classical.” Ethnomusicology, (2015), p. 82.

25 Mayaram, Against History, Against State, p. 44.

27 The Brajbhāsā, a Hindi dialect, is spoken in the neighbouring areas of Mewat.

28 For instance, the rītī poetry and the folk music genre rasiyā originated and prospered in the Braj region. More details about rītī poetry can be found in Allison Busch's works: Hidden in Plain View: Brajbhāsā Poets at the Mughal Court,’ Modern Asian Studies 44 (2010), pp. 267309; Questioning the Tropes about ‘Bhakti’ and ‘Rīti’ in Hindi Literary Historiography’, in Bhakti in Current Research, (ed.) Horstmann, Monika (Delhi, 2006), pp. 3347; Listening for the Context: Tuning into the Reception of Rīti Poetry’, in Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance Cultures in North India, edited by Orsini, Francesca and Schofield, Katherine Butler (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 249282.

29 See, Manuel, Peter, ‘Hathrasi Rasiya: An Intermediate Song Genre of North India’, Asian Music 46.2 (2015), pp. 324. Ibid p. 6.; Syncretism and Adaptation in Rasiya, a Braj Folk Song Genre’, Journal of Vaishnava Studies 1 (1994), pp. 3360.

30 For more information on the Nath cult, the classic work of Briggs, G.W., Gorakhnāth and the Kānphaṭa Yogis, (New Delhi, 1998, initially published in 1936), is a significant work. Briggs's work provides a detailed account of different kinds of Jogis found all over India and Nepal. It helps to understand various nuances of the Nath/Jogi cult.

31 A Bhapang is usually made out of a dry and hollow pumpkin shell which is often lined with goatskin to give it strength. It looks like an Indian Damru—an instrument (hand-drum) that Shiva uses but which produces a different kind of melody.

32 It is a belief among the Muslim Jogis that by the boons of Allah, Shivaji and his main disciple guru Gorakhnath, the Muslim Jogi religion (sect) spread in India. In Hinduism, Brahma is considered the creator of universe but the Muslim Jogis do not compromise with the status of Allah in this case. God Vishnu as usual is considered protector. Fieldnotes.

33 See, Napier, John, They Sing the Wedding of God: An Ethnomusicological Study of the Mahadevji ka Byavala as Performed by the Nath-Jogis of Alwar, (North Carolina, 2013).

34 Mayaram, Shail, ‘Meos of Mewat: Synthesising Hindu-Muslim Identities’, Manushi, No. 103, (1997), p. 7.

35 William Percy Powlett was a British colonial settlement officer in Alwar (Ulwar) district in the 19th Century. He carried out an extensive survey of the district which is a part of the cultural region of Mewat. His work is an important historical source material for information about the state's physical nature, politics, and history. His main contribution is to document oral folk materials concerning religion, belief, and people's lifestyle.

36 Powlett, William Percy, Gazetteer of Ulwur (London, 1878), p. 38.

37 The entire Meo community is divided into 13 pals (clans) and 52 Gotras (lineages). Out of these 13 pals, 5 Meo pals trace their identity as Jaduvansi (descendants of Hindu god Krishna), three from another god Ram (Raghuvansis-descendants of Ram), and rest of them from Hindu epic Mahabharta’s figure, Arjun and Rajput clans like Rathore, Mayaram, 2004, pp. 52–59.

38 Also see, Mayaram, ‘Synthesising Hindu-Muslim’, pp. 1–6.

39 A detailed discussion of the Meos’ relationship with successive state formations in the region and beyond since the 12th century is available in two works of the author Shail Mayaram. See, Shail Mayaram, Resisting Regimes: Myth, memory and the shaping of Muslim Identity, (New Delhi, 1997); and Against History, Against State, 2004. A recently published work, Bharadwaj, Suraj Bhan, Contestations and Accommodations: Mewat and Meos in Mughal India, (New Delhi, 2016) examines the nature of the relationship of the Meos with the Mughal court against the backdrop of transformation in rural economy of the time.

40 Nandy, Ashish, Time Warps: Silent and Evasive Pasts in Indian Politics and Religion, (New Jersey, 2002), p. 123.

41 Prakash, Gyan, Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labor Servitude in Colonial India (Cambridge, 1990).

42 Some scholars may also argue that the disintegration of Jajmāni liberated service castes, but I am not concerned with this aspect here.

43 It would be foolish to say only the TJ was entirely responsible for the loss of minstrels’ patronage. There are multiple reasons, including the change in the regional political economy, impacts of modernisation and changing agrarian relations. However, the main concern here is to show that the minstrels and bards feel pressured in the circumstances of change in the patrons’ values to puritanical Islam.

44 Interview with Harun, dated 15 July 2016. For the sake of maintaining anonymity, the names of people interviewed, until and unless they are very popular and famous for the art and consented to include the real name, has been changed.

45 During the traditional Meo marriage ceremonies, the bridegroom's side used to stay for four to five days in the village of a bride's family. The bards were employed as the main public entertainers on this occasion. It provided ample opportunities for the bards. The subsequent reduction of stay from four to five days to merely one night negatively impacted the bards’ income (Mayaram, King versus Bandits, p. 318).

46 Deoband is a place in western part of the Indian state, Uttar Pradesh. A leading training school for Islamic theology which became famous as Deobandi school was founded on 31 May 1866 by three ulemās (Islamic teachers), Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi, Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi and Abid Husaiyn. The school is considered as propagating teachings of Hanafi ideas of Islamic Jurisprudence (see, Metcalfe, Barbara D., Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900, (Princeton, 1982)).

47 Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi (1885–1944) was trained at Deoband Madrasa and later founded his own Islamic revival movement. He was known as first Āmir (commander) of the movement. The TJ under his leadership became a known functioning group in the Mewat region. He organised many students into groups (Jamaat) and sent them to carry out the message of Islam among Muslims who are Muslims in name only. The TJ over the period of time has developed an extensive network of mosques, schools, and theologians not only in Mewat but internationally also. See, the works of Masud, Muhammad Khalid, (ed.), Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jama'at as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal, (Leiden, 2000); Sikand, Yoginder, Origins and Development of the Tablighi-Jama'at (1920–2000): A Cross-Country Comparative Study, (New Delhi, 2002); and, Noor, Farish A., Islam on the Move: The Tablighi Jama'at in Southeast Asia, (Amsterdam, 2012). All these works provide socio, economic and political backgrounds behind the emergence of the TJ into a transnational movement.

48 It was the main slogan of the first Āmir, Maulana Ilyas, (see, Ilyas, Muhammad, ‘A Call to Muslims’, in The Teachings of Tabligh (New Delhi, 1989)). Ilyas purposely kept the movement limited to Muslims so as not to it mired with controversies of conversion and state politics.

49 Field notes. I noticed a pattern of Islamic discourse unfolding among the Meo Muslims during the fieldwork. The Majority of the Meos’ fundamental concern remained to be a true follower of the right Islamic path dictated by the clergies of the TJ.

50 The Arya Samaj is a Hindu organisation founded in 1875 by Dayanand Saraswati which engaged itself in converting Muslims among other activities. The conversion campaign targeted first those Muslims like the Meos and the Jogis who still had some connections with Hinduism. More information about the Arya Samaj can be found in Kenneth Jones’ work, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-Century Punjab (California, 1976); and Jones, Kenneth, ‘Communalism in the Punjab: the Arya Samaj contribution.The journal of Asian studies 28.1 (1968) pp. 3954.

51 It involved chanting of Vedic hymns and mantrās followed by sprinkling of Ganga's water and an oath taken to protect Hinduism in case of a person willing to convert.

52 Yoginder Sikand, ‘The Fitna of Irtidad: Muslim missionary response to the Shuddhi of Arya Samaj in early twentieth’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (1997), p. 71.

54 For blended history of the Meo community, Mayaram's works provides fascinating accounts and detail.

55 Barbara Metcalf, ‘Travelers' Tales in the Tablighi Jamaat’, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, (2003), pp. 136–148.

56 Mayaram, Shail, ‘Speech, Silence and the Making of Partition Violence in Mewat’, in Amin, Shahid and Chakrabarty, Dipesh (ed.), Subaltern Studies 9: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi, 1996), pp. 126164.

57 Founded in the year 1925, the RSS (Rashtriya Sawayam Sevak Sangh,) since then has advocated for transforming India into a Hindu nation. Their entire idea is based on political mobilisation of Hindu sentiments against Muslims and other religious minorities. See, for more information on RSS, Jaffrelot, C., Hindu nationalism: A Reader (Princeton, 2009); and, Sharma, J., Terrifying Vision: MS Golwalkar, the RSS, and India (New Delhi, 2007).

58 Copland, Ian, ‘The Further Shores of Partition: Ethnic Cleansing in Rajasthan 1947’, Past & Present, no. 160 (1998), pp. 203239.

59 Ibid., p. 215.

60 Siddqui, B., ‘Purification of self: Ijtema as a New Islamic Pilgrimage’, European Journal of Economic and Political Studies, vol. 3 (2010), pp, 133150.

61 Among scholars who studied the TJ's organisational structure and ideologies are: Marc Gaborieau, ‘What is left of Sufism in Tablighi Jamaat?’, Archives de sciences sociales des religions (2006), pp. 53–72; Masud, Travelers in Faith, Mayaram, ‘Hindu and Islamic transnational religious movements’, Economic and Political Weekly, (2004), pp. 80–88, Noor, Islam on the Move, Siddia, Majid, ‘The Tablighi Jamaat in Bangladesh and the UK: an ethnographic study of an Islamic reform movement,’(Cardiff, 2014), Sikand, Origin and Development.

62 Noor, Islam on the Move, pp. 78–122.

63 Field notes.

64 The concept of vidat refers to any new practices added in Islam which was not there during the prophet Mohammed's time. The reform organisations criticise acts such as visiting Sufi saints’ tombs as invention of new tradition in Islam and call it a vidat.

65 The TJ invite and recruit volunteers every week to spend some time travelling in local villages, through the province, or even international locations depending upon the amount of money one can afford to spend. The length of time spent ranges from three days to a year, or longer. Volunteers have to follow a strict Islamic way of life reading nawāj five times each day. Thus, they spend day and nights staying in and travelling from mosque to mosque inviting people for holding communal prayers.

66 Field notes.

67 The traditional Islamic concept of dāwā is engaging in scholarly debates and discussion about the teachings of Islam by invitation (both Muslims and non-Muslims together). However, a local and closest term to dāwā, called dāwat literally refers to its meaning ‘feasting’ and encourages people to invite the TJ travellers into their homes for dinner.

68 This whole incident occurred in front of me when I was sitting at Munis's shop. His shop is located near the dargah (tomb) which happened to be my field site for doctoral dissertation. The daily commute to the dargah helped me to develop a strong personal connection with him. His scepticism about dargah devotion though was in accord with views of the TJ but he was always respectful in his opinions about the saint.

69 Amin, Shahid, Conquest and Community: The Afterlife of Warrior Saint Ghazi Miyan (New Delhi, 2015).

70 The Baul is a syncretic group like the Muslim Jogis. They are considered low caste and despised for their anti-institutional behaviour. They play an instrument called ektara and engage in esoteric practices. Baul songs emphasise religious universalism.

71 Urban, Hugh B., ‘Songs of Ecstasy: Mystics, Minstrels, and Merchants in Colonial Bengal’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 123, No.3 (2003), pp. 493519., Datta, Rajeshwari, ‘The Religious Aspect of the Baul Songs of Bengal’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 37 (1978), pp. 445455., Capwell, Charles, ‘The Popular Expression of Religious Syncretism: The Bauls of Bengal as Apostles of Brotherhood’, Popular Music, Vol.7, No. 2, The South Asia/West Crossover (1988), pp. 123132. These works cite Baul songs that necessarily put forth a different viewpoint to institutionalised religious orientations. For example, a Baul song reads, “The Lord is fixed at the door of devotion; whether Hindu or Muslim, in his vicinity there is no discrimination”. A similar Baul song of Lalan Fakir, the head figure of the sect, points out a Kabir like critique of sectarian motifs, “If you circumcise the boy, he becomes a Muslim–what's the rule for women, then? I can recognise the Brahman man from his sacred thread; but then how am I to know the Brahman woman? Tell me, just what does caste look like? I've never seen with these eyes of mine, brother”, (Capwell, p. 129).

72 I am thankful to Mirasi Sadab Khan for providing the song. He sometimes worked in the group of a famous artist Umar Farookh before. The song was a part of Krishna-leelā stories. Umar, his son Yusuf, and other group members helped me a lot. I am indebted to them for their kind support. The translation of the song is mine.

73 Urban, Hugh B., ‘The Politics of Madness: The Construction and Manipulation of the ‘Baul’ Image in Modern Bengal’, South Asia 12, no.1 (1999), pp. 1346, ibid, p. 29.

74 Interview with Rammal Khan on two occasions, Feb 2016, and August 2017.

75 Both Hindu/Sanskrit (guruji) and Urdu (ustād) words have the same meaning- ‘teacher or master’.

76 Interview and discussion with Rammal Khan.

77 The English translation of it is mine. For some background information of the Urdu poet, Shafiq Jaunpuri and his works, visit, https://www.rekhta.org/poets/shafiq-jaunpuri/profile.

78 The Islamic prohibition or ‘harām’ categorises permissible and impermissible actions. Polytheism is a strictly impermissible act in Islam. It is assumed that keeping idols and images generates faith and deviates from the path of Allah. Rammal was undergoing moral policing at the hands of regular TJ visitors.

79 Interview with Rammal Khan.

80 Shalini Ayyagari, Small Voices Sing Big Songs: The Politics of Emerging Institutional Spaces Among Manganiyar Musicians in Rajasthan, India, PhD dissertation, (University of California, Berkeley, 2009). I am thankful to the anonymous reviewer of this article for directing my attention to this aspect of change in patronage arrangement.

81 The bards are seen as Muslims. The Meos are social and political elites among Muslims in the area. So, it is imperative to remain in the Meo's favour for all reasons.

82 Interviews with Jumme Khan, Umar, Yusuf, Rammal, Ramnath, Pappunath Jogi and other bards.

83 The teachings of the Nath cult were prominent mostly among the Muslim Jogis.

84 Umar Farookh wrote a good number of new songs. He formed a group with many Mirasi and Jogi friends for upliftment of the art. The group has performed at numerous national and international events. After his sudden demise in 2017 his son Yusuf is determined to take the art to a new level. A few meetings and interviews were conducted with Umar Farookh and his son Yusuf. I am immensely indebted to both for not only providing materials for this article but for also their assistance in making me understand the culture and careful translation of certain words.

85 “Rajasthan Patrika”, Alwar edition May 15, 2010. His interview shows an open stand but it was masked under the history and his tradition. As shown earlier, the Meos themselves consider their past as perversion unlike the Muslim Jogis.

86 Lughod, Abu-lila, ‘The romance of Resistance: Tracing Transformations of Power Through Bedouin Women’, American Ethnologist, Vol. 17 No. 1 (1990), p. 42.

87 Interview with Umar Farookh Mewati. The song was given to me in both hand written and video forms. Translation of songs was done with Yusuf's help. Any error in the translation work is entirely mine.

88 This song was collected from Yusuf. The song is also available in a documentary film, see, Sudhir Gupta, ‘Three Generations of Jogi Umer Farookh,’ Filmed in 2010, Public Sector Broadcasting Trust & Prasar Bharati, http://www.cultureplugged.com. The English translation is taken from the Sudhir's documentary.

89 I am using the term ‘the Rise of New Religious Intolerance’ to refer to the emergence of a different kind of religious consciousness. This consciousness was shaped as much by the British colonial forces as by post-colonial politics. There are a number of reasons for the emergence of it which requires an in-depth attention.

90 The Babari mosque was built at Ayodhya in present day Uttar Pradesh in India by a commander of the first Mughal Emperor Babur. The city is also considered a birthplace of the Hindu God Ram. The Babri mosque became a contentious site between Hindus and Muslims around the independence of India and was demolished later in 1992 by Hindu fringe groups followed by communal riots.

91 This song was given by Yusuf. Again, the translation is mine completed with Yusuf's help.

92 I am thankful to the anonymous reviewer for his/her insightful comments. My friend, Deborah Nixon, has been a source of constant support and I am grateful to her for suggestions on earlier drafts. The research work for this article was part of my doctoral study, I would like to show gratitude to the Research Council of Norway which funded this research for the doctoral dissertation and my home university, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). The executive editor of the Royal Asiatic Society, UK, Charlotte de Blois, too deserves many thanks for her editorial assistance. I feel indebted to Yusuf Khan, his father, late Umar Farookh, numerous other Jogi and Mirasi musicians, and my Meo friends for their kind support and patience.

The concept of syncretism, and particularly how the term is used, is highly debated among scholars. Many Scholars (Shail Mayaram, ‘Rethinking Meo Identity: Cultural Faultline, Syncretism, Hybridity or Liminality’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 17.2 (1997), pp. 35–45., Dominique Sila Khan, ‘Liminality and Legality: A Contemporary Debate among the Imamshahis of Gujarat’, in Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict edited by Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld (Delhi, 2004), pp. 209–232.), prefer the term liminality over syncretism to denote the cases of religious interactions. Syncretism in its use carries a bias of creating binaries by ‘either-or’ usage while liminality gives importance to the betwixt and between statuses. Though I prefer the term liminality over syncretism depending upon the nature of a religious interaction here my usage of anti-process of these two processes refers to both anti-syncretism and anti-liminality terms. The term anti-syncretism was popularised by Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw in a very influential work. By using anti-syncretism or anti-liminality terms in this article, I refer to the ideologies which oppose the cases of religious synthesis, such as reform organisations, and want people to follow a pure religion, in the same sense of Stewart and Shaw usage of the term. For more details about the concept of anti-syncretism, see, Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw (ed.), Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis (London, 1994).

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