Shi‘i scholars from India have been a sizeable presence in seminaries in Iran and Iraq, both historically and today. Yet there is a dearth of scholarship on Shi‘i linkages between India and West Asia, with the exception of historical work on the patronage of shrine cities in Iraq by centres of Shi‘ism in India. Departing from this geographical and historical focus, this paper lends insight into contemporary religious networks between India and West Asia, using the example of the Twelver Shi‘a in Kargil, a region located on India's ‘border’ with Pakistan in the province of Kashmir. Kargili scholars travelled overland via Afghanistan or by sea from Bombay to Basra to study in seminaries in Iraq and Iran from the nineteenth century onwards. Increasing fluency in Urdu in post-colonial India enabled them to connect with Shi‘i institutions in other parts of India, which mediate religious, cultural, and financial flows from a transnational Shi‘ite realm. These networks of religious learning are not only conduits for the transmission of textual, doctrinal knowledge, but also for politico-religious ideologies that are selectively harnessed, and often exaggerated, to effect significant social and political changes in micro-locales. While local conflicts are over-determined by the evocation of transnational links, they also reflect, even if only through rhetorical and partial reproduction, doctrinal and politico-religious schisms among Shi‘i leaders in West Asia. This is illustrated by an ethnographic account of the activities undertaken and contestations provoked by the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust in Kargil, a modernist reform movement that has selectively appropriated Khomeini's revolutionary ideologies to instigate social change and shape local politics and religious practice in Kargil.
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