Working paper / Reformist Writing in Islam in 19th-Century Kerala

Ashraf, Muhammed Niyas. ‘Islamic Reformism and Malayali Ummah in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Kerala, South West Indian Ocean’. SASNET Publications. Lund: SASNET – Swedish South Asian Studies Network, 2020.

Abstract (edited): This paper offers a social history of the relationship between Islamic reform and Malayali Muslims in the context of colonial Kerala. Kerala Muslims are one of the largest Muslim communities in India, and a majority are the descendants of Arab traders and local women, or of local converts known as Mappilas.

This article relates the reformist agenda in the writings of Sayyid Sana’ullah Makti Tannal (1847-1912), who argued for a reinterpretation of Islamic principle based on scriptural purity and return to pristine Islam. Makti Tannal believed direct access to, and proper understanding of, the Quran and the Hadith would distance Muslims from accretions to Islam that he thought of as impure. Invoking the distinction of ‘haramand halal’ as the cornerstone of Islamic law, he argued against the legitimacy of un-Islamic elements of popular Islam.

These efforts took place in late nineteenth-century Kerala, and had a huge impact on the socio-religious landscape, particularly on the inevitability and imminence of Islamic reform in the colonial era. Furthermore, this paper highlights how Makti advocated textually defined Islamic codes of practice to safeguard ‘Muslimness’ and shape a new vision of a moral community for Malayali Muslims.

Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup


Subscribe KSM on Telegram here

Working Paper / Comparing Asset Accumulation Among International and Internal Kerala Migrants

Seshan, Ganesh. ‘Migration and Asset Accumulation in South India: Comparing Gains to Internal and International Migration from Kerala’. Policy Research Working Paper 9237. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2020.

Abstract (edited): This study examines the asset gains to households in Kerala from two types of labour migration: moving overseas versus moving within India for employment. It draws on panel data from waves of a representative household survey conducted in 1998 and 2003. Migrant households as a whole experienced higher asset gains than non-migrant families over this five-year period.

Contrary to theoretical expectations, asset gains were similar for households with an overseas migrant and those with a domestic migrant. Although less educated individuals tend to venture overseas, a wage premium over non-migrants enables them to earn as much in low-skill jobs abroad as more educated workers relocating within India.

More info and full text:

Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup

Subscribe KSM on Telegram here

Working paper / MGNREGS: Political Economy, Local Governance, and Asset Creation in South India

List Editor Ashok R Chandran21/12/2016

Vinoj Abraham (2016, September). MGNREGS: Political Economy, Local Governance and Asset Creation in South India. (CDS Working Paper No. 471). Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies.

Abstract: MGNREGS, the premier centrally-sponsored national rural livelihood scheme, is one of the most elaborately designed and implemented public workfare programmes in India.

While a large number of studies have analysed the progress of employment creation under the scheme, very few have looked into the equally important issue of rural asset creation under the scheme.

The scheme is centrally sponsored and the broad guidelines are centrally designed, yet the interpretation and implementation of the scheme are subject to wide regional variation owing to variations in local level governance capacity, governance structure and regional political economy.

Evidence based on a primary survey across the four southern states, viz., Andhra Pradesh (erstwhile), Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala shows that the design of the scheme for asset creation is subject to considerably varied interpretations at the regional and sub-regional levels anchored on the above factors.

Further, the type of projects selected and created, extent and nature of expenditure incurred, quality of assets created, and maintenance of assets were considerably affected by the structures of local governance, the interaction between the political class and the local governments, and the local manifestations of class-caste dynamics.

Full text (free download): <>

V. Sriram
Chief Librarian, KN Raj Library, Centre for Development Studies,

Working Paper / Religious Denominations of Kerala

List Editor Ashok R Chandran13/05/2016

K. C. Zachariah. (2016, April). Religious Denominations of Kerala. (CDS Working Paper No. 468). Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies.


This paper discusses the demographic and socio-economic profile of religious communities (castes among the Hindus, sects among the Muslims and denominations among the Christians) in Kerala’s three major religions — Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Such data are not presently available from other sources such as the population censuses.

The practice of collecting “caste” data was discontinued in the Indian censuses ever since India became independent in 1947. This study, based mainly on data from the Kerala Migration Surveys, is an attempt to fill this void for recent years.

It gives information on the size of the communities (population), trends, major demographic characteristics, selected socio-economic characteristics such as education, employment, migration and remittances, and several indices of the economic status at the household level. Lack of credible “caste” data to tell us who deserves preferential treatment could be the main cause that prompts some communities to make unreasonable demands for reservation.

Analysis of the long-term trends in population of the three religious groups indicates that the Hindus who were more than two-thirds of the state’s population in the beginning of the last century, could be less than 50 per cent of the state’s population by the middle of the present century. On the other hand, by then, the Muslims who were fewer than the Christians during much of the last century, could become more than double the Christian population and exceed one-third of the state’s population. However, the Muslims are unlikely to overtake the Hindus in the matter of population size as their fertility rate would also dip to below-replacement-level in the span of 10 to 15 years.

Although the population of all the three religious groups had increased during 2001-2011 at the state level, in 4 out of the 14 districts and 26 out of the 63 taluks, the number of Christians is seen to have decreased. Similarly, in 3 of the districts and 16 of the taluks, the number of Hindus decreased. There were decreases even among the Muslims in one district and 7 taluks. These statistics give sufficient indication that some of the communities among the religious groups could have decreased during 2001-2011.

The analysis of this study confirms that this conclusion is correct. It showed that, during 2001-2011 while the proportions of the larger communities among the three religious groups (the Sunnis among the Muslims, the Ezhavas among the Hindus, and the Syro-Malabar Catholics among the Christians) in the population of the state have increased, the corresponding proportions of the smaller ones, the non-Catholic Episcopal Syrian Christian denominations (the Jacobites, the Orthodox, and the Mar Thoma Syrians), the Nairs, and Shia Muslims have decreased and are likely to continue their decreasing trend.

Surprisingly, the Syro Malankara community, although part of the Catholic group, has followed the path of the non-Catholic Syrian group from whom they separated themselves some 85 years ago. In recent years, the non-Catholic Episcopal Syrian Christian denominations have been at the top of the socio-economic ladder of the state, but the emerging differential population growth path of these communities, which entails an increasing load of old-age dependents, could have considerable adverse impacts on their relative role in the emerging political economy of the state.

According to the earlier Kerala Migration Surveys, the Mar Thoma Syrian Community was at the top with respect to most of the socio-economic indicators, but by 2014, they have lost their top spot to the other Syrian Christian communities. It is only a matter of time before these communities also pass on their high ranking to other religious communities. This is transition in the demographic dividend.

Full text (OA): <>


V. Sriram
Chief Librarian, KN Raj Library, Centre for Development Studies,

Occasional Paper / Social Classes and Participation in Local Planning in Kerala

List Editor Ashok R Chandran05/04/2016

P. Mohanan Pillai and C. Prakash. (2016, February). Social classes and participation in local planning in Kerala: A micro level study (Research Unit on Local Self Governments Occasional Paper No. 2016:1). Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies.

All Working/Occasional/Discussion papers of the Centre for Development Studies and its research units are peer reviewed.

Abstract: The people’s participation in the decentralised planning process at the panchayat level is witnessing a steady decline in the State. What is significant is that the participation comes only from the poor and the lower middle class people. The growing tendency of the middle classes and the relatively better off sections of the people to keep away from participation in the grama sabha meetings is obvious. With increasing levels of education and affluence their lack of interest for participation was also found rising. It appears that the educated and the articulate middle class, which is expected to contribute significantly to the planning process, is increasingly giving up its social role. It is the poor and the lower sections of the middle class who appreciate the empowering potential of the grama sabha. They are also found holding a more serious attitude towards political and democratic causes as judged from their involvement in various social activities. The growing environment of neo-liberal policies is a disincentive for the privileged sections of the middle classes who benefit from such policies to join collective social action. This at least partially explains the lower participation levels of the middle classes in social and political activities. However, the declining participation is not exclusively the result of class behaviour. There are inherent problems in the methodology of planning which needs to be addressed to ensure better administrative co-ordination and co-operation in decentralised planning

Full text (OA):

V. Sriram
Chief Librarian, KN Raj Library, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram

Working papers / Oral Histories of a Slum and a Fishing Hamlet in Thiruvananthapuram

List Editor Ashok R Chandran 28/03/2014

From: List Editor

The following working papers were published online last month, by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram.

J. Devika, 2013. ‘Land, Politics, Work and Home-Life in a City Slum: Reconstructing History from Oral Narratives’, CDS Working Paper Series, WP 454

Abstract: This paper is a limited attempt at sketching the history of a prominent slum in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, using mainly the memories of residents collected as oral narratives. It stops  in the mid-90s, when decentralisation and women’s self-help-groups began a new phase of social change. It focuses mainly on changing vicissitudes of land, politics, work and domestic life in this urban slum to reflect on the specific form of marginalisation that the residents of this pocket of extreme disadvantage have suffered since its earliest days, in the mid-20th century, which I refer to as ‘marginalisation by abjection’. It also examines the usefulness of widely-used concepts such as ‘political society’ to make sense of politics there, and concludes by cautioning against the perfunctory use of concepts such as political society and clientilism.

J. Devika. 2014. ‘Land, Politics, Work and Home-Life at Adimalathura: Towards a Local History’, CDS Working Paper Series, WP 455

Abstract: This paper focuses on the fishing hamlet of Adimalathura located on the coast of the Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala, which has been identified as an area of extreme developmental disadvantage. Without claiming to be a full-fledged local history, it seeks to construct, through the memories of selected local residents, a coherent narrative of the past which would help us contextualise the present in this site. Tracing the intertwined trajectories of land, politics, development, and home-life at Adimalathura through in-depth interviews with local residents, it reflects upon the ‘multiple governmentalities’, that of the Catholic Church and the State, that have shaped everyday life in this hamlet. It is argued that the specific form of marginalisation experienced by the people here is that of dispossession. Of particular  interest is the shaping of an ‘oppositional civil society’ here in the late-20th century, which challenged this dispossession, but which is now being reshaped into a more non-oppositional ‘state-centric’ civil society.