South Asian scholars have long viewed communal competition in terms of majority-minority struggle, of Hindu versus Muslim, leading to the final partition of the British Raj into two antagonistic states. Punjab history offers a dramatic case of religious competitiveness between two minority communities, concerned more with their own sense of identity than with questions of power and dominance. Attempts among Punjabi Hindus to create a new, modernized and respectable religious tradition could not be contained within their community but inevitably altered existing relations with all other religions in Punjab, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian. As newly anglicized elites came into existence, they provided a growing class of alienated and marginal men. Unable to relate to the orthodox world around them, they sought to redefine that world, and in so doing created new ideological systems encompassing a reinterpretation of the past and present, plus a new vision of the future. Elaboration, defense, and dissemination of these ideologies produced both group consciousness and a heightened awareness of separation, of distance between those who accepted the new beliefs and all others. This process of identity reformation created in late nineteenth century Punjab a period of intense dynamism, of ideological and religious conflict amidst an increasingly polemical atmosphere, as each group within a given religious community, Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim, sought to project its own concepts and in the process struggled with others within their own community and beyond. This process of questioning, and its resultant answers permanently altered relations among Punjabi religious communities and, at a more fundamental level, the conceptualizations undergirding many of the groups within them.

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