This book offers an overview of the history and development of civil society in three major nations of South Asia – Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – from colonial times to the present. It examines the liberalization of civil society since the 1980s, the needs it created for civil action, the professionalization of civil society organizations, and the extent to which civil society may benefit society at large in the context of local, national and global transformations in the economy, political regime and ideology.

The reader will find new insights on the interaction between the liberalization of multifaceted civil societies in the three countries, presenting contrasts such as restrictions put on women’s organizations or labour unions and acceptance of religious organizations’ activities. The volume looks at forms of transfer of civil society models, representation and democratic legitimacy of civil society organizations such as nongovernmental organizations, government organized NGOs and faith-based organizations, along with the structuring of civil society through legal frames as well as female, religious, and ethnic mobilizations around language and literature. Using wide-ranging empirical data and theoretical analyses, it deals with civil society issues relating to human rights and political challenges, justice, inequality, empowerment, and the role of bureaucracy, women’s movements, and ethnic and linguistic minorities. It also presents early responses to the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 which created significant pressure on the states and on civil society.

This book will be useful to scholars and researchers of political studies, development studies, sociology, public policy and governance, law and human rights, as also to professionals in think tanks, civil society activists and NGOs.

chapter 1|17 pages

Dissemination of civil society in South Asia

Introductory considerations

part I|78 pages

Multifaceted and local civil societies in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

part II|136 pages

Civil society’s multiple hues and roles

chapter 6|28 pages

Thieves and khojis in a non-state, collectivist system of justice under transformation *

An example from a village of Southern Punjab, Pakistan

chapter 7|20 pages

Dilemmas facing civil society institutions in Pakistan

A case for organized labour

chapter 9|16 pages

Entertaining the possibility of society’s radical transformation *

A personal view of Women Front (1974–1976)

chapter 10|26 pages

The Women’s Action Forum, Pakistan

Ideology and functioning

part III|60 pages

Civil mobilization among ethnic and linguistic minorities

chapter 15|20 pages

Santals *

Language, lyricism, emotions and identity