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  • Communalism is a political philosophy, which proposes that market and money be abolished and that land and enterprises to be placed in the custody of community. But in the Indian sub-continent context, communalism has come to be associated  with tensions and clashes between different religious communities in various regions.
  • The religious identity plays a major role in people who are practising communalism.
  • Communalism also means that people from one group of a religion treat people from other religion with hatred and contempt
  • The extreme form of communalism leads to violence between two communities. The problem of communal violence is widespread in India. For Example, the violence between Hindus and Muslims

Types Of Communalism

  • Political Communalism: To survive in the sphere of politics, leaders tend to implicitly promote the idea of divisions among the communities. This gives rise to political communalism where different sets of people are divided into political lines and ideologies
  • Social Communalism: When the societies’ beliefs divide these into different groups and lead to rivalry among each other, it further leads to Social Communalism
  • Economic Communalism: The difference in economic interests of the groups of people or communities, leading t further clashes in the society, can be termed as Economic Communalism

Dimensions Of Communalism

  • Assimilationist:K Ooman describes it as a dimension where a small religious group or groups are integrated or assimilated into a larger religious groups
  • Welfarist: When a community works for the welfare or betterment of a particular community, it leads to welfarist communalism
  • Retreatist: When a community proscribes its members to participate in the politics or abstain from politics, it leads to retreatist communalism
  • Retaliatory: When, in rivalry, one community harms or injures people of other community, it is termed as retaliatory communalism
  • Separatist: When the demand of a separate identity surfaces or a group of people demand separation from a larger group, it is termed a separatist communalism
  • Secessionist: To have a separate political identity, a group of people can demand secession from a state or a nation, that often leads to secessionist communalism

Characteristics Of Communalism In India | COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA

  • Many of the communal riots take place on the occasion of religious festivals
  • Economic interests plays a major role in communal clashes
  • Communal riots are more politically motivated. The Madan Commission which looked into communal disturbances in Maharashtra in May 1970 had found the same
  • Communal riots seem to be more com­mon in North India than in South and East India
  • The use of deadly weapons in the riots is on the rise
  • Communal riots are more common in Urban areas than rural areas
  • The possibility of recurrence of communal riots in a town where communal riots have al­ready taken place once or twice is stronger than in a town in which riots have never occurred

Secularism in India

  • Secularism is the first and foremost doctrine that opposes all forms of inter- religious domination.
  • The term “Secular” means being “separate” from religion, or having no religious basis.
  • The Indian Constitution stands for a secular state. The meaning of a secular state is that it does not prioritize any one religion for the country and its people. Secularism calls for a doctrine where all religions are given equal status, recognition and support from the state or it can also be defined as a doctrine that promotes separation of state from religion.
  • Secularism means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion being treated as a purely personal matter.
  • It emphasized dissociation of the state from religion and full freedom to all religions and tolerance of all religions.
  • It also stands for equal opportunities for followers of all religions, and no discrimination and partiality on grounds of religion.


Historical Background | COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA

  • During the time of ancient India, there was the feeling of unity and no such communal bifercations were present. Ancient India was predominantly a Hindu society. During this phase Buddhism and Jainism originated as a protest movement towards Brahmin religious practices like cow sacrifice, social inequality etc. but there was no hatred or violence. These religions prescribed peace and harmony and hence the unity of the country was maintained
  • During the Medieval time, India witnessed the arrival of Islam and had majorly Muslim kings. They brought in art, culture and other traditions of Islam. Occasional occurrences of violence were present. For Example, Mahmud Ghazni’s destruction of Hindu temples and Mahmud of Ghor’s attack on Hindus, Buddhists, Jains. There has been a broad tolerance towards the religious practices of one community towards another and the people of all religions coexisted with peace and harmony.
  • The British government adopted a policy of Divide and Rule.  It means using one community against another for political gains. This was particularly with respect to Hindus and Muslims. This resulted in hatred between the two communities which eventually resulted in a demand for a separate Pakistan and resulted in Partition in 1947

Escalation of Indian communalism

  • Rise of nationalists: Rise of nationalist Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc.can be considered as first step towards communalism in India. Origins of this initiated in later part of 19th century with Hindu revivalist movement like Shuddhi movement of Arya Samaj and cow protection riots of 1892. Correspondingly, Muslim movement like Faraizi movement started by Haji Shariatullah in Bengal to bring the Bengali Muslims back on the true path of Islam, was another religious reform movement which had bearing on communalism in 19th century. Later people like Syed Ahmed Khan, who despite of having scientific and rational approach, projected Indian Muslims as a separate community (qaum).
  • Rise of Liberal communalism: Liberal communalism believed in communal politics but liberal in democratic, humanist and nationalist values. It was basically before 1937. For example organisations like Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League and personalities like M.A. Jinnah, M M Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai after 1920s.
  • Extreme Communalism: The rise of Extreme Communalism had a fascist syndrome. It demanded for separate nation, based on fear and hatred. There was tendency to use violence of language, deed and behaviour. For example Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha after 1937. It spread as a by-product of colonialism, economic stagnations and absence of modern institutions of education and health.
  • These factors caused competition and people started using nepotism (patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics), paying bribes to get job, etc. Short term benefits from communalism started giving validity to communal politics.

Factors Responsible For Communal Riots | COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA

  • Economic Causes:
    • Muslims are educationally and economically backward
    • Their backwardness has been officially approved by the Rajinder Sachar Committee
    • Muslims are mostly concentrated in the urban areas and most of them are self employed and they constitute the urban middle class
  • Social and Cultural Causes:
    • Differences in rituals and practices between the two religions vary significantly
    • The Hindus treat cow as sacred while for muslims consuming beef is a traditional culinary preference. The Intolerance Debate in India is related to this.
    • The Hindu religion is polytheistic (i.e, many gods and deities) whereas the Islam is monotheistic (ie., One god)
    • Idolatry and image worship  (i.e, the worship of idols and photos of gods ) is practiced by Hindus whereas Islam condemns both the practices
  • Psychological Causes:
    • The Hindus in India constitute the majority of the population (more than 80%). Muslims belong to a minority and as a result they develop a complex of the following
    • A feeling of deprivation for not belonging to a majority community
    • A feeling of fear and insecurity
    • A feeling of status frustration due to their economic backwardness
    • A feeling of exclusion (this arises because there is no easy bonding and friendship between the two communities)
    • For Example, there has been reports of landlords belonging to Hindu community not willing to rent his/her residence to muslims. This happens the other way around as well.
  • Political Causes:
    • The most important cause of communal clashes lies in the political interests of the leaders of the two communities. The politicians who encourage communalism for vested interests are called communal persons
    • Vote bank politics and appeal to religious communities based for votes by political parties is also prevalent

Examples Of Communal Violence In India | COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA

  • Partition of India,1947: After partition, millions of population were forced to move from both sides of the border. Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were killed in masses, women were raped, and many children lost their parents. There was hatred everywhere, violence didn’t see anything except bloodshed. Later, it turned in the problem of refugees and their rehabilitation became one of the biggest challenge for independent India.
  • Anti-Sikh riots, 1984: This is one of the bloodshed in India, where Sikhs in large number were massacred by anti- Sikh mob. This massacre took place in response to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by his own Sikh body Guard in response to her actions authorising the military operation.
  • Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindu Pundits in 1989: Kashmir is known as the heaven of India and was known for its Kashmiryat, i.e. the reflection of love, peace and harmony through brotherhood and unity of Hindu, Muslims and other communities living together. But, the brotherhood saw a serious blow due to Extremist Islamic terrorism in the Kashmir valley, which led to mass killing and large scale exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from the valley to the various regions and corners of the India, giving them the status of refugee in their own country. Since then, the valley is under the grip of communal violence and the ongoing unrest has become a problem for the development of the people.
  • Babri masjid demolition in Ayodhya, 1992: According to Hindu mythology, Ayodhaya is birth place of Lord Rama and therefore it is sacred place for Hindu religion. But in medieval period Mughal general Mir Baqi, built a mosque, named after Mughal ruler Babur. There were disputes since then and riots also took place. But in 1990, due to some political mobilisation, there was atmosphere of protest by Hindu religious groups and in large scale “kar sevak” visited Ayodhya from all parts of India, in support of demolishing Babri masjid and building Ram temple there. These movements caused huge amount of bloodshed and since then it is a disputed matter.
  • Godhra incident in 2002: After this, violence was followed by the Godhra incident in 2002, when “kar sevak” returning from Ayodhya in a Sabarmati Express were killed by fire in the coaches of train. This act was followed by the extended communal violence in Gujarat. That violence is like black spot in the history of the Gujarat and nation too, as people were killed without any mercy. Hindu and Muslim community became antagonist to each other. Till now people are fighting for justice in Supreme Court, with a ray hope from the Indian Judiciary.
  • Assam Communal violence,2012: North eastern states are known for its distinguished tribal population & ethnic diversity and large scale Bangladeshi immigration has changed the demography of North eastern states, which often becomes reason for clashes. In 2012, there were ethnic clashes between Bodos (Tribal, Christian & Hindu faith) and Muslims. Ethnic tensions between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims escalated into a riot in Kokrajhar in July 2012, when unidentified miscreants killed four Bodo youths at Joypur.
  • Muzaffarnagar violence, 2013: The cause of this ethnic clash between Jat and Muslim community is very much disputed and has many versions. According to few, it was started after some suspicious post on Social media platform Facebook. According to some, it was escalated after the eve teasing case in Shamli. Let the reasons be unknown, but what matters is, the nature and scale of loss to the country with respect to human resource and peace.

Effects of Communalism | COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA

  • Consequences of communalism are well known to all of us. With mass killings, the real sufferers are the poor, who lose their house, their near and dear ones, their lives, their livelihood, etc. It violates the human rights from all direction. Sometimes children lose their parents and will become orphan for a lifetime.
  • Ghettoization and refugee problem are other dimensions of communalism induced violence, whether its inter country or intra country. Sudden increase in violence against any particular community causes mass exodus and stampede which in turn kills many number of people
  • Apart from having effect on the society, it is also a threat to Indian constitutional values, which promotes secularism and religious tolerance. In that case, citizens don’t fulfil their fundamental duties towards the nation. It becomes a threat for the unity and integrity of the nation as a whole. It promotes only the feeling of hatred in all directions, dividing the society on communal lines.
  • Other than these, minorities are viewed with suspicion by all, including state authorities like police, para military forces, army, intelligence agencies, etc. There have been many instances when people from such community have been harassed and detained and finally have been released by court orders guilt free. For this, there is no provision for compensation of such victims, about their livelihood incomes forgone, against social stigmas and emotional trauma of the families.

Government’s approach

  • National human rights commission (NHRC) in India fights for the causes of rights of the victims, but its recommendations are advisory in nature, which doesn’t gives significant outcome.

From time to time, respective governments have constituted various committees, to give recommendations to solve the issue of communal violence. Prominent among them are SACHAR COMMITTEE, NANAVATI COMMITTEE and RANGANATH MISHRA COMMISSION.

  • The Nanavati-Mehta commission, set up by Gujarat government in 2002 to enquire about Gujarat violence.
  • Sachar committee, appointed in 2005, recommended to set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC) in 2010. EOC was to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for all individual cases of discriminations- religion, caste, gender & physical ability among others.
  • The Ranganath Misra Commission was entrusted by the Government of India to suggest practical measures for the upliftment of the socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities and to include the modalities of implementation for the same. The report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Chief Justice of India Rangnath Mishra, says that 10% should be reserved for Muslims and five% for other minorities in central and state government jobs in all cadre and grades.


  • Poverty is one of the major factors for communal violence. Poverty alleviation measures are thus important for promoting communal harmony. Reducing educational and economic backwardness of muslims. This can uplift their socio economic status and reduce their deprivation compared to Hindus
  • Children in schools must be taught through textbooks and pamphlets to maintain brotherhood and respect for all religions. Creating awareness in the society about the ill effects of communism through mass media
  • Political communism should be avoided recent Supreme court’s directives. Identification and mapping of riot prone areas. For Example, Delhi police used drones to monitor to maintain vigil during communal festivals.
  • Mass media’s should take excessive care when publishing communally sensitive news that has the potential to induce violence
  • Recommendations of Committee on National Integration
  • Joint celebration of community festivals
  • Observing restraint by Hindus while taking processions before the mosques
  • Formation of peace and brotherhood communities at local level to prevent anti-social elements from engagin in communal riots
  • Respect for religious customs, rituals and practices


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