COMMUNALISM: Elements, Features, Factors, Evolution In India

COMMUNALISM: Elements, Features, Factors, Evolution In India

This article contains COMMUNALISM: Elements, Features, Factors, Evolution In India. This article is very useful for CSE Mains Examination and it will also develop your thoughts for Interview.

1. Introduction

India is a land of multiple faiths and religions leading often to violence and hatred among the people. Those who fan this religious violence do not consider religion as a moral order but use it as a means and weapon to pursue their political ambitions. Communalism essentially leads to violence as it is based on mutual religious hatred. This phenomenon leads to a distinction between a communal organization and a religious organization.

2. Definition of Communalism

Communalism, in the Indian context, is most commonly perceived-form as the phenomenon of religious differences between groups that often leads to tension and even rioting between them. In its not so violent manifestation, communalism amounts to discrimination against a religious group in matters such as employment or education

The causes of communal clashes as such are rarely religious in its fundamental character. In India, communalism arises when religion is used as a marker to highlight socio-economic disequilibrium between communities and as a force multiplier to demand concessions.

A man of religion is not communal, but a man who practices politics by linking it with religion is communal. Hence we can define communalism as “political trade in religion”.

3. Elements of Communalism

Communalism or communal ideology consists of three basic elements or stages- one following the other:

  1. Mild: It is the belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests i.e. common political, social and cultural interests.
  2. Moderate: In a multi-religious society like India, the secular interests of followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion
  3. Extreme: Interests of different religious communities are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile.

4. Features of Communalism

  1. Communalism is a multifaceted process based on orthodoxy and intolerance.
  2. Communalism also propagates the intense dislike of other religions.
  3. It stands for the elimination of other religions and its values.
  4. It adopts extremist tactics including use of violence against other people.
  5. And it is exclusive in outlook, a communalist considers his own religion to be superior to other religions.

You are reading COMMUNALISM: Elements, Features, Factors, Evolution In India.

5. Factors aiding Communalism in India

  • Political factors: British policy of divide and rule led them to focus on using religion to divide India. This culminated in separate electorates for Muslims, which was later given to Sikhs and Anglo Indians. Other political factors include religion-based politics, the partiality of political leaders towards their communities etc.
  • Economic factors: Communalism in India has its beginnings in the British policy of ‘divide and rule’. A prominent reason why this policy gained currency was that the Muslim middle class had lagged behind the Hindus in terms of education, which contributed to their low representation in government jobs. Due to lack of enough economic opportunities at that time, a government job was highly coveted by the middle classes. The demand for a separate nation of Pakistan got the fervour due to marked inequalities in socio-economic indicators including representation in the seats of power.
  • The Mappila Rebellion, the first so-called communal clash was also more of a proletarian strike against the landed gentry than a communal riot. It only so happened that the landed gentry were Hindus and the peasants were Muslims. In India, the politics of opportunism is the biggest cause of communalism driven by the middle/ upper class for secular gains and trusted by the lower sections that identify with the cause.
  • Historical factors: British historians projected ancient India as being ruled by Hindus and Medieval period as the period of Muslim rule when Hindus were exploited and threated. Some influential Indians too supported this projection.
  • Social factors: Issues like beef consumption, Hindi/Urdu imposition, conversion efforts by religious groups etc., further created a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims.

6. Evolution of Communalism in India:

6.1. Pre-Independence

Communal ideology in a person, party or movement went through the mentioned three stages and two phases (Liberal and Extremist) during the Indian National Movement and ultimately resulted in the bifurcation of India and creation of Pakistan.

 Liberal Phase:
  • Post-1857 revolt, the British preferred Hindus over Muslims in matters of employment, education etc. Muslim intellectuals too realized that Muslims lagged behind their Hindu counterparts in terms of education, government jobs etc. Eventually, Syed Ahmed Khan, a Muslim intellectual founded Aligarh College to fight the bias against modern education among Muslims. He also started numerous scientific societies in the 1860s, in which both Hindus and Muslims participated.
  • Communalism in India got its initial start in the 1880s when Syed Ahmed Khan opposed the national movement initiated by the Indian National Congress. He decided to support British causes and opposed the functioning of the Indian National Congress and deemed it a pro- Hindu party, which was against Muslim interests.
  • Eventually, prominent Muslims like Aga Khan, Nawab Moshin-ul-Mulk etc. founded the All India Muslim League, to consolidate Muslim interests. One of its major objectives was to keep the emerging intelligentsia among Muslims from joining the Congress.
  • Simultaneously, Hindu communalism was also being born. It manifested in Hindu leaders disseminating notions of tyrannical Muslim rule, espousing the language issue
    and giving it a communal twist. They declared Urdu to be the language of the Muslims and Hindi of Hindus. Further, anti-cow slaughter propagation was undertaken in the 1890s and it was primarily directed against Muslims.
  • Eventually, organizations like the Punjab Hindu Sabha (1909), All India Hindu Mahasabha (1st session in 1915), etc. were founded.
  • Revivalist movements like Arya Samaj, Shuddhi Movement (among Hindus), Wahabi Movement, Tanzeem and Tabligh movements(among Muslims) etc. gave further impetus to communalist tendencies.
  • This phase saw eventual communalization of leaders like Syed Ahmed Khan, Lala Lajpat Rai, M.A. Jinnah, Madan Mohan Malvia etc.
  • The British gave a momentum to the communalist divide through their administrative decisions and policies such as division of Bengal, Morley- Minto reforms (1909), Communal Award (1932) etc.
 Extremist Phase:
  • Post-1937, India witnessed extreme communalism based on the politics of fear, psychosis and irrationality. During this phase, the interests of Hindus and Muslims were deemed to be permanently in conflict.
  • Communalism acquired a popular base among urban lower middle-class groups and mass movements around aggressive, extremist communal politics emerged.
  • Communalism also became the only political recourse of colonial authorities and their policy of divide and rule.
  • During the period, M.A. Jinnah declared that ‘Muslims should organize themselves, stand united and should press every reasonable point for the protection of their community.’ He eventually stated that Muslims would be suppressed under the Hindu dominated Congress after the British left India and thus, the only recourse would be a separate state for Muslims i.e. creation of Pakistan.
  • Hindu communalism too did not lag behind. The Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), began propagating extreme communalism. They demanded that the non-Hindu groups of India adopt the Hindu culture and language and hold Hindu religion in reverence. They too espoused that Hindus and Muslims are two separate social and political entities with opposing interests. Consequences of Communalism: The manifestations of communal killings and disturbances resulted in Calcutta killings (1946) in which thousands lost their lives within a span of five days, butchery of Hindus at Naokhali in Bengal and Muslims in Bihar, the carnage of partition riots in various parts of India and the assassination of Gandhiji by a Hindu fanatic. Communalism also resulted in the division of India and creation of Pakistan.

You are reading COMMUNALISM: Elements, Features, Factors, Evolution In India.

6.2. Post-Independence

Colonialism is perceived as the prominent factor for the emergence of communalism in India. However, overthrowing of colonial rule proved to be only a necessary condition for fighting communalism, not sufficient. Because even post-independence, communalism persisted and has been the biggest threat to the secular fabric of our nation.

Reasons for persistence of communalism in the post-independence period
  1. Slow development of the economy
  2. Improper cultural synthesis
  3. Perceived or relative deprivation
  4. Regional or social imbalance in development
  5. Political mobilization in the age of democracy has led to the consolidation of communal sentiments.
Post-independence jcommunal violence outbreaks include the following
  1. Anti-Sikh riots (1984): Sikhs in large numbers were murdered by mobs post-assassination of the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi.
  2. The issue of Kashmiri Hindu pundits (1989): Spread of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Kashmir valley led to the mass killing and the large-scale exodus of Kashmiri pundits during 1989- 90. The region continues to be threatened by communal violence.
  3. Babri Masjid incident (1992): On December 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Kar sevaks demolished the 16th-century Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh claiming the site to be Ram Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Ram). This led to months of inter-communal rioting between the Hindus and Muslims resulting in deaths of hundreds of people.
  4. Godhra Riots (2002): In February 2002, four coaches of the Sabarmati Express were set on fire. The passengers, mostly Hindu pilgrims were returning from Ayodhya after a religious ceremony at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. Following the attacks, several Hindu groups declared state-wide bandh in Gujarat and started brutally attacking Muslim colonies. This went on for months post-Godhra incident, resulting in the death and displacement of thousands of Muslims.
  5. Assam violence (2012): There were frequent clashes between the Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims due to increased competition for livelihood, land and political power. In 2012, one such outbreak escalated into a riot in Kokhrajhar, when unidentified miscreants killed four Bodo youths at Joypur. This was followed by retaliatory attacks on local Muslims killing two and injuring several of them. Almost 80 people were killed, most of whom were Bengali Muslims and some Bodos. Approximately, 400,000 people were displaced to
    makeshift camps.
  6. Muzzafarnagar Riots (2013): The clashes between the Hindu Jats and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar, UP resulted in at least 62 deaths, injured 93 people and left more than 50,000 displaced. The riot has been described as “the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history”, with the army being deployed in the state for the first time in the last 20 years.
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