This article deals with topic titled ‘Communalism.’


Note : This is part of our series on Society for UPSC examination. For more articles , click here.



Definition of Communalism

Allegiance to ones own  ethnic/religious group  rather than  to wider society



Stages of Communalism

Communalism is manifested at three levels

Mild When people belonging to same community believe that they have same secular interest
Moderate When people belonging to different communities believe that they have different secular interests
Extreme When people believe that they not only have different interests but mutually antagonistc and hostile interests (one community can prosper only at the cost of other community)


Communalism is an ideological tool often used by upper class to mobilise people to achieve their own political goals 


6 types of Communalism

Often there is perception in the society that communalism is threat to National Security . But , it is not a threat to national security prima facie. It depends upon type of communalism which is present

  • When large religious community tries to bring into it’s fold small communities
  • Eg : Hindu organisation projecting Tribals as Hindus
  • When religious community makes effort for welfare of the members of that community
  • Eg : Christian organisations doing welfare work for Christians
  • When the religious community forbid their members from participating in political affairs
  • Eg : Bahi Community
  • When members of the religious communities are made to believe that their interests are mutually antagonist to interests of other religious communities
  • Eg : Hindu-Muslim community
  • When based on religious identities , people demand a separate state within the federal framework
  • Eg : Punjabi Suba
  • When based on religious identities , people demand secession
  • Eg : Khalistan

Last three are threat to national integration but first three arent . Hence, we cant say communalism is always threat to national integration.



Characteristics of Communalism

  • Communalism is an ideological concept. 
  • It is total commitment to a set of beliefs & unwillingness to accept other beliefs 
  • It mostly rests on prejudices.
  • It close the self and is highly emotional
  • It causes rivalry and violence among masses.
  • It is used by the higher class people and elites as an instrument for division and exploitation.
  • It strikes at the roots of secularism and national integration.


Evolution of Communalism in India

The genesis of  communalism in India can be traced back to the British rule

  • With the emergence of secular education,  new educated middle class emerged . But the aspirations  of the middle class were not getting satisfied in the absence of adequate economic opportunities. Communal Politics emerged to get largest pie .
  • Socio-economic classes coincided with religious distinctions. Eg :
        • Hindu Zamindars vs Muslim peasants in Bengal, Kerala etc
  • Divide and Rule Policy of Britishers : To counter the growing national movement


However, the overthrow of colonial state was only the necessary condition to fight the menace of communalism but not sufficient condition . There were other forces at play too. Even in post-independence period , Government failed to control communalism.


Causes of Communalism

Failing of Minorities to integrate in Mainstream

  • Muslims failed to intermix in the national mainstream and insist to sustain separate identity.


Vote Bank Politics

  • Various religion base parties use Communalism to consolidate their vote banks


Communal way of History writing

  • British historian like James Mill described ancient period  as the Hindu period and  medieval period as the Muslim period


Economic Causes

  • If certain religious community is economically weak => feeling of relative deprivation => rise of communalism


Absence of Uniform Code

  • In absence of Uniform civil code, there is  perception that all communities have divergent and contradictory interests.


Psychological factors

  • Hindu groups consider that the Muslims are crusaders , fundamentalists and unpatriotic.
  • On the other hand, the Muslims believe that they are  treated as inferior group in India .


Politics of Appeasement

  • Political parties try to appease communities for votes. Eg : Shah Bano Case . This promote Communalism


Provocation of Enemy Countries

  • Eg : Pakistan foster Communal feelings especially in Kashmiri Muslim Youth




Problems in State Machinery to fight Communalism

  • National human rights commission (NHRC)  fights for  communal violence related causes . But it’s recommendations are advisory in nature
  • Various commissions have given suggestions to  solve the issue of communal violence. Prominent among them are SACHAR COMMITTEE  and RANGANATH MISHRA COMMISSION.
        • Sachar committee (2010) : set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC) 
        • Ranganath Misra Commission : recommended reservation for minorities
  • No Special Act dealing with Communal Violence and targetted violence. It was also held in Sajjan Kumar vs State (2018)
  • Role of police in communal riots is highly controversial. This is further aggravated by large scale concentration of dominant caste in police .


Impact of Communalism

On Politics
  • Organisation of Political parties on Communal Basis
  • Voting on Communal Basis
  • Large scale riots  near elections to polarize votes


On Society
  • Created wide rift among the people
  • Hampers unity of nation and creates various sub-national feelings
  • Curbing of Progressive voices . Eg Voices for abolition of Triple Talaq is being opposed 


On Economy
  • Vandalisation of public property like burning of buses, trains etc
  • Badly impacts the investors confidence





Ways to eradicate Communalism:

  • Balanced and job intensive economic development
  • Interreligious marriage
  • Equal Opportunities commission  should be formed .
  • Going towards Uniform civil code
  • Zero Tolerance toward riots .
  • Avoid communalisation of politics.
  • Promote Indian ideology of Vasudeva Kutumbakam ie whole world is a family ie universal brotherhood.







Leave a Comment