Last Updated: June 2023 (Communalism)
Table of Contents
This article deals with ‘Communalism’ . This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.
Communalism can be defined as allegiance to one’s own ethnic/religious group rather than wider society. Although it is exclusive in outlook, a communalist considers his religion superior to other religions.
Stages of Communalism
Communalism is manifested at three levels
|When people belonging to the same community believe that they have the same secular interest.
|When people belonging to different communities believe that they have different secular interests.
|When people believe that they not only have different interests but mutually antagonistic and hostile interests (i.e. one community can prosper only at the cost of another community).
Note: Communalism is an ideological tool often used by the upper class to mobilize people to achieve their own political goals.
6 Types of Communalism
Often there is a perception in the society that communalism is a threat to national security. But, it is not a threat to national security per se. It depends upon the type of communalism we are looking at.
According to Sociologists, there are 6 types of Communalism.
- When a large religious community tries to bring into its fold small communities.
- E.g., Hindu organizations projecting Tribals as Hindus.
- When a religious community makes an effort for the welfare of the members of that community.
- E.g., Christian organizations doing welfare work for Christians.
- When the religious community forbid their members from participating in political affairs.
- E.g., Bahi Community.
- When members of the religious communities are made to believe that their interests are mutually antagonist to the interests of other religious communities.
- E.g., the Hindu-Muslim community.
- When people demand a separate state based on religious identities within the federal framework.
- E.g., Punjabi Suba Movement by Punjabi Sikhs.
- When people demand secession based on religious identities.
- E.g., Khalistan Movement.
The last three threaten national integration, but the first three aren’t. Hence, we cant say communalism is always a threat to national integration.
Characteristics of Communalism
- Communalism is an ideological concept.
- It is a total commitment to a set of beliefs & unwillingness to accept other beliefs.
- It mostly rests on prejudices.
- It closes the self and is highly emotional.
- It causes rivalry and violence among the masses.
- The higher class people and elites use it 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 British rule.
- With the emergence of secular education, a 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 the largest pie for their community.
- In India, socio-economic classes coincided with religious distinctions. E.g.,
- Hindu Zamindars vs Muslim peasants in Bengal, Kerala etc.
- Hindu Banias vs Muslim (Jatt) Peasants in Punjab.
- Divide and Rule Policy of Britishers: To counter the growing national movement.
However, the overthrow of the 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 the post-independence period, the Government failed to control communalism. After independence, communalism persisted and has been the biggest threat to the secular fabric of our nation. As a result, the following communal violence outbreaks happened in India:-
- Anti-Sikh riots of 1984
- Mass killing and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley (1989)
- Riots after Babri Masjid demolition (1992)
- Godhra riots of 2002
- Assam violence between Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims (2012)
- Muzzafarnagar riots (2013)
- Delhi riots (2020)
Causes of Communalism
Failing of Minorities to integrate into mainstream
- Muslims failed to intermix in the national mainstream and insisted on sustaining a separate identity.
Vote Bank Politics
- Various religion base parties use communalism to consolidate their vote banks.
Communal way of history writing
- British historians like James Mill described the ancient period as the Hindu period and the medieval period as the Muslim period.
- If a certain religious community is economically weak, it leads to the feeling of relative deprivation and leads to the rise of communalism.
Absence of Uniform Civil Code
- In the absence of a Uniform civil code, there is a perception that all communities have divergent and contradictory interests.
- Hindu groups consider Muslims are crusaders, fundamentalists and unpatriotic.
- On the other hand, the Muslims believe that they are treated as inferior in India.
Politics of Appeasement
- Political parties try to appease communities for votes epitomized by Shah Bano Case. This promote Communalism.
Provocation of Enemy Countries
- E.g., Pakistan fosters Communal feelings, especially in Kashmiri Muslim Youth.
- Issues like beef consumption, Hindi/Urdu imposition, conversion efforts by groups etc., further created a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims.
Present issues related to Communalism
- Ultra Right Hindu outfits allege that organized conspiracy is going on under which Muslim males marry Hindu females with the sole purpose to convert them into Islam.
- Although the term ‘love jihad’ has no legal basis, states like UP, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh are planning to make a law against ‘love jihad’.
Problems in State Machinery to fight Communalism
- National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) fights for communal violence-related causes. But its 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) : Recommended to set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC).
- Ranganath Misra Commission: Recommended reservation for minorities.
- There is no specific act to deal with communal violence and targeted violence. It was also held in the Sajjan Kumar vs NCT of Delhi Case (2018) regarding communal riots against Sikhs of 1984.
- The role of police in communal riots is highly controversial. It is further aggravated by the large scale concentration of the dominant caste in the police.
Impact of Communalism
1. On Politics
- Organization of political parties on a communal basis.
- Voting in elections also happens on a communal basis.
- Large scale riots near elections to polarize voters.
2. On Society
- It has created a wide rift among the people.
- Hampers unity of the nation and creates various sub-national feelings.
- Curbing of Progressive voices. E.g. Voices for the abolition of Triple Talaq is being opposed.
3. On Economy
- The vandalization of public property like burning of buses, trains etc.
- Badly impacts the investor’s confidence.
Ways to eradicate Communalism
- Building solidarity and assimilation of various religious groups by fostering a secular culture, e.g. celebrating each other’s religious festivals.
- Swift and prompt response to radicalization by a militant group on social media through police action and psychological counselling.
- Ensuring that political parties refrain from using religion in order to h votes through strict vigilance by institutional mechanisms such as the Election Commission.
- The Parliament should frame stern laws against communal violence.
- CBI or a special investigative body should investigate communal riots within a stipulated time frame. Further, special courts should hear such cases for quick delivery of justice to victims.
- A pluralistic settlement where members of different communities live should be encouraged by removing existing barriers as religious segregation strengthens communal identities and reinforces negative stereotypes of other religious groups.
- Government should not ban minority practices in order to appease the majority group. E.g. the state should not show a preference for vegetarianism.
- Uniform Civil Code should be formulated and implemented with the consensus of all religious communities so that there is uniformity in personal laws.
- Equal Opportunities Commission should be formed.
- The state should show zero Tolerance toward riots.
- Promote the Indian ideology of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, i.e. the whole world is a family.