Conquest of India
Early Resistance to British Rule
Nationalism in India
Indian Freedom Struggle Under Gandhiji
Social Reforms in British India
Partition of India
Other Important Topics

36. The Evil of Communalism

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.

Communalist 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.

1. 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 practice politics by linking it with religion is communal. Hence we can define communalism as “political trade in religion”.

2. Elements of Communalism

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

Mild: It is the belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests i.e. common political, social and cultural interests.

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

Extreme: Interests of different religious communities seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile.

3. Features of Communalism

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

4. 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, 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 The India, 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:

The British historians projected ancient India as being ruled by Hindus and the Medieval period as the period of Muslims rule when Hindus were exploited and treated. 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.

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