Communalism is an integral part of Indian history and existed before Indian independence. However, it emerged aggressively with modern politics in India fueled by British colonialism. There are various instances where Communalism is used to gain political advantage or create communal unrest.
Communalism – Definition and its Types
Communalism can be defined as an attempt to create separate religious or ethnic identities, incite conflict among people who identify as members of different communities, and encourage violence among these groups. It usually results from historical events like religious differences and communal tensions. In countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, Communalism is a major social issue.
Communal disputes between religious groups in India, particularly between Hindus and Muslims, have existed since the British colonial period, with severe inter-communal violence occurring occasionally. Communalism can be subdivided into three types –
Social Communalism occurs due to people’s belief systems dividing them into various groups, and causing them to compete with one another on occasions. India has suffered greatly due to such a social order. For example, the attack on Kashmiri Pandits in the year 1989 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 were some of the most violent events of social Communalism in Indian history.
Economic Communalism is defined as the difference in financial interests between communities that further leads to clashes in society. For instance, the divide between the rich and poor has created wealth gaps in societies. As such, the wealthier members of society continue to grow, while the less fortunate cannot afford basic amenities.
Leaders often encourage the idea of community divisions implicitly, in the political sphere. As a result, political Communalism emerges, wherein various groups of people are divided along political lines and ideologies. The political ideas of the left and right-wing are examples of such Communalism.
Communalism in India
Communalism in India emerged due to the rapid growth of modern politics since British colonialism. This created a social divide among the citizens of India based on their religion, political leanings or economic standings. Here are some of the factors that aided in the growth of Communalism in India.
Factors behind the growth of Communalism in India
British Colonialism and the “Divide and Rule” policy.
Disappointment and discontentment among the aspiring middle-class youth exploited by political opportunists. This was caused by a stagnant agricultural economy, the lack of modern industrial development, and insufficient employment opportunities.
Revivalist movements in Hinduism and Islam.
The rise and growth of sentiments among the masses were aided by a communal and twisted view of Indian history taught in schools and colleges.
Isolation and segregation among Muslims.
Communal and fundamentalist sides on the rise.
Factors behind communal violence
The communal ideology has been fueled by the resurgence of Hindu-Muslim economic competition, particularly among the lower and middle classes.
Social media has also proven to be an effective tool for disseminating information about communal tensions or riots in any region of the country.
Communal Riots in the Past – The likelihood of communal riots occurring again in a town where violence has occurred once or twice is higher than in a town where such riots have never taken place.
Muslim Community Isolation and Economic Underdevelopment – Muslims have experienced a sense of relative deprivation as a result of the failure to adopt scientific and technological learning and, as a result, face insufficient recognition in public service, industry, and trade, amongst other sectors.
Administrative Failure – One of the causes of communal violence is the lack of law and order. The media is frequently accused of biased reporting, and for disseminating rumours as “news”. This has resulted in an increased tension between rival religious groups.
Psychological Factors – The lack of trust between two communities frequently results in one’s perception of threat, bullying, fear, and danger toward representatives of other communities. This further leads to fighting, hatred, and phobias to grow.
Dividend Politics – Communalism is frequently defined as a political ideology that exploits religious and cultural contrasts for political gain.
Politics of Appeasement – Political parties make decisions that promote communal tensions, prompted by political factors and guided by their special interests.
Economic factors – Insecurity in the common man is exacerbated by regional disparities, class divisions, poverty, and unemployment, leaving them prone to political meddling.
Communalism has taken a toll on Indian citizens and has affected a lot of families directly and indirectly. The communal issue should be handled with dialogue and understanding. Steps should be taken with the help of cultural exchange programs which promote togetherness. The advent of globalisation has also brought the world closer and aided in reducing Communalism in various countries including India.