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Communalism in India


Communalism was an element of Indian history before Indian independence. It did, however, develop fiercely in India’s contemporary politics, driven by British colonization. The emergence and development of communalism have their unique histories. In reality, the British tactic of “divide and rule” included communalism, which may be dated back to the period before independence. Hindus and Muslims came together during India’s first war of independence [1857] to drive away British Empire. The British put an end to the movement and later began using the “divide and rule” strategy to incite Muslims against Hindus and vice versa. Communalism is employed in a variety of ways to obtain a political benefit or to cause community conflict.

India’s religious and cultural diversity inspires communalism as a political notion. It has been used as a political propaganda weapon to incite communal animosity and violence among communities based on religious and ethnic identity. It doesn’t take much intelligence to notice that communalism is rapidly increasing in India. Leaders connected to the current administration have called for the annihilation of Muslims; meanwhile, what are supposed to be more moderate voices on that side are raising a number of concerns that target Muslim daily life, such as their call to prayer, the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women, and the sale of Halal meat.

Attachment to a religious community does not constitute communalism. A person’s religiosity toward a community does not imply communalism. However, employing a religious community against other groups and the entire nation is communalism. In contemporary society, communalism is blind adherence to one’s own religious group. It is characterized as a weapon for or against mobilizing people through communal service appeals. Dogmatism and religious fanaticism are linked to communalism.

Factors behind Communalism prevalence in India

The Indian Constitution guarantees citizens several essential rights (i.e. individuals). In the case of minorities, however, the entire community has been granted fundamental rights under Articles 28, 29, and 30, which provide that they are free to administer their own educational institutions and have the right to preserve their own culture. However, these rights are employed above and beyond individual rights by personal law boards governed by their own community laws. As shown in the Shah Bano case.

There is also animosity toward such personal rules, and there is growing support for a uniform civil code, which is also referenced in Article 44 of the Indian constitution’s Directive principle for states. This will assist to bridge religious divides. In the lack of a uniform civil law, all communities are perceived to have conflicting and contradictory interests. As a result, community-based pressure organizations bargain on behalf of their own community. These communities struggle for power and resources at the political level. This competitiveness leads to huge wars. Politicians attempt to convert these communities into vote banks, and various communities become watertight compartments.

Since its independence, India has pursued the notion of nation-building based on secularism. Even after 68 years of freedom, India is still on fire from communalism. However, there are several explanations for this. However, just a few of them have been explored here, with the awareness that the causes that play a part in the maintenance of communalism are:-the first religious, and the second political. The third one is socioeconomic, and the fourth is global.

In the first case, religious fundamentalism should be held accountable for communalism. After all, fundamentalists believe that “our belief alone is real” and that “the rest is wrong or inadequate.” According to this mindset, when members of any religious group, sect, or sub-sect engage in their activities, they are bound to clash with others. The reason is self-evident. They lack tolerance, which is essential in a country like India, which has many distinct religious sects. They become the source of conflict, hostility, and strife.

Politicians have also played a major part in escalating communal tensions in India. Politics was at the heart of India’s agonizing partition in 1947 in the name of a specific religious group. However, even after paying a high price in the form of division, we may discover political parties or their followers directly or indirectly involved in many subsequent riots. Along with this, the strategy of appeasement, selection of candidates based on community, sect, sub-sect, and caste, and inflaming religious feelings before elections all contributed to the emergence of communalism. These abuses are still being carried out, and the country is suffering as a result. Many negative consequences of these actions can be seen.

Though India’s socioeconomic conditions have improved since independence and economic reforms since 1991 have been essential in improving such situations, there are still numerous obstacles in front of Indian society that pose a danger to its variety. Population, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment all produce a lot of compulsions, especially among the younger generation. As a result, many members of the younger generation, who are unemployed and living in poverty, become involved in evils such as communalism. Efforts to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment are not yielding the expected results.

External forces (including non-state actors) also have a role in exacerbating and escalating the communalism problem. We cannot name any specific country in this respect, but researchers and people who think about this issue on a regular basis have underlined this fact.

The following are the primary causes for external factors’ engagement or influence in riots:

  1. To create an unstable environment in order to become socially weak;
  2. To wish for compassion from minorities;
  3. attempting to undermine a foreign country’s economic system; and
  4. In order to mask their own inadequacy

Outcomes of Communalism

The most serious consequence of communalism is communal tensions or rioting. When religious issues are politicized, it leads not just to communalism but also to fascism as well as to communal riots. Riots that occur as a result of conflicts between two or more communities’ communal interests are referred to as communal riots.

Communal violence is a phenomenon in which members of two distinct religious communities band together and attack one other with sentiments of hatred and animosity. The revival of Hindu-Muslim economic struggle, particularly among the poor and middle classes, has fostered communalism. In addition, social media has proven to be an efficient instrument for sharing information about communal tensions or riots in any section of the country.

The absence of interpersonal confidence and understanding between two groups frequently results in perceptions of threat, harassment, fear, and significant risk in one community towards the members of the other community, which in turn leads to fights, hatred, and rage phobia. We are all aware of the consequences of communism. The poor are the genuine victims of mass massacres; they lose their homes, their loved ones, their lives, their livelihoods, and so on. It violates human rights from every angle. Sometimes children will lose their parents and become orphans for life, with no one to care for them.

In addition to having an impact on society, it is a danger to Indian constitutional norms that encourage secularism and religious tolerance. In that circumstance, citizens fail to fulfil their essential responsibilities to the nation. It poses a danger to the nation’s unity and integrity as a whole. It just spreads hostility in all ways, splitting society along communal lines. Aside from this, minorities are viewed with mistrust by everyone, including state officials like as police, paramilitary forces, the army, intelligence services, and so on. There have been several occasions where members of this group have been harassed and jailed, only to be freed guilt-free by court rulings. There is no mechanism for compensating such victims for lost livelihood income, social humiliation, or emotional distress to their families.

Such things are a bump in the road for society and an obstacle to its progress. This is also one of the reasons that India is still classified as a “developing nation,” because such activities frequently harm the country’s human resources and economy. Again, it takes years for individuals and impacted areas to recover from the horrors of such violence, which has a profound influence on the brains of those who have experienced it. They have been emotionally shattered and insecure their entire lives.

Some Infamous Cases of Communal Violence in India

  • Partition of India, 1947-Following partition, millions of people was compelled to relocate from both sides of the border. Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were massacred in large numbers, women were raped, and many children were orphaned. There was hatred everywhere, and violence saw nothing but bloodshed. Later, it became a refugee problem, and their rehabilitation became one of the most difficult challenges for independent India.
  • There were no major religious riots until 1961 when the Jabalpur riots rocked the country more because of the economic struggle between a Hindu and a Muslim bidi producer than any electoral competition.
  • In the 1960s, a series of riots erupted in the eastern section of India, mainly in Rourkela, Jamshedpur, and Ranchi, in 1964, 1965, and 1967, in areas where Hindu refugees from then-East Pakistan were being placed.
  • In April 1974, violence erupted in a chawl, or tenement, in Mumbai’s Worli district as police attempted to disperse a Dalit Panthers gathering that had become violent after fights with the Shiv Sena.
  • After Indira Gandhi’s death in October 1984, anti-Sikh riots erupted in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and other regions of India, killing around 4000 Sikhs.

One thing is consistent in all of these and hundreds of previous riots: the vast majority of casualties had nothing to do with community animosity. In summary, perpetrators of violence and victims of violence are distinct individuals. Similar to the preceding list, there are many others that have impacted the masses and killed individuals on a big scale. Bombay bombing in 1993, Lashkar-e-Toiba attack on Akshardham in 2002, and Varanasi bombing in 2006 are only a few examples of anti-Hindu incidents.

Steps to be taken to deal with Communalism

Communalism is a crippling paralysis that must be addressed. Communal Riots are a constant danger to religious unity in our country. They must be dealt with and handled efficiently. A few recommendations in this respect may be made. While making proposals is simple, putting them into action is a significant difficulty. There is a need for reform in the current criminal justice system; quick trials and proper recompense for victims may serve as deterrents.

The increased presence of minorities and underrepresented groups in all branches of law enforcement, as well as training of forces on human rights, particularly in the use of guns in compliance with the UN code of conduct. Codified standards for administration, specialized training for the police force to deal with communal riots, and the establishment of specific investigative and prosecuting organizations can all help to reduce serious communal discontent.

Value-oriented education, with a focus on the values of peace, nonviolence, compassion, secularism, and humanism, as well as developing scientific temper (enshrined as a fundamental duty) and rationalism as core values in children in both schools and colleges/universities, can be critical in preventing communal feelings. Media, films, and other cultural outlets can have an impact on encouraging peace and cooperation. Though all of these practices are popular in India, there is definitely a need for development in this area.

Thus, concerted efforts are required to address the problem of communalism in India. Everyone must carry out their responsibilities. If we do this, there will undoubtedly be harmony. Everyone will benefit. This must be done; it was Mahatma Gandhi’s ambition for a free India.


Communalism has taken a toll on Indian residents and has, directly and indirectly, harmed many families. The communal problem should be addressed via communication and understanding. Steps should be done to encourage unity through cultural exchange programmes. Globalization has also brought the world closer together and contributed to the reduction of communalism in several nations, including India.


  1. Communalism – Definition and its Types (unacademy.com)
  2. Communalism – ONLYIAS – Nothing else | UPSC IAS EXAM PREPARATION
  3. Communalism (drishtiias.com)
  4. 6 Major Social Issues in India: Causes and Measures (sociologygroup.com)
  5. Ahuja, R. (2014). Social problems in India. Jaipur: Rawat Publications.

This article is written by Devishee Arora, a 4th-year B.COM LLB (Hons.) student at Amity Law School, Noida

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