Growth of Communalism


Communalism is practiced in society since ancient and it is part of human life. When appraising in Indian context, it is great faithfulness to one’s own holy group. Communalism is defined as a mechanism to energize people for or against by raising an appeal on communal lines. It is revealed in literature that Communalism is related with religious fundamentalism and intransigence. Studies have demonstrated that the communalisation was first began in nineteenth century. The British historian (James) categorized ancient period as Hindu period and medieval period as Muslim period and this ordering was further used by both the British and Indian historians. Social literature documented that in medieval period, Muslim people were underprivileged, they were also oppressed as then people of Hindu community and the ruling class included both the Muslims and Hindus. Abdul Ahmed explained that “Communalism is a social phenomenon characterized by the religion of two communities, often leading to acrimony, tension and even rioting between them”. Communalism is also described by few other eminent theorists. According to Prabha Dixit, “Communalism is a political doctrine which makes use of religious and cultural differences to achieve political ends”. It is a dominant force in Indian scenario. Many factors such as casteism, communalism and religious fundamentalism pose challenge in India that are the major threats to Secular state. They deteriorate the working and strength of democratic secular Federal state and influence against the fundamental beliefs of national life and provide means to new individuality. ‘Casteism’ and ‘Communalism’ are destroying the Indian cultural diversity.

In academic literature, Communalism is elucidated as multi-dimensional, complex, social fact. Numerous social, political, economic, cultural and religious factors affect the occurrence of communalism and communal ferocity. Communalism is sometimes aggravated by non-religious forces. A careful inquiry of the demands which have been and are made by communal leaders will reveal the true character and objective of communal politics under the cover of religion, ritual and culture. It has been documented in reports that Previously, British imperialism used communalism as a divide and rule policy. Similar kind of policies are continued by leaders after independence using various factors. The origin of communalism is very deep and diversified. Some of the roots lie in the structure and nature of Indian civilization which has different religions, multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-castes and multi-regional. A society divided on these grounds helps the development of communal organizations. It may be emphasised that the financial condition of the Hindu and the Muslim and other communities and their different development also contributes to the development of communalism. It is established that the communalism of society is a response of the communalism of another community.

Communalism has three stages. First stage include insight of people believing in a particular religion that have similar interests such as political, financial, social and cultural interests. For political perspective of India, Indian society is group of people from different religion, language and regions but not as a country. For citizen of India, different people have different leaders, who declare themselves as national/regional/religious/caste leaders. The second stage of communalism begins when people consider that the social, monetary, cultural and political interests of people following a particular religion are dissimilar from that of the believers of other religions. This phase of communalism is termed as Liberal Communalism. People who have belief in Liberal Communalism assumed that the interests of the people of India can be amalgamated and India can be integrated as one country. The third stage of communalism is considered when people of one religion are the opponents of the people of other religions. The third phase of communalism is extremist communalism which has a concept of fear and revulsion.


Characteristics of Communalism

  1. Communalism is a philosophical notion.
  2. It is a multifaceted process.
  3. It has a wider base which incorporates social, economic and political aspects for its manifestation.
  4. It causes competition, ferocity and tension among different communities.
  5. Communalism is used by the upper class people and elites as advice for separation and mistreatment of the communal identities of the poorer groups of their co-religionists.
  6. Communalism is simply planned by opportunistic political and economic interest of contending groups and factions within a political party or by political parties.
  7. Communalism assaults at the roots of egalitarianism, secularism and national amalgamation.
  8. The consequences of Communalism are ruinous.

Causes of Communalism

There are numerous of causes for the occurrence of communalism. First is the tendency of the Minorities. The Muslims fail to be intermixed in the national mainstream. Some reports indicated that majority of Muslim people do not partake in the secular nationalistic politics and insist to sustain separate identity. Another cause of communalism is Orthodoxy and Obscurantism. The orthodox members of minority groups feel that they have a distinct entity with their own cultural pattern, personal laws and thought. There are strong elements of conservatism and fundamentalism among the Muslims. Such feeling has prevented them from accepting the concept of secularism and religious tolerance.

Design of the Leaders is also a cause of communalism. It has grown in India because the communalist leaders of different religious communities such as Hindu and Muslim desire to succeed it in the interest of their communities. The demand for separate electorate and the organization of Muslim league were the practical indicators of this belief. The British rule which gave the divide and rule policy, separate electorate on the basis of religion, reinforced the basis of communalism in India. Finally the partition of the country into India and Pakistan provided further an aggressive feeling towards each other.

The cause of communalism is due to weak Economic Status. Most of Muslims in India did not embrace the scientific and technological education and they lagged behind on educational front. Due to poor education, they have not been represented satisfactorily in the public service, industry and trade. This leads the feeling of withdrawal which causes communalism.

There are geographical Causes for communalism. The regional settlement of different religious groups particularly Hindus Muslims and Christians causes more variation in the style of life, social standards and belief system. These patterns are clashing and leads to communal tension.

Communalism also evolves from historical causes. It has been revealed in literature that the Muslims in some of the regions are converted from Hinduism under the compulsions of Muslim rulers. The problems of social separation, illiteracy and poverty that had set apart the low caste people remain unresolved for them, as the foreign elite that polished never shared power with them. Their work ended with the conversion of the Indians and the converts began by replicating the masters in thought, speech and costume. It caused their hostility. Progressively, communalism developed in the Muslim community.

Social Causes of communalism also emerges as there is cultural similarity in fostering harmonious relations between any two social groups. But the social institutions, customs and practices of Hindus and Muslims are so deviating that they think themselves to be two different communities.

Psychological factors have vital role in increasing communal tension. The Hindus group considers that the Muslims are crusaders and fundamentalists. They also have a feeling that Muslims are unpatriotic. On the other hand, the Muslims believe that they are not treated as superior group in India and their religious beliefs and practices are sub-standard. These feelings cause communal tension.

Aggravation of rival Countries is also cause of communalism. Some overseas countries weaken Indian nations by setting one community against the other through their representatives. They encourage and promote communal riots in the nation.

Negative Impact of Mass Media also create communal tension. The messages related to communal tension or riot in any part of the country spread through the mass media. This results in further tension and riots between two rival religious groups.

Communalism has been a severe threat to national unity in India. It harmed numerous elements of modern India, such as, secularism, democracy and world harmony. Communal ideology leads to many cases of communal violence and riots. Gujarat violence of February -March 2002 which terrorized the whole country was consequence of prior spread of communal ideology (Chandra, 2004).

Ways to eradicate Communalism: Communalism can be lessen between different religious groups through taking some measures.

  1. Eradication of Communal Parties: All the political parties which prosper on religious loyalties should be banned or abolished by the government. Even non-political cultural organizations should always be kept under constant watch so that they cannot expound communalism.
  2. Spread of the Past Heritage: Feelings of patriotism should be taught to the people by reminding them about the wonderful moments of history in Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who were united for the wellbeing of the nation.
  3. Public Opinion: Mass media must play imperative role to generate awareness about harmony between different communities and make efforts to change the attitude of people towards other communities. People must be aware of the dangerous consequences of the communalism.

Both the Government and people should create mindfulness to eradicate communal tension and clash.

Abundant of literature have demonstrated that the practice of communalism leads to communal politics and communal violence. It is supposed that communalism is the bequest of the past because they use the thought of ancient and medieval times. But communalism is a modern thought and political movement. The origin of communalism is linked to the politics of modern times when the people are more inclined towards politics. The economic slowdown of the people of India was primary reason for communalism.

Muslim League

  • 1906 by Aga Khan, the Nawab of Dhaka, and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk
  • It made no critique of colonialism, supported the partition of Bengal and demanded special safeguards for the Muslims in government services.
  • ML’s political activities were directed not against the foreign rulers but against the Hindus and the INC.
  • Their activities were not supported by all Muslims
    • Arhar movement was founded at this time under the leadership of Maulana Mohamed Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hasan Imam, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, and Mazhar-ul-Haq. They advocated participation in the militant nationalist movement.

Muslim Nationalists

  • The war between Ottoman Empire and Italy created a wave of sympathy for Turkey
  • During the war between Ottoman empire and Italy, India sent a medical mission headed by MA Ansari to help Turkey.
  • As the British were not sympathetic to Turkey, the pro-Caliph sentiments in India became anti-British
  • However, the militant nationalists among muslims did not accept an entirely secular approach to politics
  • The most important issue they took up was not political independence but protection of the Turkish empire.
  • This approach did not immediately clash with Indian nationalism. However, in the long run it proved harmful as it encouraged the habit of looking at political questions from a religious view point.

Hindu Communalism

  • Some Hindus accepted the colonial view of Indian history and talked about the tyrannical Muslim rule in the medieval period
  • Over language they said that Hindi was the language of Hindus and Urdu that of Muslims.
  • Punjab Hindu Sabha was founded in 1909. Its leaders attached the INC for trying to unite Indians into a single nation.
  • The first session of the All India Hindu Mahasabha was held in April 1915 under the presidentship of the Maharaja of Kasim Bazar.
  • It however remained a weak organization because the colonial government gave it few concessions and little support.



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