At conceptual level it refers to ideology which involves use of some common identity for satisfaction of individual or group interests . Commonly it is given negative connotations mainly on account of tensions it generates between communities . It may or may not generate riots .

In this way most common identities like region , race , language etc are used leading to various types of communalism.


In India whenever communalism is referred it is used in context of religious communalism. Thus it means use of religion for satisfaction of some individual and group interests.

Communalism manifests itself into either tensions like individual conflicts and riots at broaderlevel . At latent level it exists in forms of stress between communities leading to volatile situations .

In short and simple terms  it  is basically an ideology which consists of three elements:-

  1. A belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests i.e. they have same political, economic and social interests. So, here socio- political communalities arises.
  2. A notion that, in a multi-religious society like India, these common secular interests of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the follower of another religion.
  3. The interests of the follower of the different religion or of different ‘communities’ are seen to be completely incompatible, antagonist and hostile.



  • For centuries, the Hindus and Muslims in India had lived in peace and harmony. Before the advent of the British, religion and religious community had no political salience. The society was divided into the ruling class and the subject class.
  • It was the British who accentuated the religious and cultural differences between the communities and tried to pit one against the other. They maliciously designated the entire period from 1200 AD to 1757 AD as the period of Muslim rule over the Hindus whereas the fact was that the business of the state was carried on together by all communities whether immigrant or indigenous.
  • Moreover, the European historians portrayed this long period as one of the subjugation and oppression of the Hindus
  • The accentuation of the religious and cultural differences between the Hindus and Muslims was done by the deliberate British policy of promoting one community and downgrading the other, particularly after the Revolt of 1857.
  • After the failure of the Revolt, the Hindus had taken full advantage of opportunities of modern education and employment created by the British and improved their lot whereas the Muslims followed a policy of aloofness from the British and suffered from degradation and backwardness. The huge imbalance created between the two communities was one of the reasons for the alienation of Muslims from the Indian National Congress.
  • When the British saw a challenge to their supremacy from the growing nationalism of the Hindu middle class, they applied the traditional policy of divide-and-rule and the counterpoise of the natives by the natives
  • The grant of certain safeguards (separate electorate and weightage) to the Muslim community under the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 began a new era of Hindu-Muslim conflict as the majority community considered any gain of the minority community as the loss of the majority. Minto Morley reforms introduced separate electorates for Muslims .
  • The collapse of the Khilafat and Noncooperation Movement, the growth of extremist politics and a series of Hindu-Muslim skirmishes on petty issues embittered the inter-community relations.
  • A turning-point in Indian politics came with the Montague Chelmsford reforms 1919 and  Communal award in 1932 when it extended separate electorate to other communities in India .
  • Then came the next crucial phase in 1937 when the Indian National Congress won the first general elections held for the provincial legislative assemblies under the Government of India Act, 1935. Its steadfast and outright refusal to take the minority party into its ministries heralded an era of full-fledged Congress-League confrontation and consequently, the worsening of Hindu-Muslim relations.
  • It was perhaps at this stage that the term communalism was coined to describe the inter-party and inter-community antagonism. During the period 1937-1947 no efforts could lead to an inter-party understanding and a communal settlement. As a result, India got independence with the Partition of the country in 1947 with communal violence.



  • The three stages of communalism during freedom struggle can be summarized as below :
 Stage 1 : Rise of nationalist Hindu, Muslim, Sikh leaders and laying basis of communal ideology

·        A belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests i.e. they have same political, economic and social interests.

·        Roots of this were led in later part of 19th century with Hindu revivalist movement like Shuddhi movement of Arya Samaj and Cow protection riots of 1892.

Stage 2 : Liberal communalism

·        It believed in communal politics but liberal in democratic, humanist and nationalist values.

·        It was basically before 1937. For example organisations like Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League and personalities like M.A. Jinnah, M M Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai after 1920s

Stage 3 : Extreme Communalism

·        This had a fascist syndrome.

·        It demanded for separate nation, based on fear and hatred. There was tendency to use violence of language, deed and behaviour.

·        For example Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha after 1937.





  1. Historical causes: (As discussed above )
    • Evident in different interpretation of history by different communities that prepare its communal bed . eg Hinus and Muslim historians interpretation of history ; Babur is invader for one and a hero for another.
    • Divide and Rule policy of British
  1. Political Causes:
    • Involves the use of communal ideology by vested interests to gain power
    • Fielding of candidates in different constituencies according to religion and caste
    • Mobilizing of votes in name of common identity
    • Sowing seeds of hatered between communities
  1. Unhealthy Economic Competetion:
    • In this context it is used by a particular communities to acquire economic governance or satisfy their economic interests
    • Eg In Muradabad , UP riots occurred when Muslim artisans demanded wages hike from Hindu entreprenaurs
  1. Ideological Causes:
    • Conflicting ideologies sometimes reach to communalism
    • Eg Ideological meaning attached by Hindus to cows leads to tensions between Hindus and muslims
    • Shias Vs Sunnis
  1. Developmental disparities:
    • Within the existing developmental model sometimes certain communities laf behind and face challenges
    • Due to these disparities sometimes they are susceptible to communalism in order to extract benefits from welfare state .





  1. Partition of India,1947
    • After partition, millions of population were forced to move from both sides of the border. Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were killed in masses, women were raped, and many children lost their parents.
    • There was hatred everywhere, violence didn’t see anything except bloodshed. Later, it turned in the problem of refugees and their rehabilitation became one of the biggest challenge for independent India.
  1. Anti-Sikh riots, 1984
    • This is one of the bloodshed in India, where Sikhs in large number were massacred by anti- Sikh mob. This massacre took place in response to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by his own Sikh body Guard in response to her actions authorising the military operation.
  1. Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindu Pundits in 1989
    • Kashmir is known as the heaven of India and was known for its Kashmiryat,e. the reflection of love, peace and harmony through brotherhood and unity of Hindu, Muslims and other communities living together.
    • But, the brotherhood saw a serious blow due to Extremist Islamic terrorism in the Kashmir valley, which led to mass killing and large scale exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from the valley to the various regions and corners of the India, giving them the status of refugee in their own country.
    • Since then, the valley is under the grip of communal violence and the ongoing unrest has become a problem for the development of the people.
  1. Babri masjid demolition in Ayodhya, 1992
    • According to Hindu mythology, Ayodhaya is birth place of Lord Rama and therefore it is sacred place for Hindu religion. But in medieval period Mughal general Mir Baqi, built a mosque, named after Mughal ruler Babur.
    • here were disputes since then and riots also took place. But in 1990, due to some political mobilisation, there was atmosphere of protest by Hindu religious groups and in large scale “kar sevak” visited Ayodhya from all parts of India, in support of demolishing Babri masjid and building Ram temple there.
    • These movements caused huge amount of bloodshed and since then it is a disputed matter.
  1. Godhra riots , Gujarat
    • After this, violence was followed by the Godhra incident in 2002, when “kar sevak” returning from Ayodhya in a Sabarmati Express were killed by fire in the coaches of train. This act was followed by the extended communal violence in Gujarat.
    • That violence is like black spot in the history of the Gujarat and nation too, as people were killed without any mercy. Hindu and Muslim community became antagonist to each other. Till now people are fighting for justice in Supreme Court, with a ray hope from the Indian Judiciary.
  1. Assam Communal violence,2012
    • North eastern states are known for its distinguished tribal population & ethnic diversity and large scale Bangladeshi immigration has changed the demography of North eastern states, which often becomes reason for clashes.
    • In 2012, there were ethnic clashes between Bodos (Tribal, Christian & Hindu faith) and Muslims. Ethnic tensions between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims escalated into a riot in Kokrajhar in July 2012, when unidentified miscreants killed four Bodo youths at Joypur.
  1. Muzaffarnagar violence, 2013
    • The cause of this ethnic clash between Jat and Muslim community is very much disputed and has many versions. According to few, it was started after some suspicious post on Social media platform Facebook.
    • According to some, it was escalated after the eve teasing case in Shamli. Let the reasons be unknown, but what matters is, the nature and scale of loss to the country with respect to human resource and peace.


  • Killings: With mass killings, the real sufferers are the poor, who lose their house, their near and dear ones, their lives, their livelihood, etc. It violates the human rights from all direction. Sometimes children lose their parents and will become orphan for a lifetime.
  • Ghettoization and refugee problem: are other dimensions of communalism induced violence, whether its inter country or intra country. Sudden increase in violence against any particular community causes mass exodus and stampede which in turn kills many number of people. For example, this was seen in the case of Bangalore in 2012, with respect to people from North eastern states, which was stimulated by a rumour.
  • A threat to Indian constitutional values: which promotes secularism and religious tolerance. In that case, citizens don’t fulfil their fundamental duties towards the nation. It becomes a threat for the unity and integrity of the nation as a whole. It promotes only the feeling of hatred in all directions, dividing the society on communal lines.
  • Minorities are viewed with suspicion by all: including state authorities like police, para military forces, army, intelligence agencies, etc. There have been many instances when people from such community have been harassed and detained and finally have been released by court orders guilt free. For this, there is no provision for compensation of such victims, about their livelihood incomes forgone, against social stigmas and emotional trauma of the families.
  • Such things are a set back for the society and become a barrier for development
  • And then again it takes years for the people and the affected regions to come out the traumas of such violence, having deep impact on minds of those who have faced it. They feel emotionally broken and insecure.


  • Now a day’s social media has become notorious for spread of communal hatred. It provides almost instant transfer of provoking material on which our government has no control. It has become potent tool in hands of religious bigots to spread hatred for other religions.
  • It is true that, Fundamental Rights, under article 19(1), gives citizens freedom of expression. But proviso to this article also empowers government to impose reasonable restrictions to guard unity and integrity of the country. Further, under Fundamental Duties 51A constitution provides –
  • to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”
  • This needs to be enforced by state by controlling social media. In olden days, whenever any provocative print media came government invoked its powers and imposed restriction, but yet government has no strong/effective policy towards social media.


  1. National human rights commission (NHRC) in India fights for the causes of rights of the victims, but its recommendations are advisory in nature, which doesn’t gives significant outcome.
  2. From time to time, respective governments have constituted various committees, to give recommendations to solve the issue of communal violence.
    • The Nanavati-Mehta commission,set up by Gujarat government in 2002 to enquire about Gujarat violence.
    • Sachar committee, appointed in 2005, recommended to set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC)in 2010. EOC was to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for all individual cases of discriminations- religion, caste, gender & physical ability among others.
    • The Ranganath Misra Commissionwas entrusted by the Government of India to suggest practical measures for the upliftment of the socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities and to include the modalities of implementation for the same. The report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Chief Justice of India Rangnath Mishra, says that 10% should be reserved for Muslims and 5% for other minorities in central and state government jobs in all cadre and grades.
    • The purpose of all above committees is to give recommendations to find out the causes of backwardness of minorities and steps required to improve their conditions.
  1. Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011’ lapsed in the parliament. The bill provided for a seven-member National authority for communal harmony, justice and reparations. It attempted to safeguard the minority sections. It had provisions for ensuring accountability of the district administration. This has already been recommended by the Sachar committee and Raganath Mishra Commission.
  2. There specialised battalions of Rapid Action force in India, which is a wing of CRPF, to deal with riots, riot like situations, crowd control, rescue and relief operations, and related unrest.


Communalism is a serious problem and is sensitive for internal security . Strategy to combat communalism includes




Govt including legislature , executive , judiciary and electoral system

·        Formation of non discriminatory laws

·        Formulation of broad policy eg PM’s 15 point programme

·        Programmes leading to bridging of socio-economic divide between communities

·        Proper implementation of Peoples Representative’s Act 1951 to avoid parties to mobilize people on religious identities


Various Civil society groups including political parties , trade unions , socio-cultural associations etc

·        Civil society groups to show commitement to secularism

·        Cancellation of registration of associations dealing in communal propaganda

·        Bringing different associations at same platform in order to prevent communal tensions in sensitive areas


General administration at centre and state level including law and order machinery

·        Non discriminatory and transparent administration which includes making minorities feel secured physically and pshycologically

·        Adequate representation of different communities in administration


Press and mass media

·        It should propagate communal harmony via various programmes and adequate representation of all communities of society in terms of coverage

·        Cancellation of registration in event of press involvement in communalism

·        Active role of Press Council of India is required in this regard


Institutional framework including education etc

·        Restructuring of syllabus and especially history books

·        Socialising  the child in multicultural environment

·        Special teacher training for this purpose


Individuals and neighbourhoods

·        Strenthening of social bonds in neighbourhood

·        Collective celebration of festivals

·        Non engagement in communal activities



  • Bringing different leadersof different commun ities on same platform which includes special functions
  • Allocating different times to communities for listening to their grievances and taking up redressal
  • Strict implementation of PMs 15 point programme so as to take into account the various religious communities
  • Manitainence and development of intelligence framework to monitor activities of different communities and to deploy security in potential sensitive areas
  • Making suitable arrangements for communities , for celebrating their festivals , processions etc


  • Imposition of curfew if situation gets out of control
  • Deployment of RAF ie rapid action force
  • Arranging for medical aid , take care of life and health of victims
  • Taking care of fulfilment of basic needs of people under curfew
  • Mobilizing communities and civil society groups to participte in creating communal harmony


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