Essay on the Main Causes of Communalism in India

Main Causes of Communalism in India are as follows:

Communalism has been a national menace, a mental disease and a big social evil.

The need is, everyone agrees, to eliminate this menace. For finding remedies, it is essential for us to identify the causes behind the presence of communalism.

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1. Communalism as a bad Legacy of British Rule:

The immediate past of Independent India was an era of communal politics initiated and encouraged by the British rulers and practiced by some sectarian organisations. The introduction of communal electorates in 1909 as a device for implementing the policy of Divide and Rule, gave fuel to the communalisation of Indian politics and after some years it started acting as a source for the outbreak of communal riots. The partition of the country was a direct outcome of this process.

The creation of Pakistan as a Muslim state gave rise to the idea of India as a Hindu state, despite the fact that a large number of Muslims and other religious communities continued to live in India even after 1947. The leaders of India realised the danger of further disintegration of Indian plural society under the impact of communalism and hence decide to initiate a process of nation-building through the grant of right to equality and adoption of secularism as the way of life. However, unfortunately, many people in India belonging to various communities have failed to forget the past. The legacy of communalism continues to live and mar even the present.

2. Communalisation of History:


Several historians have been guilty of playing a negative and dirty role. They have preferred to describe the History of India as History of Hindu rulers, Muslim rulers Sikh rulers, Maratha rulers and the like Sectarianisation of history has fanned communalism. Even while writing the history of national movement, some historians consciously or inadvertently try to project the role played by various communities in the freedom struggle.

3. Communalised Leadership:

In the process of political socialisation and leadership recruitment in India, religion and religious institutions have been playing a key role. In particular, several minority groups have always projected and supported only those leaders who stand fully committed to their respective religious and sectarian interests. Several leaders, almost always, become and remain leaders by pursuing sectarian interests.

The practice of choosing candidates on communal lines and communalised voting even compels the educated elites to adopt communal postures for getting acceptance and support in politics. The failure of the leadership to remain away from communalism has been responsible for keeping alive this demon of communalism.


4. Presence of some Communal Organisations:

The presence of some communal organisations and outfits, and some fundamentalist religious and linguistic groups has been another factor which has fuelled the communal fire which from time to time keeps on burning in several Indian cities.

5. Feeling of alienation among some Muslims:

After the formation of Pakistan, several crores of Muslims continue to live in India. Their population has increased since 1947. However, some of them have, largely failed to join fully the national main-stream. Some of then still prefer to remain away from the secular politics of India.

Several Muslim leaders of independent India realise that secularism is the best way to have in India because Muslim fundamentalism can pave the way for the rise of fundamentalism in other communities which can make things difficult for was minority communities.

They, therefore, deem it fit and worthwhile to support and strengthen the forces of secularism, socialism, economic justice and nationalism. Bui their ideas have failed to get support from some organisations, particularly from some Jamayats and Madrasas. Such organisations uphold fundamentalism. They still prefer to join, support and vote on communal lines. These regard some parties as pro-Muslim and others as anti-Muslim.

6. Religious Orthodoxy and Fundamentalism:

Another factor, writes Dr D.C. Gupta, which bred communalism in the post-independence period was religious orthodoxy among some sections of Muslim community. Some Muslim organisations remained committed to the obscure and medieval glories of Islam, the supremacy of Islam, the Shariat, and the separate personal law of the Muslims. These organisations always toed the orthodox lines and refused to accept the new realities of industrial society.

Every attempt on the part of the government towards restructuring of old practices was viewed with distrust and as an invasion against Islam. These remained opposed even to those amendments in some Muslim practices which had got accepted in some Islamic states. Formation of ‘Senas’ for protecting mosques, graveyards and other areas was resorted to by these organisations.

Attempts at modernisation and development were regarded by them as unwanted impositions. Such a thinking naturally, invited strong opposition and reaction from several other organisations and the net result came in the form of the presence of communalism in India.

7. Communalisation of Political Struggle:

Almost all political parties of India do not hesitate to use the communal factor for securing advantageous position in the struggle for power. These fully exploit the social appeal of communalism. Even the Communist parties and the secularist Congress and the Janata Dal do not refrain from using the communal card. Infact no party hesitates in getting support from a sectarian and religious party for getting political power. Opportunistic compromises between the ‘secularists’ and ‘communal’ parties do a great harm to the cause of secularism, nationalism and moderatism. This factor always gives strength to communalism in India.

8. Religious Fanaticism:

Religious fanaticism has been such a big cause of communalism that many students of Indian politics tend to equate it with communalism. Movements for religious revivalism and fundamentalism have, of late, been gaining strength in India. Various religious communities have been unfortunately getting engaged in celebrating its religious functions in bigger and bigger forms with a view to demonstrate its strength to other communities.

The use of religious places and celebrations of religious festivals for spreading a particular brand of love for community has come to be a sad feature of contemporary India. Disputes over construction of religious places for worship have become common. Conversion from one religion to another is encouraged by resorting to unethical means. Events of Tamil Nadu and North-East illustrate it fully. All these facts highlight the growing tendency towards religious fanaticism in India and a corresponding increase in communal politics. Political leaders and organisations do not hesitate to use religion for getting a share in political power.

9. Poverty and Underdevelopment:

Mass poverty, unemployment, scarcity of essential commodities like food, clothing and shelter, ever-increasing population, regional imbalances, economic backwardness, economic inequalities, illiteracy, ignorance and corruption have also contributed to the growth of communalism. The unemployed youth is easily drawn by religious preachers towards religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. The emergence of strong groups/organisations which are pro or opposed to the reservation of jobs also acts as a source of communal riots. The continued socio-economic underdevelopment breeds communalisms.

10. The Social causes (Issue of conversions) of Communalism:

Despite the fact of having lived together and shared in common the crises of our age, the Hindus and Muslims, the two major communities continue to be at times suspicious of each other. Some Muslims continuously fear the threat of Hindu cultural invasion upon their living and hence resort to fundamentalism. In order to keep their numbers large, they do not fully accept the need of family planning and do not refrain from conversion of ‘others’ to their religions.

Religious minorities justify conversions as a part of the right of propagation of their religions which stands accepted by the right to freedom of religion. Every Indian has the freedom to follow or not to follow any religion. He can change his religion at will.

However, when ‘conversion from one religion to another is secured through unethical means, offering of reward and other facilities, and exploitation of poverty and hunger of some people, it becomes an evil. Conversions, particularly when these are publicised and secured in a big way invite strong reaction from the community whose members get converted.

11. Compulsions of Electoral Politics:

The electoral politics in India has been becoming more and more expensive and competitive. The stakes have become very high for the candidates/parties contesting elections. They, consequently, never hesitate to use fair and foul means—creating communal tensions to secure votes etc., for securing advantages in the elections. The party in power offers doles to the different sections of population and their groups. It accepts communalist groups and grants concessions for appeasing them.

The opposition parties try to negate this by winning such groups through verbal support and recognition of their interests. All this strengthens communalism during elections and in post- Election Day’s communalism starts posing hindrance in the way of the working of every new government.

Besides, the above mentioned causes of the continuance and growth of Communalism in India, reference must also be made to the role of Pakistan, an Islamic fundamentalist state, which always uses its media to give air to Muslim Communalism. Pakistan keeps harping upon the plight of Indian Muslims despite being herself a state faced with serious ethnic conflict particularly between Sunnis & Shias, Ahmedias and Non-Ahmedias, and Sindhis and Non-Sindhis.

Indian media and public relations agencies have not been fully capable of countering Pakistani propaganda. The existence of some communal newspapers and periodicals in India further helps the forces of communalism. The victims of communal riots are identified by them as Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and not as Indian citizens or human beings.

The failure of the government to prevent the outbreak and spread of communal riots through an effective immediate and efficient management of law and order machinery has also been a source of continuance of communalism.

While discussing the causes of communalism in India, Rajni Kothari blames the gradual decline of democratic institutions, the strains on Indian Federal system, the evils of party politics, the failure of the grassroots level political institutions to work properly, and the fall in the credibility of the machinery of government due to increased cases of political corruption and corruption at high level. These have all combined n produce a decline in India’s democratic institutions. This feature has adversely affect the ability of the political system to control communalism.

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