What is Communalism?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 15, 2022, 12:30

In general, Communalism is understood as a strong attachment to one's community. However, in India, Communalism refers to the ideology that leads to distinction and differences between groups of people based on religion, ethnicity, values, beliefs, etc.

While the positive aspect stands for one's affinity towards his community and efforts for economic and social upliftment, the negative aspects of this ideology emphasize separating the identity of a religious group from others, thereby dividing the society.

History of Communalism

People in ancient India lived peacefully together; rulers like Asoka and Akbar practised tolerance and peace for other cultures. Though religion was a crucial part of people's lives, the concept of communal politics or Communalism did not exist.

Communalism in India has its roots in modern political practices, with the biggest contribution from the British policy of Divide and Rule. Communalism not only invites hatred between groups of people but also threatens national integrity and development and is, therefore, a serious issue the nation faces.

Factors Responsible For Communalism In India

Communalism in India was used as a tool by the British to divide society and establish their authority. The authorities took no action against Communalism and accepted communal leaders and organizations.

The introduction of a separate electorate in 1909 and the communal award of 1932 helped the British execute their policy of Divide and Rule. Religious programmes started to be used by political leaders to awaken Indians. Religion gradually became a key factor and began intruding non-spiritual and non-religious lives of people.

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Communalism In Independent India

Since 1947, India has been striving to build a secular nation but is still burning under the fire of Communalism. There are four reasons for this - religious, political, socioeconomic, and international. Firstly, the basics of religionism are responsible for Communalism.

The mentality that a particular religion's beliefs are true and not others and a sense of intolerance create conflict with other groups. Next, politicians play a big role in the spread of Communalism. Political leaders often use religious communities as vote banks and add fuel to the fire of Communalism in India.

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Communalism - Threats & Bottlenecks For Lasting Unity

Though socioeconomic conditions have improved after independence, several challenges for a society threaten diversity and unity. A good portion of the young generation suffers from illiteracy, unemployment, and poverty and ultimately indulges in Communalism.

Lastly, international factors often worsen the problem for their gains. India has seen numerous incidents of communal violence from time to time and suffered its deadly consequences. It is a problem that can be solved only through collective efforts.

Communalism remains one of the key bottlenecks holding back progress across many parts of the world. Uniting factions and ending longstanding sectarian divides are often known to bring about pending reforms and development, improving quality of life across the board.

In India, despite making large strides in this regard, many parts of the country remain bogged down due to communal sentiments. Overcoming such tenets remains essential for long-lasting and peaceful growth.

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FAQs on Communalism

Q.1 How does Communalism affect Indian society?

Communalism divides society and creates a difference in beliefs and principles, resulting in hatred, intolerance, disrespect among religious groups and communities, and communal violence.

Q.2 Who is the father of the communal electorate?

Lord Minto created the Indian Councils Act 1909, which triggered Communalism in India as a separate electorate for Muslims was introduced.

Q.3 What is the two-nation theory?

According to the two-nation theory, the Hindus and Muslims in India were different nations with their traditions, customs, and religions.

This theory was the foundation of the Pakistan Movement and led to the Partition of India in 1947 and was ultimately the result of prevailing Communalism in Indian polity and civic society during those times.

Q.4 How can we end Communalism in India?

Communalism can be brought to an end by interacting with and respecting people of different religions, accepting differences and adopting each other's practices and ideas, and understanding the forces behind communal riots.