Communalism in India- Causes and Prevention

Communalism and casteism are the most formidable problems which are eating into the very vitals of the Indian society They are not inter-related but their evil effects on the society are similar. These problems encourage disruptive forces and give a severe setback to national unity.


India is a vast country and it has a large population. People belonging to different castes, religions and creeds live here. They speak different languages and follow different methods of worship. They have different traditions and practices. But in spite of this diversity, there is a sense of national unity among all the people. In the revolt of 1857, both Hindus
and Muslims, fought shoulder to shoulder to drive away the British from India. After the rising of 1857, the British attempted to create hatred between the two communities. They followed the policy of Divide and Rule. They, in the beginning, favoured the Hindus at the cost of Muslims. Later, they favoured Muslims to keep them away from the national movement. National leaders like Gandhiji strove hard to bring the two communities together. They made efforts to make India a secular state.
But by 1947, the communal problem became intense and led to the partition of the country.

Nature and Characteristics of Communalism

1. Communalism is concerned with the ideological differences between different religious. Sometimes one religion is split up into
different sects. There is a feeling of mutual distrust among the different sects of a particular religion. For example there is the division of Islam in two main sects, Shias and Sunnis or the division of Christianity into Catholic and Protestant churches.
2. Every communal group considers itself superior to the others. As a result, one group begins to hate the others.
3. Communalism creates an attitude of isolation among different communal groups. Every group believes that the other groups wants to destroy them. One group is always on the look out for the opportunity to harm the other.
4. Communalism isolates the different groups from one another ,politically. The group which has political power ensures the protection of the interests of its own members only. It creates feelings of hostility and hatred among the members of other communal groups, which have ii political power.

Causes of Communalism

Communalism in India is a complex problem which has varied and many causes.
1. Historical Factor. Before the Muslim conquest, India was considered as a Hindu country. The Muslim rulers of India like Mahmud Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori and Aurangzeb were intolerant towards the Hindus. They levied Jazii and pilgrim tax n them and destroyed their temples. They also converted Hindus to Islam by force or by persuasion. Such policies of the Muslim rulers created bitterness and hatred between the Hindus and Muslims. This hatred between the two communities persisted even during the British rule. The British further worsened the situation by following a policy of “Divide and Rule” to keep them aloof from each other.

2. Psychological Factor. After independence, the Muslims have been feeling that they are exploited by the majority of Hindus. They have misgivings that they are not enjoying the same rights which are being enjoyed by the Hindus. These feelings have kept the Muslims away from active politics of the country. They do not come forward to compete for high government jobs. The psychological feelings of separation have many a time increased the communal feelings in the society. In case the government attempts to protect the rights of the minorities, the Hindus resent.

3. Cultural Factor. The Hindus, Muslims and other communities have lived for centuries in close contact but even then much cultural assimilation has not taken place. They are till following their own way of life. For example, the Muslims believe in only one God but the Hindus worship many gods aid goddesses. The Muslims are polygamous while the Hindus are monogamous. Divorce can be easily granted among the Muslims but among the Hindus it is not so easy.

4. Religious Factor. India is a secular state and the government is neutral in religious matters. Everybody has been granted religious freedom. Due to this freedom, every religious group tries to strengthen its own organisations. Many a time some religious groups spread bitter feelings against the other groups and even resort to violence.

5. Geographical Factors. The followers of one religion generally tend to live in the same locality Minority groups prefer to live near one another because nearness gives them a sense of security. This tendency creates wide gap between the different communities which live apart from one another.

6. Economic Factors. The problem of communalism is more acute in those areas in which there is unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. The local leaders fail to offer any solution for these problems. They rather attribute them to religious disparities. The economic distress often leads to communal riots. The community which fails to get the benefits which the majority is enjoying resorts to violence.

7. Political Factors. The foundation of communal politics was laid during the British rule. Many communal parties such as Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Akali Dal looked after the interests of their own communities. Even now after independence, there are many political parties which promote the interests of their own members at the cost of the whole nation. They openly spread communal feelings to win elections.

8. International forces. The communal parties in India receive support and financial aid from the foreign countries. They instigate the communal parties to destabilise and disintegrate India.

Harmful Effects of Communalism

1. Setback to national unity. Communalism divides the society into different groups bitterly opposed to one another. The members of every group are loyal to their own group rather than to the country as a whole. The feelings of hatred, jealousy and revenge make them one another’s enemy. Only a small pretext is sufficient to cause communal riots and disturb the peace of the country.
2. Loss of life and property. It gives chance to anti-social elements to create large scale disturbances, arson, loot and plunder. Thousands of innocent people are killed and property is destroyed.
3. Political Problems. Communalism often creates the problem of peace and security in the country. The opposite communal parties unduly criticize the government and often create communal tension in the society by encouraging communal feelings. The people lose interest in the public affairs.
4. Retards Economic Progress. The people involve themselves into the communal problems and do not give attention to their economic progress. The capitalists do not invest money in the areas infested with communal troubles and do not establish industries there. It results in the problems like unemployment and poverty.

Communalism opposed to Democracy: Communalism is opposed to the principle of democracy. Democracy is based on liberty, equality, brotherhood, toleration and respect for public opinion. Communalism is opposed to all these good qualities. It, thus a great hindrance in the smooth working of a democratic government.

What steps should we take to end the curse of Communalism?

1. Our Constitution declares India a secular state. Everybody has the freedom of religion, belief and worship. There is no state religion in India. All the citizens have been granted equal rights. Everybody has equal opportunity to hold any office of the government without any distinction of caste, colour and creed. It is the primary duty of the government to see that there is no discrimination in any sphere on the basis of religion.
2. We should create a spirit of oneness in the country. National integration is the need of the hour. All the communities must honour the religious sentiments of the other communities. All must work for a strong, united and prosperous nation.
3. The publicity media like the newspapers, journals, radio and television should create the spirit of unity and integrity among the people.
4. School and college text books should reflect the spirit of tolerance, patriotism and discipline.
5. Cultural and religious organisations should organise programmes to preach the message of brotherhood and national integration.