The communal violence is a problem which is being faced by the entire Indian society. It is a conjectural aspect that sometime it may break out here or there in a virulent form. But in fact, communal violence has been pervading sometimes growing sometimes receding, but still pervading on a large scale in the entire society.
Communal violence in the form of riots or terrorism draws our attention in a dramatic manner but the underlying and long-term cause of violence is spread of communalism. Communal violence in its different forms is based on extreme communalism and feelings of fear and hatred, it is ultimately the ugly and barbaric expression of and the logical extension of spread of communalism as an ideology for a long time.
While communal riots, for example, give credibility to the basic communal ideological precepts, it is the communal ideology and politics, which the communal politicians and ideologues preach in normal times which forms the real basis on which communal tension and violence occurs. In other words, communal ideology and politics are the diseases, communal violence only its external symptoms. So communal violence is linked to communal ideology.
Communal ideology can prevail even without violence , but communal violence cannot exist without communal ideology. Therefore, communalism is above all a manifestation of communal ideology.
Communalism is the most intractable problem of culturally plural societies. The roots may be traced back to the ancient past. Generally, the term ‘communalism’ refers to a conflict, between two rival communities. Richard Lambert sees it as “a community-oriented outlook.” It is a highly complex phenomenon, generally found in plural societies, something inevitable and dominating in different situations, in a multi-religious society.
In western countries, it refers to a feeling of ‘community’. Whereas in India, it is understood in a negative sense i.e. a community is put against one or more communities. Communalism is associated with religious fundamentalism and dogmatism. Abdul Ahmed says, “Communalism is a social phenomenon characterized by the religion of two communities, often leading to acrimony, tension and even rioting between them”. Prabha Dixit writes, “Communalism is a political doctrine which makes use of religious and cultural differences to achieve political ends.
When people are attached with one’s religion, and completely loyal to it, then their ‘religiosity’ is neither communal nor it encourages communalism. But when members of a community are negatively oriented, towards other communities, they tend to inflame community feelings.
|Scholar||View on Communalism|
|Asghar Ali Engineer||Links communalism with the conflicts of the elites of communities. Communalism is described as a tool to mobilize people for/against by raising an appeal on communal lines.|
|Hussain Shaheen||Views that if a person is deprived of her/his rights or privileges just on the basis of her/his community, this would constitute communalism|
|Abdul Ahmed||Describes communalism as a social phenomenon characterized by the religion of two communities, often leading to acrimony, tension and even riots between them. In its latest manifestation, communalism amounts to discrimination against a religious Group in matters of employment, education, commerce, politics, etc|
|Prabha Dixit||Explains communalism as a political doctrine which makes use of religious and cultural differences to achieve political ends|
Features of Communalism
Communalism is an ideological concept while violence caused by it is effect of this ideology. The features of communalism could be enumerated as below:
- Communalism consists of religious and cultural affiliation.
- Communalism is based uponeconomic, political and social interests within which it finds manifestation.
- It describes all movements which attempt to build a specific group consciousness and identification among a specific social group.
- Communalism is a tool or a weapon in the hands of strategic people or politicians.
- It arises from a perception or even concocted threat of the rival religious community.
- It makes strong group solidarity by creating negative stereotypes about the other group.
- It intends violent tensions to hurt the other party, by rioting, arsoning and attack on the other religious faith.
- It gets support from the followers of same faith, but belonging to other political regimes. Such outer support is not only emotional but also financial and in terms of arms, tends to inter-nationalise the dispute and go beyond disrupting internal peace, by threatening integrity of the nation.
- It regards communal interests as above the national interests.
Causes of Communal Violence
Communal violence takes place because of various factors. The process of communal violence is very complex one. The reason for the break out of communal violence, its continuance, ineffective policing and other efforts and delay in restoring normalcy are varied and interrelated. Therefore , it is necessary, to know the general causes behind the problem of communal violence. The general causes responsible for the problem of communal violence in India may be discussed under the following heads:
Divide and Rule Policy
The history of Hindu-Muslim antagonism is the result of ‘divide and rule’ policy adopted by the British rulers, which left a wide impact on Hindu-Muslim relations. This policy had sown seeds of discord between the communities, who indulged in serious skirmishes posing threat to the security and very existence of the nation. This is evident in history of India through a number of incidents. Such as:
- After the revolt of 1857, the British rulers started to divide different communities on communal lines.
- The Census exercises during Colonial rule instilled a geographical and demographic consciousness among the religious communities.
- The division of Bengal in 1905, which was based on religion.
- Communal perception was again perpetrated through the political instrument of separate electorates.
- Partition of the country also created a great deal of bitterness and communalized political processes in post-independent India. Before partition, all were Indians , but after partition Muslims became a minority in India while Hindus and Sikhs became minority in Pakistan.
Struggle for Identity or Class Conflicts
In India, communal identity and division has always pervaded Indian society but communalism is one of the by-products of Colonial under development of the Indian economy. Colonial economy, underdevelopment and economic stagnation produced conditions conducive to the growth of internal divisions and antagonism within society. The internal divisions promoted communal violence and social tension at the mass level. Some scholars believe that after partition of the country, Indian Muslim developed the psychology of being the deprived group. Thus, an incident, which may be trivial in nature, leads to a chain reaction ending in violence.
Communal Conflicts and Conflicts of Interest
On occasion, conflict of interests between Hindus and Muslims sharpen religious conflict. Religion is often used to provide legitimacy to conflicts of interests and thus what appears to be a religious conflict may in fact be a cover-up for a conflict of interests.
In most cases the communal violence is politically motivated. There is a growing tendency to maximize political gains by adopting short cuts in terms of usage of ancient identities, money and muscle power, communal slogans, doctrinaire issue, etc .
There is a violent political competition among the leaders of both the communities to obtain favour of
one community against another for political gain. Thus, Politicians have no interest in bridging the gap between communities, but have, in fact, a positive stake in ensuring that it remains as wide as possible.
It has been established that in Indian society disputes among various trends within Hinduism or Islam did take place. Often socio-political issues also engineered communal violence. The principal aspect that came to the surface was ‘cow protection’ and ‘Urdu-Devanagari’ controversy . For example, In 1967, the attempt to make ‘Urdu’, the second official language in Bihar , was the cause behind communal violence in Ranchi and in 1994, the introduction of a short ‘Urdu News Bulletin’ from the Bangalore Doordarshan (DD) had sparked off communal violence in Bangalore.
Economic Factor and Business Rivalries
Many scholars have tried to find economic factors behind communal violence. Economic competition often leads to social tensions that can easily turn into communal violence. An important cause of communalism and communal violence springing from it has been unbalanced and exploitative economic relations in Indian society. It is asserted that most of the employers, industrialists, etc., are Hindus, whereas most of the workers and artisans are Muslims. Therefore, communal violence is a distorted form of class conflict.
The Gopal Singh Committee in its Report (1983) also testifies to the economic factors, local rivalry, acquiring control over and sharing of the gains of economic ventures. Riots in Moradabad, Khurja, Aligarh, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad, Baroda and Surat were specially targeted because in these towns Muslim craftsmen, artisans, foundry owners and weavers reap the reward of favourable economic climate and trading relations with oil rich Gulf countries.
Although, Hindu and Muslim entrepreneurs and artisans cannot flourish without each other’s assistance and any bitterness in their relationship would affect the whole industry adversely but, Business rivalries are also regarded as the cause behind the communal disturbances. In Hyderabad riots (1990-91), it was found that the role of land mafias in collaboration with their political mentors was derisive in engineering and sustaining these riots for long periods.
Weak law and order is one of the causes of communal violence. There was failure of the police and administrative officers in gauging the intensity of the communal situation in advance.
There is a violent political competition among the leaders of both the communities to obtain favour of one community against another for political gain. Thus, Politicians have no interest in bridging the gap
between communities, but have, in fact, a positive stake in ensuring that it remains as wide as possible. The Report of the Srikrishna Commission on Mumbai riots (1992-93), points out that the failure of state administration was primarily responsible for the extraordinary situations. The report indicts that “four precious days were lost for the Chief Minister to consider and issue the orders as to effective use of army for controlling the riots.”
Partisan Behaviour of Police
The partisan role of state machinery particularly police goes in sustenance of communal violence and reactive motivation by the group feeling. The partisan attitude of police allows petty clashes to turn into a major communal violence. The Moradabad riots (1980) and the Maliana and Hashimpura episode in Meerut (1987) are the glaring examples of one-sided action of the Uttar Pradesh (UP)-Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). The Srikrishna Commission Report on Mumbai riots (1992-93), indicates that the police personnel were found actively participating in riots, communal incidents or incidents of looting arson and so on.
Rumours and Lack of Communication
False and exaggerated rumours pave an easy way to communal violence. In almost all riots the role of rumours in rousing communal zeal is quite famous. Rumour plays a mischievous role in fanning the flames in a charged atmosphere. It is always a key in the hands of communal elements to engineer communal violence. The most effective way to incite the mass is the rumour of the women or girl of one community being molested, raped or kidnapped by the members of another community, or the killing of a cow by a Muslim, etc. Role of rumours in violence could be elaborated through the example discussed here:
- In December 1990, during the second phase of kar seva in Ayodhya, violence broke out in Aligarh, among other towns on December 7. On December 8, rumours gripped the town that Muslim doctors at the J.N. Medical College, A.M.U., Aligarh, deliberately killed a number of Hindu patients. Such rumours and propaganda did maximum damage.
- During communal violence, there is no free exchange of views and opinions between the two communities and both the communities perceive each other as inimical. Such absence of intergroup communication is favourable for communal violence. Isolated individual instances of injustices and loss, rightly or wrongly are published and communicated in the newspapers and consequently communal groups get support for continuing communal violence, as one community perceives that the other community committed violent acts against it.
Insecurity and Fear
Communal violence takes place, as members of one community perceive the threat, harassment, fear and danger from the members of the other community. The response to the threat is either fight or departure. The latter generates fear and terror and the former cause’s hatred and anger phobia. There is a lack of inter-personal trust and mutual understanding resulting in subsequent fear and worry among the communities.
Religion acts more as an agent determining the attitude of its followers than the motivation or mainspring of communal violence. Let us now examine some causes in order to understand the problem of communal violence from the religious aspect and the religious causes responsible for communal violence may be discussed under the following heads:
Conversion is a source of communal conflict and communal violence. Frequent conversions caused a great resentment among people. Assimilation is peaceful co-existence in a heterogeneous system, which presupposed passivity on the part of the assimilated. During the continuous phases of communal violence in Bengal from 1905 to 1947, and pre-partition communal riots in several parts of the country, conversion was one of the main causes of communal violence. After partition, the fundamentalist also did not give up the idea of conversion.
In the last decade, communal violence against the Christian community in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttrakhand and particularly in Orissa in 2008 was due to the conversion of Adivasis to Christianity.
Religious conflicts are the expressions of beliefs on the ground of superiority. The man is influenced by instinctive impulse and remains on the brute plane and due to ignorance, fear and fancy, deceit becomes dominant with cruelty, jealousy and violence.
The tremendous faith in one’s religious beliefs and a feeling that nonbelievers in these are misguided people who should be told regarding the correct path, lead to conflicts, which may be termed as religious conflicts.
These organizations have vast resources and command workers to protect their interests due to alleged injustice done to them. These organizations have enormous capital formation, buildings, workers, land and regular massive income from their patrons. The issues rose by these organizations and large-scale mobilization of the people to achieve communal objectives, helped such organizations in gaining legitimacy by posing themselves as the real representatives of their community. These organizations have been promoted as the prestigious forums of a particular community and they take a lead to create all types of communal disturbances. Various inquiry commissions have established the role of communal organization in fomenting communal trouble. The Madon Commission (1970) held branches of communal organizations like the Shiv Sena, Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha and Tamir-e-Millat responsible for fomenting communal tension.
Religious Processions and Celebrations
The manipulation of religious processions by political leaders is an old phenomenon. Processions became significant vehicles of violence, when local power politics was at stake. Communalists use religion for boundary definitions in political and other spheres. Their emphasis remains on religious festivals, processions, etc. They try to promote solidarity by exaggerating incidents when such processions have been infringed upon.
Seeds of distrust are planted by exploiting deep religious traditions of both communities, difference in their different religious practices and rituals are highlighted and often, it is shown that one is out to destroy the other. Religiosity imparts passion and intensity to communalism. The extent of religiosity is very high. Even minor variations in the public performance of religious rituals evoke violent reactions. These reactions are the outcome of the constant reinforcement of religious group’s identities through the propagation of communal ideology.
Religious fanaticism among the people also has its source in the constant preaching and actions of communal organizations. Since they are interested in sharpening the differences between religious groups, it is in their interest to make their followers hard-boiled, unreasonable and passionate followers of a manipulated form of the religion concerned, a form which is, in fact, farthest from the actual tenets of the faith. That is why it is a common feature, observed in every religious/communal group, to unite whenever the ‘religion in danger’ slogan is raised. Politicians and priests mobilize people around this slogan, and they preserve in keeping the slogan alive all the time.
Revival of Fundamentalism
The increasing participation of people of different communities into religious places is an indicator of the rise of religious fundamentalism even amongst the educated persons. Almost all the communities have been insisting on talking out new processions and that too through non-conventional and disputed route leading to violence.
Later, stress is also being laid on the construction of new buildings and the renovation of old, dilapidated and abandoned religious places, which have been resented to by the opposite community at many places on several occasions. Ever increasing use of loudspeakers on religious places create disharmony at many times. Attempts to restrict such activities are termed as anti-religious.
All such programmes add to the hardening of attitude, mutual bitterness, intolerance and aggression towards each other. These are really unwelcome signs for any civilized and harmonious society.
The Muslim fundamentalists often brand the Indian State as ‘Hindu’, Hindu fundamentalists accept this and start prescribing a code of conduct for all ‘Muslims’, and they charge ‘Muslim’ with being strongly organized and blind supporters of their own co-religionists. Muslims accept this allegation and claim that if they do not defend their religion the ‘Hindus’ will stamp out Islam.
The fundamentalists exploit the discrepancy between the self-perception of one religious group and perception of it by the antagonistic communal group to spread fear, suspicions, mistrust and insecurity among their co-religionists. Thus, fundamentalists of one group, instead of emasculating the communalism of another group, feed and fatten it through violence or communal propaganda.
Hurting Religious Sentiments
Very often, provocation due to hurting of religious sentiments results in the communal violence. For instance, communal violence in Srinagar in 1967 broke out when some torn pieces of the Holy Quran were found in college latrine. Both politicians and priests of their religion succeed in stoking the flames of communal hatred, bias and prejudice and in triggering communal clashes whenever convenient to them.
The studies on communal riots have established a clear nexus between various trivial causes and communal violence which cannot be denied. Besides the general and religious causes, some of the trivial causes responsible for communal violence and disturbance are summarized as under:• Changing the route of processions.
- Clashing of timesof prayers of different communities.
- Cow slaughter.
- Desecration or destruction of places of worship.
- Disputes over places of worship.
- Dispute between property owners and tenants.
- Distribution of objectionable pamphlets.
- Disturbances in religious processions/functions.
- Due to the migrated Muslims and refugees.
- Emotion and insecurity.
- Intolerance during fairs and festivals.
- Laying the foundation for new statues.
- Marriage, eve-teasing and sexual relations between members of the opposite groups or cases of elopement.
- Mischievous media reporting.
- Objection to playing of music, singing and dancing in front of mosque and other religious places.
- Objectionable speeches.
- Obstructions placed during religious processions.
- Pelting stones to disturb the religious processions.
- Performing Qurbani (i.e. sacrifice) in a public place.
- Petty quarrels between members of different communities.
- Personal quarrels
- Provocative and abusive slogans against the other community.
- Publishing of provocative articles and objectionable writings.
- Reaction for religious conversions
- Road accident.
- Sacrificing of cow on ‘Bakharid’ (i.e. the festival of sacrifice).
- Sexual offences.
- Showing signs or symbols of insulting.
- Sudden quarrel.
- Taking out processions through unconventional and non-permitted routes.
- Throwing of colours, gulal, etc., on mosque or other religious places or on persons who resent it
- Throwing of liquor and flesh of objectionable animals at religious places
- Vulgar display of religious fervours on the localities inhabited by the members of the other community, etc.
The other causative factors responsible for communal violence inter-alia, are free-rumour mongering, lack of counter measures to dilute the effect of rumours, transmission laginthe informationflows, lack of effective implementation of laws, lack of public cooperation, unrestrained use of loudspeakers at religious places and other similar practices, no regulation on religious processions, existence of different disputes, lack of responsive and responsible behaviour by local administration and lack of coordination between the various administrative units on the spot.
However, all the above causes simply initiate the process and it cannot be suggested the above list is exhaustive. It may be correct to state that there are the catalysts, which galvanize into violence an
atmosphere, which is permeated with the poison of communalism. The creating of this atmosphere and the perception of the both communities about each other have all to be viewed in the context of the several factors, which have been discussed earlier as responsible for communal violence.
Incidents of Communal Violence
Since its independence, India has seen thousands of communal clashes. It will be not possible to provide the comprehensive list. However major communal violence incidents could be represented through the list give below:
Consequences: Communal Violence
Communal violence creates an environment of tension and havoc in the affected states. It creates devastating consequences in the affected states. It has many evil effects along with creating a strong sense of fear. Following are the consequences which people of the affected areas have to face;
- Loss of Property/Lives: Communal violence causes a lot of destruction of private property as well as public property. It takes away the lives of many innocents.
- Unavailability of Jobs to Children of Riot Victims: Communal Violence affects victims in more ways than one. In some families, men are the sole breadwinners of their families. Unfortunately, people get trapped in such violence and lose their lives as a result of this respective family loses its breadwinner. Such families see decline in their economic status. Various government policies are framed by the government to provide jobs to such riot victims. But these policies are not properly executed. As a result of this the children of riot affected families are left jobless and hopeless.
- Psychology of Fear: Communal violence casts a strong psychology of fear in the minds of people whether it might be the victims or just viewers on TV channels. Even after the violence is over, the fear still remains in the hearts and minds of people. Some people undergo severe mental trauma which takes many years to heal and to lead a normal life, few do not come out of such trauma their entire lives.
- Distrust amongst People: Communal violence creates a strong feeling of distrust and hatred amongst the two different religious communities. Where riots do take place, they occur because both communities either fear or distrust the other, and neither has the courage or the foresight to forgo the present for the sake of the future, in other words to give up the communal interests for the sake of the national interests.
- Hampers the Economic Activity of People: Communal violence actually affects the economic markets in the states facing communal violence. Shops are burned, industries and factories are ruined, and economic activities are halted. Communal riots create havoc in the affected areas which may give rise to loot, plunder, robbery in shops and supermarkets. Working citizens stay back home with the fear of getting trapped in those brutal situations and significant man-hours are lost, children stop going schools and colleges, women refrain themselves from going out to buy household items Thus, communal violence immensely hampers the economic activities of people.
- Communal Violence Acts as an Obstacle to Unity: Communal violence creates the division between two different religions. During communal violence the sparring communities are engaged in conflict with one another. It hampers the unity among the people, which in turn affects the brotherhood and unity of the nation.
- Atmosphere of Hatred: The images of communal violence fans the hatred, prejudice reigns supreme, man, whether he labels himself a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, becomes a beast and crosses the limits which are not permissible in an otherwise civilised society.
Solutions to Communalism
Communalism is the product of a particular situation of a particular society, economic and polity which creates problems for its people and needs to be taken in account while trying to seek solutions. If the communalism is an ideology, it cannot be suppressed by force. No ideology can be suppressed by force. Ideology has to be fought at the level of ideas. The ideological struggle against communalism above all means bringing home to people, masses and intellectual, the falsity of communal assumption, of communal logic, of communal answer; of bringing home to people that what the communalist projects as problems are not the real problems and what the communalist say is the answer is not the real answer; this is the long haul which we have got to undertake, of going to the people and explaining to them with the help of history , with the help of sociology, with the help of everyday life, with the help of our social struggle.
- The remedy of constitutional safeguards to root out the chronic malaise of communalism shall not have desired effect unless it is tackled by society itself.
- Efforts should be made by the enlightened citizens to discourage the communal based forces from the social, political and electoral process in order to make these forces irrelevant. They are to be opposed not to be appeased.
- Communal carnage should be dealt strictly with new strategies.
- To usher an era of social equity and Sarva-DharmaSambhava the people of India should not mix religion with politics to attain the goal of common brotherhood for the unity and integrity of the nation.
- The role of education and the press is crucial. Literacy makes sense only if it is used to spread the right type of ideas, not if it is used to spread poisonous ideas.
- Ideological struggleagainst communalism doesnot at all mean a struggle against religion, religiosity. Communalism is neither inspired by religion nor is religion an object of communal politics. Religion is personal affair, even though the communalist bases his politics on religious differences, uses religious identity as an organizing principle and in mass phase of communalism uses religion to mobilize the masses.
Apart from steps taken to counter ideology of communalism certain concrete actions that could be taken by the administration to deal with communal violence could be enumerated as below:
- Quick and appropriate decisions by the administration. After identifying the type, stage and gravity of the disturbance, must take immediate actions to mitigate the losses and be proactive to requisition and move the resources and detain personnel with provocative behaviour.
- Police forces especially trained for the purpose must be promptly deployed in adequate numbers with requisite equipment and proper gear to handle situation at the physical, as well as emotional level.
- Proper delegation of responsibility and authority must be defined so that no one looks over the shoulder at the time of crises . It is also very important to hold person in charge accountable for any misgivings or over reach of authority.
- Prior to the actual build-up of tension, licensed weapons such as revolvers, guns and corrosive materials must be ceased.
- During the outbreak of a riot, the local people must be regularly kept updated regarding the prevailing situation through various forms of media, which must be controlled to ensure it does not aggravate the situation further.
- Prompt and fair probe into all incidents that may take place during the riot be conducted and locals appraised of the action taken by the administration/ government.
- Ensure the protection of identity and security of informers and witnesses to encourage more and more people to come forward.
- States must maintain emergency funds for the procurement of basic items such as medicines and food or for compensating the losses of the people.
- Law and Order is a state subject, however during an exigency like a communal riot, the district collector may not be able to control the situation effectively at panchayat and block level. Hence, the Sarpanch should be given magisterial powers and bestowed with justifiable duties to stop spreading of communal tensions.
- The states must be proactive to stock required items in adequate quantities and supply without delay such as blankets, napkins, syringes, soaps, sanitary pads, medicines, bandages, scissors, food, water, books, stationary items, kitchen items etc.
- The safety and security of the most vulnerable section, i.e. women, children, old and infirm must be the top most priority.
- The Election Commission should closely watch public speeches and parliamentary addresses of leaders and serve notices or file FIRs against anyone who makes provocative statements in relation to the communal riot incident.
- Cyber police should be watchful of posts made in the social media and websites carrying any provocative content with the aim of spreading communal tension and bring to book such people.
Measures to Counter Communal Violence
- De-communalising the people at all levels
- Common living and common share of life should be encouraged by the families, schools, social activists etc.
- Removal of poverty and deprivation
- Economic Development
- Checking Communalisation of the political elite in power
- Checking Communalisation of civil society
- Value-oriented education both in schools and colleges/universities
- Educational tours and exchange programmes
- Schemes like N.C .C., N.S.S., Girls Guide, Scout, youth leadership and training programme to be promoted
- Media – Ban on communal press and legal action can be taken for mischievous media reporting
- Foreign intervention should be carefully watched and prevented from encouraging communalism in India
- Ban communal organisations and communal political parties
- Ideology that economic development would automatically weaken and ultimately eliminate communalism should not be overplayed.
- Peace Committees can be set up
- State has to use new strategies in dealing with communal violence
- Role of media – to spread the message of religious tolerance, secularism, and common brotherhood
- Preventive measures should be taken in riot-prone areas
- Local administration should be given clear instruction to control and to prevent riots
- Government in power has to treat the extremist communal outfits as its immediate targets
- Posting of secular-minded police officials in riot prone areas.
- Setting up of special courts to try communal offences.
- Providing immediate relief and adequate financial assistance to victims of communal riots for their rehabilitation.
- Taking severe action against all those who incite communal tensions or take part in violence.
Finally, the basic reason for all communal disturbances is the communal atmosphere pervading the country and the communal tension built up between different communities. The communal atmosphere provides a ready-tilled soil for communal minded people to sow seeds of communal hatred and nurture them until the bitter harvest of communal violence is reaped. We as an evolving society, especially the youth, need to unite together to fight the communal forces and rise above the pettiness for the sake of humanity and for the security of our great nation.