- October 21, 2020
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: MMN
WHAT IS COMMUNALISM?
Communalism in a broad sense implies blind allegiance to one’s own communal group – religious, linguistic or ethnic – rather than to the larger society or to the nation as a whole. In its extreme form, communalism manifests itself in hatred towards groups perceived as hostile, ultimately leading to violent attacks on other communities.
Communalism is an ideology used to fulfill socio, economic and politico hopes of a community or social groups. It requires proposals and programmes to ensure its very existence. These become active in phases of social change.
HOW COMMUNALISM ARISES?
Communalism arises out of a belief system, and assumes great solidarity within a community which is not always true. We find that there are often intercommunity quarrels. They consider egalitarianism as abnormal and support patriarchy as a familial and social norm Communalism is therefore a
- belief system
- social phenomenon.
Further, the protagonists of communalism hold a particular view of history and take care to point out that a community has been identified with common members of different communities.
Why is that only particular communities are antagonistic to each other?
- sufferings and goals as a whole.
- The exclusiveness of the community is stressed vis a vis other communities, and it is therefore considered logical to fit for one’s rights in a literal way.
STAGES OF COMMUNALISM:
- First Stage of Communalism – Communal Consciousness
- Second Stage of Communalism – Liberal Communalism
- Third Stage of Communalism – Extreme Communalism
COMMUNALISM IN INDIA:
”When we speak of communalism in India we refer to religious contrasts”.
PHASES OF COMMUNALISM IN INDIA:
Communalism in India has, as noted earlier, a colonial legacy wherein the rulers (British) used religious contrasts, existing among the different communities to their advantage by giving them prominence.
After Independence economic modernization of India expanded economic opportunities but not enough to curb unhealthy competitiveness. Job sharing among the different communities from as smaller pool of opportunities in causing much heartburn. Independence from the colonial power unleashed a horrendous communal holocaust, caused by the partition of the country into two parts on the eve of Independence in 1947.
Communalism arose in India during its colonial phase. Communal politics bases it strategies on religion and tradition. The interpretation of history is for purposes of mobilisation. Communal organisations have little room for democracy. Secondly they may also involve racist contrasts and perpetrate the same.
COMMUNALISMDURING NATIONAL MOVEMENT:
Communalism took deep roots in Indian polity during the later phase of the national movement and this was encouraged by the colonial rulers. This process was a continuation of the weakness and inadequacy of secularism as conceived and practised during the anticolonial struggle.
Implicit in all the theories has been the assumption that the growth of Hindu-Muslim tension was not the natural and inevitable outcome of changes taking place in the Indian society. Partition was the culmination of the conflict which could and should have been avoided.
Further this line of reasoning states that nation building essentially means obliteration of communal moulds and creation of a common identity which describes the existence of differentiated groups based on religion, caste or language.
Communal forces are therefore viewed as division and a sign of political underdevelopment. Communalism arises when one or two characteristics of an ethnic identity e.g. religious beliefs are taken and emotionally surcharged. Communal movements are often brief and exist in a dyad, comprising an opposing force or ideology which has to be countered.
Hindu-Muslims riots reflected the religious fears and socio-economic aspirations of the Hindus and Muslims. Sometimes these riots occur for very minor reasons such as quarrels between Muslim and Hindu shopkeepers. The important point is that these are not isolated acts but often deliberate mechanizations of various socio-religious organisations.
Recurrent collision were engineered on festivals by stopping them and various religious occasions by interfering in their process-. This was done to inflame communal passions and bitterness. The acme of communal rioting was reached in August 1946 in Calcutta when the Muslim League observed a ‘Direct Action Day’. Bombay did the same in the following month.
Thus Independence was erected on the corpses of many thousands of people. With Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination the riots abated awhile, and this situation was basically sustained by Nehru. Again the passing away of Nehru in 1964 and the deteriorating socioeconomic circumstances led to the resurrection of communal violence.
COMMUNALISM IN POST INDEPENDENCE ERA:
Recent Communal Riots Thus during the late 60s and 1970s there was large scale communal rioting in Ahmedabad, Baroda, Ranchi, Jamshedpur etc. Communal configurations in towns such as Ranchi cast a shadow over predictions and beliefs in the future of workers unity.
Again in Bhiwandi where there was a carnage in 1969, it was a shock for the leftists. The grassroots movement among the handloom workers fostered by committed communists was unable to stem the on rush of communal violence.
The inflammatory factors were insults to-holy scriptures and sacred cows. It was suspected however, these riots were politically motivated. These riots indicated clearly that there were various political factors behind the surface level factors of religion based tensions and confrontations.
In the mid seventies the communal riots abated a bit both due to the Emergency and the Janata Regime. The first exercised iron control and discipline the second aroused the hopes of both Hindus and Muslims. The first six years of the eighties once more created an upward incline in the I riot-graph. The Communal violence is backed by religious arguments and backing. He feels that those resorting to it are neither true Hindus nor true Muslims. Religion does not preach enmity.
However the causes which are often given for communal violence are hurt religious sentiments. The causes are flimsy such as playing music before a mosque, insulting the Prophet or the Holy Quran. This is sufficient to provoke violence among some ‘ of the Muslims. So also disturbing by Muslims of a religious yatra is enough to rouse Hindu ire.
Reasons for Communal Riots In the context of our section of recent-communal riots we turn now to some further reasons for the same.
Economic and Social Dimensions:
- riots are part of progress in an under developed country. The class struggle is converted into a communal struggle weakening the solidarity of the proletariat class. Further the middle and backward classes have acquired greater political and economic strength and influence and these often assert themselves.
- Economic conflicts lead to riots as in Bihar Sharif and Bhiwandi. it) Electoral politics determine the objectives and direction of communal violence· e.g. Delhi 1986. These explanations oannot be binding–they cannot be held to the necessary and sufficient. Often economic reasons emerge after (not before) the rioting has begun.
- Again in a developing society economic factors where competitive or one lagging behind the other can lead to a riot. The same applies to reductionist political causes. The idea of be6ind-the-scene political manipulation may not be valid.
Factors responsible for communalism:
- Communal view of Indian history:
A communal and distorted view of Indian history, particularly of the ancient and medieval period, was also responsible for its growth. A beginning in this regard was made by the British historian, James Mill in the early 19th century, who described the ancient period of Indian history as the Hindu period and the medieval period as the Muslim period. Other British and Indian historians followed him in this respect.
These writers declared that all Muslims were rulers in the medieval period and all Hindus ruled. Thus, the basic character of the polity in India was identified with religion. Hindu communal view of history relied on the myth that Indian society and culture had reached ideal heights in the ancient period and fell into permanent and continuous decay during the medieval period because of the Muslim rule and domination. In turn the Muslim communalism harked back to the ‘golden age of Islamic achievement’ in West Asia and appealed to its heros, myths and cultural achievements. They tended to defend and glorify all Muslim rulers, including religious bigots like Aurangzeb.
- Psychological and other factors:
Paul R Brass in his edited book Riots and Pogroms says that riots occur in waves, records, and in the wake of a “psychological atmosphere”. Yet, after the trauma of Partition, riots decreased in frequency. The graph began to rise only after the Jabalpur riots in 1961.
Riot is “a violent disturbance of peace by an assembly or body of persons,” a pogrom is “an organised massacre”. We have had at least two pogroms since Independence. One was against the Sikhs in Delhi in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. The other was in Mumbai in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, in December 1992 and January 1993.
- Role of Media:
Rumours, abetted by the media, play a role in almost every major communal riot. By virtue of their proximity to the source, many vernacular newspapers disseminate rumours as “news”.
In fact, the system of communal information dissemination and perpetuation is far more sophisticated than that of mere words. During the 1969 Ahmedabad riots, newspapers headlined rumoured reports of attacks on Hindu temples.
- Politics of appeasement:
Political parties, prompted by political considerations, take decisions, which promote communal violence. Take the example of Shah Bano case. Muslims reacted aggressively against the Supreme Court judgement which granted a Muslim divorcee, Shah Bano, maintenance in excess and in protraction of the Shari’ah, which permits maintenance only for the iddah (three months post-divorce) period.The then Central government overturned the judgement by passing the Muslim Women’s Act in early 1986.
- Communal and Vote Bank Politics:
Communal disturbance necessitates a communalised context and intervention by a political party. A communally surcharged ambience is often the result of a political tug-of-war between secular and communal parties for the votes of majority and minority communities. A partisan police aggravates the breakdown of law and order, through incitement, active participation, and letting rumours fester and fly. The slightest indication of minority communalism fans a multi-fold release of majority communalism. True history takes a beating, as does the incumbent administration. Finally, secular forces become victims no less than the communities in question.
Eg: Babri Masjid demolition and Communal mobilization
Measures to deal with communalism:
The canker of communal confrontation is widespread in India. Many cities have been a communal power these last several years. There are a good number of states where communalism has taken deep and seemingly permanent roots and communal politics is in full bloom.
The support for communalists has certainly swelled in the last few decades. Communal organizations, numbering less than a dozen in 1951, have grown to over 500 now (1997) with an active membership running into several millions. The number of districts affected by communal violence has grown.
People with established criminal records are supporting leaders with communal philosophies and are using them as a shield to protect themselves from police action and as a crutch of respectability. Measures to meet the challenge of communalism and communal violence can be of two types: long-term and short-term.
The long-term remedy:
- Initiating the process of de-communalizing the people at all levels, say, by bringing home to them that communal assumptions are false, by explaining to them the socio-economic and political roots of communalism, and by telling them that what the communalists project as the problems are not the real problems and what they suggest as remedies are not the real remedies.
- Communalization of the state and of the political elite in power has to be checked because it leads to inaction against communal violence and covert or overt political and ideological support to communalism by the state apparatuses, including the media under state control.
- Communalization of civil society also needs to be checked because it leads to more communal riots and other forms of communal violence. People with communal ideas and ideologies pressurize the government to act in a manner which is always against the principle of secularism.The secular state, the secular party in power and the secular power elite many a time succumb to the pressures of these communal people. It is here that intellectuals, political parties and voluntary organizations can be most effective.
- Role of education, particularly emphasizing on value-oriented education both in schools and colleges/universities, is important in preventing communal feelings. Education based on traditional cultural ideologies can protect the young people from philosophies and ideologies of hate.
Particularly harmful in the Indian context has been the role of the teaching of history. Communal interpretation of history, specially of the medieval period, forms the bedrock of communal ideology in India. Teaching of history along scientific lines in educational institutions has to be a basic element in any ideological struggle against communalism.
- The media can also prove to be significant in preventing communal feelings. Communal press can be banned and legal action can be taken against communal writers.
- The ideology that economic development, industrialization, growth of capitalism and the growth of the working class would automatically weaken and ultimately eliminate communalism should not be overplayed. This economic reductionist approach of the left parties and organizations like naxalites only increases communal poison. It is not being suggested that modern economic development is not needed in our society.
What is being pointed out is that economic development alone cannot contain communalism. It is not class struggles which eliminate communalism but communalism surely hampers class unity. Communal violence is more prevalent in developed states like Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat and in developed cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jamshedpur and Kanpur.
Some immediate measures for containing communalism and communal riots:
- Peace Committees can be set up in which individuals belonging to different religious communities can work together to spread goodwill and fellow-feelings and remove feelings of fear and hatred in the riot-affected areas. This will be effective not only in diffusing communal tensions but also in preventing riots from breaking out.
- The state has to plan and use new strategies in dealing with communal violence. India’s experience in recent years confirms the utility of this step. Whenever strong and secular administrators have used or threatened the use of strong steps, riots either did not occur or were of short duration. For example, strong police and army intervention prevented repetition of riots in Calcutta in November 1984 and in Mumbai in January 1994.
- When the anti-social elements and religious fanatics and people with vested interests realize that the government is impartial and the police is serious in putting down communal violence with all the force at its command, they immediately withdraw from spreading communal frenzy.
- This also calls for non-communalizing law-enforcement agencies. Experience of riots in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bhiwandi and Meerut and violence in Amritsar, Jullundar and Ludhiana in Punjab shows that, communalized officials invariably make the communal situation worse.
- The role of media is immensely heightened during the course of communal violence. Newspaper can pour oil over the troubled waters or extinguish the raging fire. The fear and hatred can be checked if the press, radio and TV report the events in a way conducive to soothing the frayed nerves of people instead of inflaming the temper further. The media can contradict rumours in a sober manner. A careful restraint has to be exercised in reporting the number of persons of different religious communities killed or injured.
- The government in power has to treat the extremist communal outfits as its immediate targets and cripple their capacity to disrupt law and order. The secessionists in Kashmir, the militants in Punjab, the ISS (now banned) in Kerala and other extremist organizations of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communalism have to be dealt with by the state through its law and order machinery.
The small insecure communities always look to government or move towards communal parties for protection. The Pandits in Kashmir, the innocent victims of communal riots in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and other states, and the sufferers of violence of extremists in Bihar, Assam, etc. look towards the secular state of India for the security of life and property.
The communalism of the 1980s and the seven years of the 1990s has placed a clear responsibility on the doors of the secular state to confront the communal elements who have emerged as merchants of death. Today, communalism is on the march and secularism is on the retreat, and the state is on the defensive.
The state was on the defensive in post-Blue Star Operation phase, on the retreat on Shah Bano case, and under siege on Mandir-Masjid issue in Ayodhya in 1992 and Hazratbal siege in November 1993 and in Charar-e-Shrief shrine siege in May 1995. In all these situations, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communalists were on the offensive. The challenge of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communalism has to be met by the Indian state at political and ideological levels both with short-term and long-term strategies.
The government is also facing the problem of the emergence of religion-based politics as a central factor in public affairs and elections, although election results in several states in the last five-six years have proved that the people have rejected such politics.
If the surging tide of communalism is not reversed, it will swap the country. Before independence, it was easy to argue that communal violence was the result of the British policy of divide and rule. Now the reality is more complex. Religion has come to be politicized and the politics has come to be criminalized.
Unless all communities consider themselves a part of one nation, the containing of communal disharmony will remain difficult. A country that prides itself on the secular character of its policies has to be wary of politicians who speak only for their own religious community. It has to expose and alienate the bureaucrats who consider secularism only as a theoretical possibility.
The police can no longer afford to allow communal issue to foster in the manner that it has. Stopping communally minded politicians and debarring them from contesting elections, giving deterrent punishment to religious fanatics, adopting corrective measures like keeping the police department free from the politicians’ control, strengthening the police intelligence section, restructuring the police force, gearing the police administration to be more sensitive, and reworking the training programme of police officials and enabling them to acquire a secular outlook and making them responsible for their failures could prove to be effective measures to tackle the problem of communal riots.
An efficient police organization, enlightened policemen, well equipped and specially trained police wings are bound to yield positive results. The government has also to take measures for removing the feeling of discrimination and deprivation which do not actually exist. The Minorities Commission set up in 1978 during Morarji Desai’s tenure as Prime Minister, was recognized as a statutory body in May 1992 with a view to enhancing its effectiveness.
Before this, it functioned as a toothless tiger because in the absence of legal sanction, it could do little beyond suggesting remedies or advising the government and the administration. The Commission is intended to safeguard the interests of the minorities whether based on religion or language.
Its eight-point objectives are as follows:
- Evaluating the working of various safeguards for the minorities in the Constitution and the laws passed by the union and state governments.
- Recommending the most effective way to implement the laws pertaining to the minorities.
- Looking into specific complaints.
- Conducting studies and research on the question of avoidance of discrimination against minorities.
- Reviewing union and state government policies towards minorities.
- Suggesting appropriate legal and welfare measures to be undertaken by the union and state governments.
- Submitting reports (on minorities) to the government from time to time.
- Serving as a national clearing house for information in respect of the conditions of the minorities.
Its status was such that nobody took the Commission seriously because both the Centre and the state governments were not bound to follow its suggestions. Over the years, the Commission’s annual reports on the plight of the minorities gathered dust. But the statutory status will now change the position. Its role will not only be investigative but also a judicial one.
It is expected that with more powers, the Commission would now become a truly effective tool in tackling the deteriorating communal situation in the country and ensuring the welfare of the religious minorities which comprised 17 per cent of the total population of the country.
Symbolic gestures will not suffice. It is necessary to look at the real problems of the religious minorities in terms of employment, literacy and getting them a fair share of representation in every field. Efforts are needed for the development of the minority communities and removing their mass illiteracy and unemployment.
Secular structures have to be promoted and preserved. Vigorous attacks need to be launched on religious institutions which foster communalism. Suspicions between communities must be rigorously weeded out. A common civil code in the country is the need of the day. There should be no special laws for specific communities and no special status for any state.
The reservation policy has to be reconsidered. Political manipulation has to be tackled. Politicians interfering with police functioning and disallowing arrests of trouble makers have to be severely dealt with. Public opinion and mass enlightenment have to be brought about to make secular values functional.
- Posting of secular-minded district and 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.
Thus, multipronged measures are needed to contain the communal tensions and bring about communal harmony in the country. We have not only to fight religious communalism but have also to contain political communalism which is more degrading and dangerous. A vast majority of Muslims and Sikhs in India have no appetite for communal violence, and this mirrors the sentiments of most Hindus.
Even the members of the Muslim and Sikh communities are convinced that the growing tension can be stopped if politicians are somehow prevented from exploiting people for their narrow ends. The Muslim on the street is slowly recognizing the exploitative intentions of politicians. Religious sloganeering does not affect him so much now. He no longer harbours a sneaking desire to seek economic redress across the border. He feels far more secure here.
If Muslims and other minorities are encouraged to consider themselves as a valuable commodity to be traded at election time rather than being equal citizens of a free India, they can never be motivated enough to participate in the greater endeavour for the national good. Social scientists and intellectuals have to evince serious interest in controlling the national malaise of communalism and in related issues like religious violence, separatism, secessionism, and terrorism.
REFERENCE FOR FURTHER READING AND CURRENT EVENTS ON COMMUNALISM: