Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation

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Question – ‘Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation.’ Argue by giving suitable illustrations. – 8 February 2022

AnswerCommunalism is an ideology that believes that society is divided into religious communities that have different interests, and sometimes are opposed to each other. The protest by the people of one community against the people of another community and religion can be termed as ‘communalism’.

For Indian society, with great diversity in geographical distribution, ensuring unity and reducing the forces/causes of communalism becomes even more challenging. If we analyze the communal conflicts (pre-independence/independence) one can identify, the power struggles were either due to the feeling of being excluded, or of being deprived of one’s rights relative to others in the society.


During the freedom struggle, the British tried their best to create groups of conflicting interests on the basis of religion through Divide and Rule. They offered reservation in public employment (Government of India 1909), with Delhi being the capital of Bengal. These appealed to minority community largely, because they felt deprived of their rights, access to power during moderate phase of Indian politics. In nationalist thought and propaganda, strong Hindu religious elements made a presence in the Congress. For example Bal Gangadhar Tilak popularized Ganesh Puja and Shivaji Festival and taking a dip in the Ganges etc.

Programs related to “Ganesh Puja” and “Shivaji Mahotsav” were not started to support the interests of Hindus. However, both “Ganesh” and “Shivaji” were associated with the sentiments of many Hindus. It was meant to be used by leaders as a tool to politically awaken Indians. This kept Muslims largely away from the Congress till 1919.

Post-independence India has been witness to many communal conflicts as most of the social and political processes have a communal color attached to it.

Political parties exploit this for capturing power resulting in “appeasement politics”/”vote bank politics”. Ghar wapsi, lynching, anti-cow slaughter, denial of minority status add fuel to this communal atmosphere and result in polarization.

The Khalistan separatist movement was one such culmination of the politics of appeasement that changed the course of modern Indian history. In the 1970s, it was considered an insult, deprivation of the Sikh community which encouraged violence.

Prescriptive measures to deal with communalism:

  • Initiating the process of emancipating people from communalism at all levels, by explaining to them the socio-economic and political roots of communalism, bringing them home that communal notions are false.
  • The communalization of the state and the political elite needs to be checked. This is because, inaction against communal violence or a vague policy for communalism by the state machinery, provides political and ideological support for communal.
  • Communalization of civil society also needs to be stopped as it leads to riots which are more communal. People with communal thoughts and ideologies pressurize the government to act in such a way, which is always against the principles of secularism.
  • The role of education, particularly emphasizing on value oriented education both in schools and colleges is important in preventing communal feelings.
  • Media can also prove to be important in curbing communal sentiments. Communal press can be banned and legal action can be taken against communal writers.

The state will have to deal with the separatists in Kashmir, the extremists in Punjab, the now banned ISS in Kerala and other extremist organizations of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communalism through its law and order machinery.

Small vulnerable communities always look to the government or turn to communal parties for protection. Pandits in Kashmir, innocent victims of communal riots in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and other states, and victims of extremist violence in Bihar, Assam, look to India’s secular state for protection of life and property.

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