Prior to independence, communalism was an integral part of India’s national discourse

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Question – “Prior to independence, communalism was an integral part of India’s national discourse”. In the light of the above statement, discuss the development of communalism in India. Also, explain its difference between present and past. 22 March 2022

AnswerIn the history of modern India, communalization had posed a formidable calamity in front of the integration of the Indian people. While on the one hand the objective of the Indian national movement was the unity of all Indians, on the other hand, communalism tried to create divisions among the people on the basis of religion, for the artificial demarcation of religious interests and religious nation.

The year 1940s was the most critical and decisive phase of communalism. It was during this period that the demand for Pakistan was put forward and publicized.

The communal propaganda and arguments were at the following three levels:-

  1. All members of a religious sect had the same interests. For example, the argument that, the interests of the Muslim landlord and the cultivator are the same, as both is members of the same sect. The same argument was valid for Sikh and Hindu sects also.
  2. The interests of members of a religious sect are different from those of members of another sect. That is, the interests of Hindus are different from those of Muslims.
  3. Not only did interests differ, but they were also opposite and conflicting. The co-existence of Hindus and Muslims was not possible due to conflicting interests.

Reasons for the emergence and development of communalism-

  1. Social and Economic Factors- The decline of upper class Muslims started with the rise of imperialism. The separation of the Muslims from the higher establishments resulted in a progressive decline in their prestige. The Muslims reformed their orthodoxy later than the Hindus, and the intellectual awakening to re-evaluation took place later. The ideological gap between Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan corroborates this argument. The insecurity arising out of this gap made Muslims rely on traditional thought process and religion.
  2. Role of British Policy – The British did not give birth to communalism, but only followed the policy of “divide and rule” by reinforcing the socio-economic and cultural differences already prevailing in the society. The arguments of the British after the revolt of 1857 were that, Indian society is divided among themselves in such a way that even after the end of British rule, the Indian people are unable to rule. Thus adopted the path of appeasement under British rule.
  1. Weaknesses of National Movements:-

(A) Congress was unable to fully understand communalism and could not devise a time strategy to fight it.

(B) Some Hindu revivalist tendencies entered the national movement, which hindered the Congress’s attempt to gain the confidence of the Muslims and take them along.

Communalism in the twentieth century

  1. Partition of Bengal and Formation of Muslim League – Unlike administrative steps, the partition of Bengal was the result of the British’s desire to weaken nationalism and strengthen Muslims against it. The formation of the Muslim League (1906) by upper-class Muslims, became a policy to alienate young Muslims from the Congress—as the British wanted.
  2. Separate electorate – This increased separatism and limited the scope of Congress for nationalist activities.
  3. Lucknow agreement, agreement on the demand of separate electorate, was done between the leaders, the public was still divided. The ‘Congress-League’ agreement was wrongly described as a ‘Hindu-Muslim’ agreement.
  4. The Wahabi movement, Shuddhi movement, Ganpati festival, Shivaji festival and, prohibition of cow slaughter, further strengthened communalism.

Myths in the context of communalism-

  • Contrary to the prevailing view, communalism is not merely the entry of religion into politics or merely the religious interpretation of politics. The great freedom fighters Gandhiji and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had great inclination towards their religion, and they also interpreted politics in religious terms.
  • Despite the old tradition of religious differences between Hindus and Muslims, the differences took the form of communalism only by reaching the modern period. That is, communalism is not a religious problem.
  • Communalism is not an inherent past problem in Indian society. It is as new as colonial rule.

Difference between past and present communalism-

  1. The replacement of communalism by the British in the colonial period was for the fulfillment of their own imperialist ambitions, whereas today communal leaders are resorted to by the communal leaders for their personal interests.
  2. In today’s mainstream media and social media, in an effort to sensationalize the news, the boundaries of ethical conduct are bound.
  3. Due to the shortcomings of administrative training, such as lack of inter-administrative coordination and unnecessary partisan police behavior, communalism is fueled.
  4. Communalism is fueled by the politics of “vote bank” unlike in the past. That is, political power has made the problem of communalism more serious in globalized India.

In this way, communalism is a major obstacle to the human and constitutional values like unity, integrity, fraternity etc. of the country. Therefore, reforms in social and political fields are desirable to neutralize communalism. Along with this, there is a need for mental and practical coordination at a large level.

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