Communalism is a belief that all those who have a common religion also have, as a result, common social, political, cultural and economic interests and identities. It is a notion that religion forms the base of the society and a basic unit of division and that it is religion which determines all other interests of its adherents. Hence communalism is a phenomenon of superimposition of religious beliefs on all other aspects of a man’s life. Because in pre-independence India, communalism mainly manifested itself in Hindu-Muslim context, hence it is also loosely referred to as Hindu-Muslim problem even though it contains in its gamut all rabble-rousing saber-rattling extremists of all hues. Ingrained in this concept of communalism are three mistaken beliefs 1. interests of the adherents of a religion are the same. 2. interests of the adherents of different religions were different. 3. interests of adherents of different religions were also antagonistic.
Though there is no unanimity amongst scholars on the emergence of communalism, its genesis can be safely seen with the British conquest of India and its impact on socio-politico-economics of its peoples. Communalism flourished in India and reached monstrous proportions in 1947 under British rule. But British did not create communalism. It only took advantage of socio-economic and cultural differences and amplified those differences to serve their political ends. Hence the British policy of ‘divide and rule’ was planted on an earth made very fertile by those existing differences. Post 1857, British shifted to a policy of ‘concession, counterpoise and coercion’ to accommodate new rising class, to counterbalance strong class and to browbeat recalcitrant class.
The revivalistic tendencies of the 19th century, while serving some good interests also contributed to development of schism between these two religions as it projected to different origins, glorious or otherwise, for Hindus and Muslims. This...
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