Communalism (South Asia)

From Bharatpedia, an open encyclopedia

Communalism is a term used to denote attempts to construct religious or ethnic identity, incite strife between people identified as different communities, and to stimulate communal violence between those groups.[1] It derives from history, differences in beliefs, and tensions between the communities.[2] Communalism is a significant social issue in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.[2] Communal conflicts between religious communities in India, especially Hindus and Muslims, have occurred since the period of British colonial rule, occasionally leading to serious inter-communal violence.[3]

The term communalism was coined by the British colonial government as it wrestled to manage Hindu-Muslim riots and other violence between religious, ethnic and disparate groups in its colonies, particularly in British West Africa and the Cape Colony, in early 20th century.[4][5][6]

Communalism is not unique to South Asia. It is found in Africa,[7][8] the Americas,[9][10] Asia,[11][12] Europe[13] and Australia.[14]


The term came into use in early 20th century during the British colonial rule. The 4th Earl of Minto was called the father of communal electorates for legalising communalism by the Morley-Minto Act in 1909.[15] The All-India Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha represented such communal interests, and the Indian National Congress represented an overarching "nationalist" vision.[16] In the runup to independence in 1947, communalism and nationalism came to be competing ideologies and led to the division of British India into Pakistan and the Republic of India. British historians have attributed the cause of the partition to the communalism of Jinnah and the political ambitions of the Indian National Congress.[17]

Incidents of communal violence[edit]

Name Date Results
Direct Action Day 16 August 1946 Partition of Bengal, 4,000 People dead.
1971 Bangladesh genocide 21 March – 16 December 1971 Estimated between 300,000 to 3 million Bengalis dead, 3 million displaced.
1984 anti-Sikh riots 31 October – 3 November 1984 3,350 (Indian government figure) or 8,000–17,000 (independent estimate) Sikhs dead.
Bombay riots December 1992 – January 1993 Around 900 Hindus and Muslims dead, 200,000 refugees.
Wandhama massacre 25 January 1998 25 Hindus killed.
Chittisinghpura massacre 20 March 2000 35 Sikhs killed.
Godhra Train Burning 27 February 2002 58 Hindus killed.
2002 Gujarat riots 27 February 2002 – 1 March 2002 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus dead (Government figure).
Marad massacre 2 May 2003 8 Hindus killed.
2010 Deganga riots 6 September 2010 Hindu property damaged.
2012 Assam violence 20 July 2012 – 15 September 2012 77 dead.
2020 Delhi riots 23 February 2020 – 29 February 2020 36 Muslims and 15 Hindus dead.

See also[edit]


  1. Donald Horowitz (1985), Ethnic Groups in Conflict, ISBN 978-0520053854
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pandey, Gyanendra (2006). The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. Oxford India.
  3. Gettleman, Jeffrey; Raj, Suhasini; Yasir, Sameer (2020-02-25). "New Delhi Streets Turn Into Battleground, Hindus vs. Muslims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  4. Gerry van Klinken, Communal Violence and Democratization in Indonesia - Small Town Wars, ISBN 978-0-415-41713-6, Routledge
  5. Arafaat A. Valiani, Militant Publics in India: Physical Culture and Violence in the Making of a Modern Polity, ISBN 978-0230112575, Palgrave Macmillan, pp 29-32
  6. David Killingray, Colonial Warfare in West Africa, in Imperialism and War: Essays on Colonial Wars in Asia and Africa (Edited by Jaap A. de Moor, H. L. Wesseling), ISBN 978-9004088344, Brill Academic
  7. Kynoch, G. (2013). Reassessing transition violence: Voices from South Africa's township wars, 1990–4. African Affairs, 112(447), 283-303
  8. John F. McCauley, Economic Development Strategies and Communal Violence in Africa, Comparative Political Studies February 2013 vol. 46 no. 2 182-211
  9. Willis, G. D. (2014), Antagonistic authorities and the civil police in Sao Paulo Brazil, Latin American Research Review, 49(1), 3-22
  10. Resource guide for municipalities UNODC
  11. Mancini, L. (2005) Horizontal Inequality and Communal Violence: Evidence from Indonesian Districts (CRISE Working Paper No. 22, Oxford, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford)
  12. Werbner, P. (2010), Religious identity, The Sage handbook of identities, ISBN 978-1412934114, Chapter 12
  13. Todorova, T. (2013), ‘Giving Memory a Future’: Confronting the Legacy of Mass Rape in Post-conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina, Journal of International Women's Studies, 12(2), 3-15
  14. Bell, P., & Congram, M. (2013), Communication Interception Technology (CIT) and Its Use in the Fight against Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) in Australia: A Review of the Literature, International Journal of Social Science Research, 2(1), 46-66
  15. Laxmikanth, M (2017). Indian Polity (Fourth ed.). Chennai, India: McGraw Hill Education. p. 1.6. ISBN 978-93-5260-363-3.
  16. Akbar, M. J. (1989). Nehru, The Making of India. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140100839.
  17. "BBC - History - British History in depth: The Hidden Story of Partition and its Legacies". Retrieved 2020-06-07.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chandra, Bipan (1984). Communalism in Modern India. New Delhi: Vikas. ISBN 0706926552.
  • Praful Bidwai; Harbans Mukhia; Achin Vanaik, eds. (1996). Religion, Religiosity and Communalism. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 8173041326.
    • Jhingran, Saral. "Religion and communalism"
  • Pandey, Gyanendra (1992), The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195630106
  • Asgharali Engineer. Lifting the veil: communal violence and communal harmony in contemporary India. Sangam Books, 1995. ISBN 81-7370-040-0.
  • Ludden, David, editor. Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India, Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1996.
  • Manuel, Peter. "Music, the Media, and Communal Relations in North India, Past and Present," pp. 119–39.
  • Martin E. Marty, R. S. Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms Observed The Fundamentalism Project vol. 4, eds., University Of Chicago Press (1994), ISBN 978-0-226-50878-8
  • Mumtaz Ahmad, an 'Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat', pp. 457–530.
    • Gold, Daniel, 'Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truths to Hindu Nation', pp. 531–593.
  • T. N. Madan, 'The Double-Edged Sword: Fundamentalism and the Sikh Religious Tradition', pp. 594–627.
  • A History of the Hindu-Muslim Problem in India from the Earliest Contacts Up to its Present Phase With Suggestions for Its Solution. Allahabad, 1933. Congress report on the 1931 Cawnpur Riots.
  • Nandini Gooptu, The Urban Poor and Militant Hinduism in Early Twentieth-Century Uttar Pradesh, Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press (1997).

External links[edit]

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