Communalism is basically an ideology which consists of three elements:-
A belief that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests i.e. they have same political, economic and social interests. So, here socio- political communalities arises.
A notion that, in a multi-religious society like India, these common secular interests of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the follower of another religion.
The interests of the follower of the different religion or of different ‘communities’ are seen to be completely incompatible, antagonist and hostile.
Evolution of communalism in Indian society :-
Ancient India :-
Ancient India was united and no such communal feelings were there. People lived peacefully together, there was acceptance for each other’s culture and tradition. For example, Ashoka followed religious tolerance and focused mainly on Dhamma.
In Medieval period, there are examples such as- Akbar, who was epitome of secular practices and believed in propagating such values by abolishing Jajhiya tax and starting of Din-I- ilahi and Ibadat Khana.
Same acceptance for different cultures and tradition was practised in several kingdoms throughout India, because of which there was peace and harmony, barring few sectarian rulers like Aurangzeb, who was least tolerant for other religious practises.
Such rulers and actions by them like- imposing taxes on religious practises of other community, destructing temples, forced conversions, killing of Sikh guru, etc. were instrumental in deepening and establishing the feeling of communal differences in India.
But, these incidents were not common as, huge majority of Indians were rural and were aloof from such influences and so people coexisted peacefully. Overall, the Hindus and Muslims in those days, had common economic and political interests.
Communalism in India is result of the emergence of modern politics, which has its roots in partition of Bengal in 1905and feature of separate electorate under Government of India Act, 1909.
Later, British government also appeased various communities through Communal award in 1932
All these acts were done by the British government to appease Muslims and other communities, for their own political needs. This feeling of communalism has deepened since then, fragmenting the Indian society and being a cause of unrest.
Stages of communalism in India:-
First stage was rise of nationalistHindu, Muslim, Sikh, etc. .Roots of this were led in later part of 19th century with Hindu revivalist movement like Shuddhi movement of Arya Samaj and Cow protection riots of 1892.
On the other hand movements like Faraizi movement started Haji Shariatullah in Bengal to bring the Bengali Muslims back on the true path of Islam, was one of the religious reform movement which had bearing on communalism in 19th
Second stage was of Liberal communalism.
It believed in communal politics but liberal in democratic, humanist and nationalist values. It was basically before 1937. For example organisations like Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League and personalities like M.A. Jinnah, M M Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai after 1920s
Third was the stage of Extreme Communalism
It demanded for separate nation, based on fear and hatred. There was tendency to use violence of language, deed and behaviour. For example Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha after 1937.
Itspread as a by-product of colonialism, economic stagnations and absence of modern institutions of education and health. These factors caused competition, people started using nepotism .
Short term benefits from communalism started giving validity to communal politics.
Later on, spread of education to peasant and small landlords gave rise to new middle class, as agriculture was becoming stagnant. So, these people started demanding communal representation and this way, social base for communalism widened.. Communalism, started rooting deeply, as it was an expression of aspiration and interest of middle class for less opportunity.
Further, from very beginning upper caste Hindus dominated colonial services as they adapted early to colonial structure.
This resulted in resentment in Muslims in late 19thcentury and they then formed a pressure group under Sir Sayed Ahmed Kahn to bargain as a separate community. In contrast Congress standpoint was always focused on ‘rights and freedom of individual’ not on a particular community
Communalism represented a struggle between two upper classes / strata for power, privileges and economic gain. For Example- In western Punjab at that time, Muslim landlord opposed Hindu moneylenders. In eastern Bengal, Muslim jotedarsopposed Hindu Later on, communalism developed as weapon of economically and politically reactionary social classes and political forces.