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AN ANALYTICAL APPROACH TO EXAMINE COMMUNAL PROBLEMS IN INDIAN SOCIETY
Author: Rimsha Riyaz, II year of BA.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Jagran Lakecity University, School of Law, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
The Indian society is a muti-cultural, muti-religious and ethnically plural and inclusive society with a great amount of diversity unique to India. This diversity of India came with its own perils. The different communities of India have lived peacefully, since time immemorial. However, the relations between these communities became sour with the advent of the British rule in India and thereafter continued even after the country was partitioned. This led to the commonly known ideology of communalism which gave rise to clashes among communities. The ideology of communalism became deeply rooted in the society and led to communal problems like violence and riots among the communities. Communal violence is the biggest curse to diversity and a stain on the secular fabric of the country. All the problems of communal violence and riots that have time and again disturbed the peace of the country can be attributed to the rise of communalism and its social and political play. Communalism took roots in the Indian society in the name of protecting one’s religious identity. Therefore, due to a rise in loyalty towards one’s religion developed a feeling of hatred towards the people of other religions for the sake of protecting their own religion. Thus, communalism has thrived in India and continues to do so as is manifest in various activities and forms.
Reasons for rise of communal problems in India
There a number of reasons and causes attributed to the rise of communalism in India resulting in a number communal problems in India, most common of all being communal riots.
Divide and Rule policy of the British: The British colonials ruled over India for 200 years and according to them the secret for ruling a country like India was to keep the people of India divided. This they did by spreading communal hatred among the major two communities of Hindus and Muslims and make them fight each other so that they cannot unify and fight the exploitative British Rule altogether. This division and hatred took the form of violent clashes between the two communities and led to the partition of Bengal by the British rulers. Thus, the Indians remained weak and powerless when they were divided as the seed of communalism had already been sown by the British who strengthened their roots in India.[i]
Aggressive Religious Nationalism: This kind of nationalism exists when the idea of a nation coincides with that of religion. Such an exclusive idea of a nation leads to sowing of seeds communal hatred between communities and renders one community to feel inferiority and status of second-class citizens. This is evident from the partition of India and formation of a separate nation of Pakistan for Muslims, which was an outcome of aggressive religious nationalism. This kind of nationalism is also seen in India when the political ideology of ‘Hindutva’ was propounded for making India a Hindu rashtra. The idea of a Hindu rashtra is based on the ideology that Indian nationalism should derive its roots from the ancient Indian empires and their wars with the Mughals and hence, Indian nationalism is based on the struggle of Hindus against Muslims for their religious identity.[ii]
Political Organizations: Most of the time feeling communal hatred among communities is generated or amplified by the communal organizations who spread their ideologies through propaganda. The communal violence and riots taking place in the country can also be attributed to the hate speech given by leaders of such organizations. The problem of communal violence is aggravated when such organizations enter the political arena and take part in elections.This can be understood with the example of the Muslim League which demanded separate electorates for Muslims and later proposed the two-nation theory which led to the brutal partition of the country based on communalism. Another example of this is the Hindu agenda propounded by the BJP/VHP/RSS in their construction of the Muslim as the ‘other’, and a ‘dangerous foreignelement’, and them contesting elections based on these issues.
Ineffective Handling of Communal Riots: For the government to be able to effectively stop the spread of communalism in the society among its subjects, the most essential and basic rule is that the government should not favor or facilitate the accomplishment of interests of one community over the other and should act in a neutral unbiased manner. Sometimes the government which favors one community facilitates the feeling of communal hatred and overlooks any hate crimes committed by people of that community. This is also the outcome of communal organizations entering politics as when such parties form governments of the nation, one cannot expect them to not favor their own community or to act fairly. Therefore, as a result of this, such a government would not take action on riots and communal hatred as it thrives on such hatred. Hence, communalism reaches the core of the society and takes its worst form with the government unable to curb the riots. Such a form of communalism also creates great problems in the working of Indian political system.
The Role played by social media
In the era of internet and social media, where everything socio-economic, cultural, political has gone online, modern state politics has also taken advantage of social media as a means of spreading propaganda and facilitate the interests of communal groups in spreading communal hatred through hate-speech messages, fake news and what not. Social media has provided a conducive environment for communal hatred to flourish and spread exponentially in the recent years in India. However, social media does not work in isolation for the spread of communal hatred and promotion of communal violence. There are a number of ‘catalysts’ that work together with the social media and use it as a means to push their own agendas in the garb of social media news and updates.[iii]
There have been various instances of communal clashes riots that took place in India as a consequence of the spread of provocative content for one community and fake news to incite communal violence.
One such incident was Assam violence, which there were clashes between the indigenous Bodos and the Bengali- speaking Muslims. Tensions spread as it was contended that the Bengali- speaking Muslims were alleged migrators from Bangladesh and a threat to the indigenous people of Assam. These escalated into riots between the two communities when four Bodo youths were killed by unknown persons. This news spread throughout India via social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. As a result of this, an organized mob protested in Mumbai and Pune, which later became violent. Thus, social media acted as a means to mobilize one section of the public.
Another incident in which the social media played a major role in inciting a communal riot. These were the Muzaffarnagar riots that took place in 2013 between Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar and have been considered as ‘the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history’. The main cause of this riot was the social media abuse to spread rumors and fake news with the help of videos and pictures. It was also found that members of political parties had a hand in this for their political propaganda.
The same was also true in the Baduria riots of 2017 in which the violence started on the basis of a social media post containing communal hate speech and communal slurs. Provoked and angered by the posts, a mob attacked the homes of one community with a bigger response by the other community which included demolition of places of worship. Some of the rioters, it was found, were not even residents of the region but were outsiders. Thus, social media was used as a weapon to anger mobs by sharing religiously provocative content.
Therefore, such a blatant use of social media as tool for violence and disturbing the peace of the land should be curbed. For doing the same new administrative measures are needed to prevent social media from having a serious impact on communal violence.
Consequences of Communal Violence
Communal violence has a very detrimental effect on the peace and tranquility of the society. The consequences of communal violence are multi- fold and are not limited to just the region where the violence occurred, especially in the era of internet and social media, as is evident from the above- mentioned instances.
There is not just physical loss of lives of peoples of all communities irrespective of whether they were involved in the violence or not. The impact of such communal violence is also felt by the government itself as it also leads to instability to governments of the states and disturbances to the whole nation.
These incidents of communal violence are not just momentary crimes, but their impact is felt by the subjects for years to come, as is clear that the hatred created at the time of partition recurs in many forms to this date. The worst effect is faced by the minorities, whose hearts are filled with fear of getting the status of second-class citizens in their own country in which their ancestors had lived for centuries.
The communal violence is also a threat to the constitution and constitutionalism in the country as the nation which takes pride in its secular identity has to face such communal violence. It is a setback for the society and hinders the progress and development of the society and the nation as a whole. A country which is deeply divided on such issues cannot prosper in economic and technological advancement. The society is filled with trauma and insecurities and takes a lot of time to overcome and move on from such happenings.
Thus, measures should be taken to cut the roots of communalism in the Indian society as it deeply rooted in the society itself. For curbing the spread of communalism, one has to fight the elements it thrives in the society. Since communalism is an ideology,it cannot be fought with physical force, but has to be fought at the level of ideas.
For this, feelings of inter-community love and brotherhood should be propagated through acts of love. At the social level, people of one community can ensure the other that they are not a threat to their identity. Instead of organizing communal pogroms and dharm sansads, inter-community events for love and peace could be organized by religious organizations in which different communities participate in secular events and come to common terms.
What is an also important measure is that, religion should not be mixed with politics and the general public should stop voting for parties who spread communal hatred and violence to push their own political agendas.
The struggle against communalism does not mean a war against religions or religiosity. The objective of anti-communal measures is not to spread hatred for religions in general, but to usher peace, acceptance and tolerance of all differences in religions and practices and make an inclusive society.
Therefore, it can be concluded the communalism is a very big problem in the Indian society which cannot be tackled like other problems of poverty and unemployment. The struggle against communalism is a struggle of ideologies and a struggle of peace and love. The Indian society needs to tackle this on its own. The government has been ineffective in stopping its spread and preventing riots and mere constitutional freedom of religion cannot by itself end this curse in the society. The biggest counter to the ideology of communalism is the Gandhian philosophy. Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of a peaceful India for all but the reality is quite distant from this dream as since that time, there have been more than 5000 communal riots which took place in India.
[i]Mohsin Iqbal Najar, 'Communal Violence, Its Causes And Solutions' (2014) 3 International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention <http://www.ijhssi.org/papers/v3(12)/Version-1/B0312010507.pdf> accessed 10 May 2022. [ii] Sparsh Agarwal, 'Communalism In Secular India: Threat To Minorities' <https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1970-communalism-in-secular-india-threat-to-minorities.html> accessed 10 May 2022. [iii] Bepari, Sufal. (2020). ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN RECENT COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA. International Journal Of Advance Research And Innovative Ideas In Education. 6. 1181-1187