Communalism (South Asia)

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Communalism is used in South Asia to denote attempts to promote primarily religious stereotypes between groups of people identified as different communities and to stimulate violence between those groups. It derives not from community but from "tensions between the (religious) communities.[1] The sense given to this word in South Asia is represented by the word sectarianism outside South Asia.

In South Asia, "communalism" is seen as existing primarily between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians. In contemporary India, "communalism" designates not only the conflicts between extremist religious communities, but also those between peoples of the same religion but from different regions and states. Caste Political parties are generally considered to play an important role in stimulating, supporting and/or suppressing communalism.


Communalism is a term used in South Asia to represent idealogies centred on particular communities, especially religious communities. The term came into use in early 20th century during the British colonial rule, where the rulers saw India divided into several communities and attempted to placate separate "communal" interests. The Hindu Mahasabha and the All-India Muslim League represented such communal interests, whereas Indian National Congress represented an overarching "nationalist" vision.[2] In the run up to independence in 1947, communalism and nationalism came to be competing idealogies and led to the division of British India into the Republics of India and Pakistan. The bloody Partition violence gave a clear sense to every one what communalism leads to, and it has since been frowned upon in India.

Communal conflicts between religious communities, especially Hindus and Muslims, have been a recurring occurrence in independent India, occasionally leading to serious inter-communal violence.

Movements and groups[edit]

Incidents of communal violence[edit]

Examples of communalist violence, with strong motivations based on religious identity include:

Incidents of "communal violence" cannot clearly be separated by incidents of terrorism. "Communal violence" tends to refer to mob killings, while terrorism describes concerted attacks by small groups of militants (see definition of terrorism). See also Terrorism in India#Chronology of major incidents.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pandey, Gyanendra (2006). The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. Oxford India. 
  2. ^ Akbar, M. J. (1989). Nehru, The Making of India. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140100839. 
  3. ^ Marad report slams Muslim League Indian Express, Sep 27 2006
  • Manuel, Peter. "Music, the Media, and Communal Relations in North India, Past and Present," in Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India, edited by David Ludden (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1996), pp. 119–39.
  • M. 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.
  • 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, edited by David Ludden (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1996).
  • 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]