Social Scientist. v 10, no. 105 (Feb 1982) p. 25.

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Communalism and Communal Violence in India

THIS paper attempts to examine the socio-economic basis of communalism, in particular of the political compulsions behind communal violence in post-independence India. It suggests that the process of fragmented and uneven capitalist development has created conditions of backwardness which, in turn, have facilitated the growth of communalism. Economic stagnation has led to a situation in which certain groups treat each other not only with suspicion and hostility, but also as rivals in the scarce market for jobs, concessions and subsidies. It is also our contention that various forms of tensions, among Hindus and Muslims an particular, have assumed corrosive proportions because the bourgeois political parties have, quite successfully, deflected intra-class and inter-class contradictions into the stream of community and communal consciousness to serve their narrow ends. An investigation of some of the major communal riots reveals that various powerful-interests—economic and political— play a vigorous part in fomenting communal conflict.

Genesis of Communalism in the Colonial Period

The emergence of communalism is often attributed to the establishment of "Muslim" rule in India. This is because the Sultans of Delhi consciously followed a "discriminatory" policy towards the Hindus, reflected in the demolition of temples and in the imposition of jizia, 1 while the ulama, acting as guardians of orthodox Islam, encouraged their followers to maintain their identity by rejecting Hindu influences on their social life.

The more extreme inferences drawn from this view of the medieaval Indian state have been effectively challenged by some historians,2 who reject the view that Hindu-Muslim relations in medieaval India were characterized exclusively by strife and confrontation. It is argued on the basis of contemporary evidence that the vast majority of Indians lived together without overt communal antipathy or bitterness. The attempted integration between communities was evident at the Khanqahs of Sufis: as institutions of

* Teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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