For those concerned with the defence of democracy and the integrity of the country, the growing communalisation of Indian society provides the main political challenge in our time. This has resulted not merely in an interest in the social basis of communal trends and their political articulation, but also in the historical roots of the process of communalisation. In this issue we include two such studies relating to communalism and India's past. The first by R.S. Sharma begins with a delineation of the varied sources of religious beliefs—those grounded in material reality and those necessitated by the need to sustain the inequity implicit in the social order at different times in the past. Given this close relationship between religions and the social and material circumstances in which they originated, reform movements became inevitable when those circumstances themselves changed. But over time, the zeal for reforming a particular religion also provided the basis for the glorification of particular religious texts or an attack on other religions. Similarly, the need to set right the denigration of India's past typical of colonial historiography often led to uncritical revivalism, which focused on the 'greatness* of ancient India and soon degenerated to the argument that Muslims were foreigners rather than a part of India's composite culture.
Thus a critical study of India's past, that does not gloss over the oppression and vandalism of rulers or Invaders or the reasons for their behaviour, but is also balanced in its assessment, appears crucial in the struggle against the communalisation of society and politics. Such studies would make clear that neither was conflict in the past restricted to that between Hindus and Muslims, nor was it true that Muslim rulers wer^ in general religious militants while Hindu rulers were tolerant. However, it is precisely propaganda of this kind that has been utilised in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy. The actual evidence on this particular issue and its implications is discussed both by R.S. Sharma and in the document on the Political Abuse of History issued by the faculty of Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, which is, also carried in this issue.
The theme of historical misrepresentation is also taken up by Athar Ali, in his examination of the evidence relating to the 'intrusion of Islam' into India. That evidence suggests that the Arab conquerors slipped easily into the shoes of the Indian rulers, accepting the