Communalism and the Struggle against Communalism: A Marxist View
Communalism in India, a problem for a long time, has become, in its recent upsurge, a dangerously disruptive phenomenon and a potent threat to Indian people's struggle for a better life. Scholars of diverse persuasions have sought to understand and explain it, often with a view to help in the struggle against Communalism.
However, its achievements notwithstanding, scholarship on the subject has suffered from a certain weakness of approach. More specifically, it is flawed by an ideological error on the one hand and a methodological limitation on the other. The ideological error, which has virtually pre-empted the entire field of thought or study on Communalism in this country, lies in understanding Communalism from the standpoint of nationalism. And the methodological limitation lies in studying contemporary communalism in an essentially empiricist and often ahistorical manner—a manner which, even as it has contributed much to social science research in recent times, has also in a way seriously crippled it. The two, the error and the limitation, have been generally mutually accommodative, sometimes eclectically present ih the work of the same scholar. While highlighting certain important dimensions of communalism in Indian social life and politics, particularly in relation to our freedom struggle, the nationalist mode or perspective, which sees it primarily, if not solely, as an anti-national phenomenon, can be most misleading in our efforts to understand contemporary communalism. And, while grasping its diverse and significant objective aspects, the empiricist method yet fails to provide a comprehensive understanding of communalism with all its interconnections as a determined and determining part of Indian social and political life today. Scholarship in the empiricist mode has certainly gained for us a great deal of 'retail sanity* about communalism in contemporary India. But because of its inherent limitations, it fails to see the 'whole-sale madness' which has today come to characterise the Indian society as a whole—its economy, politics, ideo-
* Former Professor of Political Theory, University of Delhi, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol 18, Nos. 8-9, August-September 1990