Communal conflicts in India

What is Communalism?

According to famous historian Bipin Chandra Communalism consists of three stages one following the other. These stages are as:

  1.  The first bedrock of communal ideology says that people who follow the same religion have common secular interests’ i.e. common political, social and cultural interests.
  2.  The second tenet of communal ideology states that political, social and cultural interests of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion.
  3.  The followers of different religions or communities are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile.



Communal conflicts are a carryover from the pre-independence period, when communalism forced a partition upon the country. India witnessed its worst communal riots in 1948 after the partition. Noakhali in Bengal and several villages of Bihar were the worst hit. The first major riots between Hindus and Muslims after the bloodshed of partition in 1947 occurred in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh in 1961.

Communal riots between Hindus and Muslims erupted in Ahmedabad in 1969. Atleast 1000 people had died during this riot. They were followed by riots in Uttar Pradesh with periodic violence erupting elsewhere. Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Jamshedpur and Aligarh in 1979 and in Moradabad in 1980.

The assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, sparked anti Sikh riots that continued for about 15 days. Although the riots took place in many parts of the country, Delhi, the national capital was most affected. Thousands of people were killed and many more were injured. There was widespread loot and arson and chaos and lawlessness ruled the streets.

On May 21, 1987, Meerut witnessed widespread riots which continued for months. In the following months, 350 people were killed. It took several weeks for a 13,000-strong army detachment to restore peace in Meerut. On October 23, 1989 began the month-long riots in Bhagalpur allegedly triggered by the police atrocities. Of the 864 cases filed by the police, 535 were closed and most accused acquitted for lack of evidence. Following police atrocities in 1989, the silk city of Bhagalpur saw massacre and arson in which over 1,000 people died, nearly 50,000 were displaced and 11,500 houses torched.

The Babri masjid demolition set off riots all over the country. Mumbai also witnessed riots between December 1992 and January 1993. For five days in December, 1992 and then again for a fortnight in January, the city witnessed unprecedented riots. The Maharashtra government set up the Sri Krishna Commission of Inquiry, which submitted its report in 1998. As per the Commission, total death tally was 900 who belonged to both the communities. On February 27, 2002 suspected Muslim mob attacked a train carrying activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) back from the disputed holy site of Ayodhya. The attack left 58 Hinduactivists dead. The episode resulted in major riots, which left thousands of Muslims dead in Gujarat.

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