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Communal Violence

  • 03 Mar 2020
  • 7 min read

New Delhi witnessed one of the worst communal violence in the history of the national capital. The premise of the New Delhi 2020 riots is based on growing animosity and destabilisation of communal harmony in the background of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Communalism refers to a politics that seeks to unify one community around a religious identity in hostile opposition to another community. It seeks to define this community identity as fundamental and fixed. It attempts to consolidate this identity and present it as natural – as if people were born into the identity, as if the identities do not evolve through history over time. In order to unify the community, communalism suppresses distinctions within the community and emphasises the essential unity of the community against other communities.

Factors Contributing to Communal Violence

  • Disruptive Effect of Social Media:
    • Social Media played a critical role in circulating fake news at break-neck speed, as the copious audio-visual documentation of violence, hate messages are delivered to the masses almost immediately.
    • However, these graphic depictions of inhumanity have not elicited remorse or changed minds; rather, they have deepened biases and hardened stances.
  • Role of Mainstream Media:
    • Instead of adhering to media ethics and neutrality, most of the media houses show an inclination towards particular political ideology, which in turn widens the societal cleavage.
  • Lack of Value-Based Education:
    • People are not equipped to think for themselves and this leads them to blindly follow the 'trends' instead of being able to differentiate the good from the bad themselves.
  • Majoritarian Hegemony and Minority Insecurities:
    • A group in majority often believes that it has the sole say in the progress of the country. This leads to acts of violence when smaller groups oppose the majoritarian ideas of progress.
    • On the contrary, minority groups often find themselves blamed for being 'anti-national' whenever they try to protect their way of life from transgression. This often creates violence in society. 

Impact of Communal Violence

  • Violation of Human Rights: During the communal violence, the innocent ordinary people get caught into the circumstances beyond their control. This leads to the violation of human rights.
  • Economic Loss: Communal violence leads to loss of life and public property. It leads to exploitation by way of plundering and indulgence in activities only for personal gains.
  • Social Dissonance: Communal Violence strengthens vote banks of ideologically aligned political parties and further disrupts the cohesiveness in society.
    • It causes serious damage to communal harmony for a long period.
    • It also tarnishes the country’s image as a pluralistic society in front of the world.
  • Erosion of Constitutional Values: Communal violence dampens constitutional values like secularism and fraternity.

Way Forward

  • The police need to be well equipped to curb communal violence. Local intelligence network can be strengthened to preempt such events.
  • Peace Committees can be set up in which individuals belonging to different religious communities can work together to spread goodwill and fellow-feeling and remove feelings of fear and hatred in the riot-affected areas.
    • This will be effective not only in dif­fusing communal tensions but also in preventing riots from breaking out.
  • There is a need to initiate the process of de-communalising the people at all levels via education.
    • Values-based education can instil compassion and empathy which can minimise the possibilities of the impact that any kind of communal polarisation can have on people. 
    • Pluralism and unity witnessed from the struggle for India's independence can be emphasised upon.
  • Leaders with communal ideas and ideologies pressurise the government to act in a manner which is always against the principle of secularism.
    • It is here that intellectuals and voluntary organi­sations can be most effective.
  • There is a need to strengthen cybersecurity architecture.o Social media platforms should be asked to regulate hateful content and generate awareness about rumours and any kind of content that can incite communal tension.

Maintaining communal harmony and respecting pluralism in a country as diverse as India can be a challenge. However, it is important to address the collective conscience of people of the country to uphold the constitutional values like fraternity and secularism. While on the one hand, this can take into consideration the insecurities of the people, on the other hand, it can significantly contribute to the nation-building process. A strong nation, which is built by the contribution of communities working together for its prosperity can further contribute to the maintenance of global peace and harmony. 

Drishti Mains Question

Communalism was and continues to be one of the major challenges to democracy in our country. Critically examine.
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