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Recurring Communal Violence

  • 08 Aug 2023
  • 10 min read

This editorial is based on Clashes will exact a stiff economic cost which was published in The Hindustan Times on 07/08/2023. It talks about growing communalism in India.

For Prelims: Moplah rebellion of 1921, Partition riots of 1947, Democracy, Secularism, Human Rights

For Mains: Hate Speech, Causes of Communal Violence in India

Communal violence is a form of collective violence that involves clashes between groups belonging to different religious, ethnic, linguistic, or regional identities.

In India, communal violence is often associated with Hindu-Muslim conflicts, but it can also involve other groups such as Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, and tribals.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines communal violence as any act that promotes enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and does acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

Communal violence has a long history in India, dating back to the pre-colonial and colonial periods. Communal violence has continued to plague India in the post-independence era. Some of the major incidents which had communal overtones include the Moplah rebellion of 1921, the Noakhali riots of 1946, the Partition riots of 1947, the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992, and most recently Manipur violence and Nuh violence .

Communal violence is often triggered by political, social, economic, or cultural factors, such as elections, religious festivals, cow protection, conversions, inter-faith marriages, land disputes, migration, media propaganda, hate speech, etc.

Communal violence has serious implications for India’s democracy, secularism, human rights, social harmony, national security, and development.

What are the Causes of Communal Violence in India?

  • Political Causes:
    • The role of political parties and leaders in mobilizing communal sentiments for electoral gains or ideological agendas.
    • The use of communal polarization as a strategy to divide and rule.
    • The failure of political institutions and mechanisms to prevent or resolve communal conflicts. The lack of accountability and impunity for perpetrators of communal violence.
  • Social Causes:
    • The existence of deep-rooted prejudices and stereotypes against different communities.
      • The lack of inter-community dialogue and trust.
    • The influence of extremist groups and organizations that propagate communal hatred and violence.
    • The manipulation of religious symbols and sentiments for communal purposes.
  • Economic Causes:
    • The competition for scarce resources and opportunities among different communities.
    • The perception of relative deprivation or discrimination among marginalized groups.
    • The impact of globalization and modernization on traditional livelihoods and identities.
    • The exploitation of communal grievances for economic benefits.
  • Cultural Factors:
    • The clash of values and lifestyles between different communities. The erosion of cultural diversity and pluralism.
    • The challenge posed by secularism and liberalism to religious orthodoxy and conservatism. The appropriation or desecration of cultural heritage and sacred sites.
  • Lack of Education and Awareness:
    • Misinformation can spread easily, deepening mistrust and misunderstanding, and eventually contributing to the eruption of communal violence.

What are Impacts of Communal Violence in India?

  • Loss of Human Lives:
    • One of the most devastating consequences of communal violence is the loss of human lives. Individuals, families, and entire communities are torn apart by the tragedy of lives cut short, leaving scars that last for generations.
  • Destruction of Property:
    • Communal violence leads to the destruction of homes, businesses, and places of worship.
    • The economic losses resulting from this destruction can be substantial, affecting the livelihoods of individuals and communities.
  • Social Disintegration:
    • The breakdown or weakening of social cohesion, tolerance, solidarity, etc., among different communities.
      • The fabric of trust and unity that binds a society together is often torn apart by communal violence.
    • Communities that once lived in harmony can find themselves divided along religious lines, eroding the bonds that have held them together.
  • Economic Setbacks:
    • Communal violence can have significant economic ramifications.The diversion or wastage of resources and funds.
    • Investors may be hesitant to invest in areas prone to violence, economic activities can be disrupted, and developmental projects can be derailed, slowing down progress and growth.
  • Psychological Impact:
    • The trauma inflicted by communal violence extends beyond physical harm.
    • Survivors often experience psychological distress, anxiety, and depression, affecting their overall well-being and ability to lead fulfilling lives.
  • Political Impact:
    • The erosion or subversion of democracy, secularism, rule of law, justice, etc., in India. The loss of legitimacy and credibility of political institutions and actors.
    • The increase in corruption, nepotism, patronage, violence, etc., in political processes. The rise or resurgence of authoritarianism, populism, nationalism, communalism, etc.
  • Impact on Security:
    • The threat or challenge to national , regional, and international security.
    • The involvement or interference of external actors or forces in communal conflicts.
    • The spillover or escalation of communal violence across borders.
      • The linkages or nexus between communal violence and other forms of violence, such as terrorism, insurgency, militancy, etc. The proliferation or misuse of weapons or explosives.

What are Potential Solutions for Curbing Communal Violence?

  • Strong Legal Framework:
    • The enactment or implementation of laws and policies that protect the rights and interests of different communities.
    • The prevention or prohibition of hate speech, hate crimes, communal riots, etc. The prosecution or punishment of perpetrators or instigators of communal violence.
    • The provision or compensation of justice or relief to victims or survivors of communal violence.
  • Strengthening Institutional Mechanism:
    • The strengthening or reforming of political institutions and mechanisms that deal with communal issues.
    • The establishment or empowerment of independent or impartial bodies or agencies that monitor or investigate communal violence.
    • The promotion or enhancement of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and inclusiveness in governance.
  • Educational Reforms:
    • The development or revision of curricula and textbooks that foster a culture of peace, tolerance, respect, and diversity among different communities.
    • The training or sensitization of teachers, students, parents, media, etc., on communal harmony and coexistence. The creation or expansion of opportunities for inter-community dialogue and exchange.
  • Social Reform:
    • The building or rebuilding of social capital and trust among different communities. The mobilization or involvement of civil society actors, such as NGOs, religious leaders, women groups, youth groups, etc., in promoting communal harmony and coexistence.
    • The recognition or celebration of the contributions and achievements of different communities to India’s society and culture.
  • Economic:
    • The improvement or redistribution of economic conditions and opportunities among different communities.
    • The alleviation or elimination of poverty, inequality, discrimination, etc., among marginalized groups.
    • The facilitation or integration of economic cooperation and collaboration among different communities.
  • Cultural:
    • The preservation or restoration of cultural diversity and pluralism in India. The protection or promotion of cultural heritage and sacred sites of different communities.
    • The encouragement or appreciation of cultural exchange and innovation among different communities.
  • Community Engagement:
    • Local community leaders, religious figures, and civil society organizations can play a pivotal role in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding.
    • Grassroots efforts can foster connections that transcend religious differences.
  • Media Responsibility:
    • Media outlets bear a responsibility to report objectively and responsibly, avoiding sensationalism and biased coverage that can fan the flames of communal tensions.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Promoting Social Cohesion:
    • Efforts should be directed toward building a strong national identity that transcends religious affiliations.
    • Celebrating cultural diversity and promoting a sense of unity can help bridge communal divides.
  • Economic Empowerment:
    • Addressing economic disparities through policies that ensure equal access to opportunities can reduce feelings of marginalization and create a more inclusive society.
  • Youth Engagement:
    • Empowering the youth with the tools to champion peace, tolerance, and unity is essential for nurturing a generation that upholds these values.

Drishti Mains Question:

Communal violence in India is a recurring event. Comment.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Question (PYQs)


Q. Is diversity and pluralism in India under threat due to globalization? Justify your answer. (2020)

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