Communalism is a modern phenomenon. It had its roots in the modern colonial socio-economic political structure. Communalism emerged as a result of the emergence of new, modern politics based on the people and on popular participation and mobilisation. It made it necessary to have wider links and loyalties among the people and to form new identities. This process was bound to be difficult, gradual and complex.
This process required the birth and spread of modern ideas of nation, class and cultural-linguistic identity. These identities, being new and unfamiliar, arose and grew slowly and in a zig-zag fashion. Quite often people used the old, familiar pre-modern identity of caste, locality, sect and religion to grasp the new reality, to make wider connections and to evolve new entities. This has happened all over the world. But gradually the modern and historically-necessary identities of nation, nationality and class have prevailed.
Unfortunately, in India this process has remained incomplete for decades. In particular, religious consciousness was transformed into communal consciousness in some parts of the country and among some sections of the people. In particular, modern political consciousness was late in developing among the Muslims. As nationalism spread among the Hindus and Parsis of the lower-middle class, it failed to grow equally rapidly among the Muslims of the same class.
Hindus and Muslims had fought shoulder to shoulder during the Revolt of 1857. In fact, after the suppression of the Revolt, British officials had taken a particularly vindictive attitude towards the Muslims.With the rise of the nationalist movement the British statesmen grew apprehensive about the safety and stability of their empire in India. To check the growth of a united national feeling in the country, they decided to follow more actively the policy of’ divide and rule’ and to divide the people along religious lines, in other words, to encourage communal and separatist tendencies in Indian politics.
For this purpose they decided to come out as ‘champions’ of the Muslims and to win over to their side Muslim zamindars, landlords and the newly educated. They also fostered other divisions in Indian society. They promoted provincialism by talking of Bengali domination. They tried to utilize the caste structure to turn non-Brahmins against Brahmins and the lower castes against the higher castes. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where Hindus and Muslims had always lived in peace, they actively encouraged the movement to replace Urdu as the court language by Hindi.
In other words, they tried to use even the legitimate demands of different sections of Indian society to create divisions among the Indian people. The colonial government treated Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs as separate communities. It readily accepted communal leaders as authentic representatives of all their co-religionists. It permitted the propagation of virulent communal ideas and communal hatred through the press, pamphlets, posters, literature and other public platforms.
This is a very vast issue. We should think about it deeply and use our own mind to come to any decision.