Is there communalism in India

The Impact of Local Violence on Politics in India



Hindu Nationalism and Communal Violence in India

Reasons for communal violence and influence on politics

Influence of religion on politics




India is a secular multi-ethnic state in which religious freedom is guaranteed. The religions are distributed as follows: 80.5% Hindus, 13.4% Muslims (mainly Sunnis), 2.3% Christians, 1.9% Sikhs, 0.8% Buddhists, 0.4% Jainas and 0.6% % other.[1] India has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.[2] This composition provides the ignition material for numerous disputes, especially at the local level, and has led to a large number of riots and a relatively high level of local violence to this day. These facts have a decisive influence on the politics of the largest democracy in the world.

The following is intended to clarify what exactly communal violence is, how it arises and why it is so often not prevented. Furthermore, the influence of the Hindu nationalists on communal riots is considered as well as the mutual influence between politics and communalism.

Hindu Nationalism and Communal Violence in India

Up until the 7th century, Buddhism and Hinduism were the main religious currents in India. In the 8th century, the Arab conquests brought Islam to northern India. However, dominance of Muslim states did not develop until the 12th century. From 1765 onwards, large parts of India were subdued by the British East India Company. 1947 led the nonviolent

Resistance to British colonial rule for independence. In the course of this process, the former British India Territory was divided into the Union of India and the Muslim Republic of Pakistan. Nevertheless, as already mentioned above, India is still a multi-ethnic state, in which the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims are particularly problematic. (Attacks are also being carried out on Christians and other minorities, but in the following text, due to the significantly lower number, only the clashes between Hindus and Muslims will be dealt with). This fact results in a multitude of problems that determine the daily life of the Indians to a large extent. In India, so-called Hindu nationalism dominates the politics and thinking of many Indians. "Behind the term Hindu nationalism is a far more complex phenomenon than the two words that make up it suggest. In essence," nationalism "describes a movement that is committed to the values ​​and symbols of a country, a nation. Like others Nationalisms - such as Irish or Kurdish - also define Hindu nationalism along social, cultural, linguistic and religious lines Hindutva -Ideology in which very concrete ideas of a future India as the "Empire of the Hindus" (Hindu Rashtra) can be formulated. "[3] Hindu nationalism is promoted by the right-wing conservative party BJP and the closely related Sangh Parivar, the amalgamation of numerous organizations such as RSS and VHP represented.

The political success of Hindu nationalism, however, did not result from the deficits of democracy, but is the product of particularly intense elections and equally intense battles over religious customs, rituals and spaces; shared symbols from Indian cultural history; about secularism and so on.[4]

One problem that arises from the multi-ethnic composition of India is communalism. This means "[...] in India the religious formation of Muslims, Hindus or other groups [...], whose structure ultimately leads to bloody clashes."[5]

There have been signs of communal unrest since the 18th century, but were not a regular characteristic of life in India until the 20th century. In the 80s and 90s Indian politics was dominated by political mobilization over religion. In 1983 political and economic conflicts led to a large degree of communal conflicts in Assam, which continue to this day. In 1984 the conflict escalated when the government decided to storm the temple in Amritsar to remove militant Sikhs. This led to the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and triggered a massive pogrom in Delhi that resulted in the deaths of 25,000 people. It was not until the early 1990s that the uprisings could be ended through a combination of political, police and military initiatives. In the mid-1980s the problem of the relationship between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority was dealt with again. In 1992 the clashes culminated in the riots around the mosque in Ayodhya. In 1998 a new discussion on secularization began. In May 2004, Congress unexpectedly won the Lok Sabha election, but the BJP won the higher part of the public vote. In the 1950-95 period, the number of victims (dead and injured) in uprisings between Hindus and Muslims was 40,000.[6] In addition, they also cause high economic damage and worsen relations abroad, especially with Pakistan and Bangladesh, and have a negative impact on social adjustment.


[1] Census of India 2001,



[4] Hansen, Thomas Bloom: The Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in modern India. Oxford University Press. New Delhi 1999. p. 5


[6] Wilkinson, Steven I. (Ed.): Critical Issues in Indian Politics. Religious Politics and Communal Violence. Oxford University Press. India 2005. p. 4

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