Communalism- In the light of India’s freedom movement

By Sonie Kharduit

Recently in response to the Presidential’s address in the budget session in parliament, our PM Narendra Modi instead of establishing political and financial accountability for the action taken in the past Financial year cycle, his speech was spend wastefully on putting the whole blame of partition of India and subsequent failures of Indian economy on Congress. Indeed on the fiscal management, policy design and prioritisation and the most dreadful step of Emergency announcement, congress should be held accountable, but India’s partition she can’t be held responsible in total. No doubt if a specialist in history examine this in detail , they might reveal few incidents where Indian National Congress ( INC) of the pre- independence era could have prevented the whole partitioning event, for example Lucknow pact 1916, where the congress accepted the communal electorate arrangement, Congress rejection to Muslim league demands aftermath the Wavell plan, Nehru acceptance to Mountbatten’s plan etc, all these incident can point finger to Congress’s role, but the exigencies and communal turmoil during that period, partition seems to be best solution in the eyes of our leaders . So in short, congress cannot be held responsible for the whole partition event as what Modi portray, in fact, partition and its consequent implications, emergence of communal thoughts are outcomes of the complex societal set up of Indian society being manipulated and exploited cleverly by the Englishmen.

Communalism- Indian Historical perspectives

Communalism may be defined as a socio-politico-economic and cultural ideology represented by people of some community, to satisfy all their needs. The means and the ends in communalism would invariably come from religion and get strengthen on the ground of religious identity.

The unique feature of Indian freedom movement was the rise and growth of Nationalism and Communalism occurs simultaneously. The phenomenon of communalism even though was not new under the British but definitely assumed serious proportions with devastating consequences. The study of the origin of communalism in modern times requires a thorough understanding of the socio-economic and political conditions of modern Indian ever since the British became the Masters of India.

Even though the pre-British times witnessed communal clashes between the Hindus and the Muslims, particularly under the Mughals but it was individualistic in character. It entirely depended on the King’s moral convictions, some were ruthless and others were secular benevolent like Akbar. Additionally these ancient and medieval rulers became part of Indian culture and settled here, whereas the British didn’t make India their home, rather it was just a commercial space of colonialism. The social fabric of India remained harmonious till the advent of the British.

In the assessment of different factors responsible for the growth of communalism, the reasons can be as follows:

  1. The backwardness of the Muslims as a minority, adherence to traditional and conservative ideology left them behind the English educated Hindu middle class in politics as well as in trade and economics.
  2. Indian renaissance was more revivalist than reformist. Instead of promoting secularism they looked backward and derived inspiration from the Vedas, which other communities did not receive well.
  3. Final ingredient was poured by the Divide and rule policy of the British. Prior to the freedom struggle the British took the hardcore anti-Muslim stand and in the later stage with the rise of Hindu middle class intelligentsia which sowed the seeds of Indian freedom among the masses, the British reversed the policy and now became pro- Muslim with the intention to weaken and fracture the social fabric of Indian society. The partition of Bengal can be viewed under this context, and the last nail in the coffin was the partition of the Indian sub-continent on religious grounds thereby creating a permanent gulf between various communities.

Current communal scene:

Often, in conversations nowadays, whether at home, taxi, bus, public space, office, people are charged with the only anger as to why the Christian community is subjected to harassment and killing, churches are destroyed and they are restricted to perform rituals. Yes this is known and the facts are verified and  not mere social media hype. And all the incidents are connected with Hindutva linked outfits. The locations of such crimes are well mapped especially inside Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and in fact the whole of North, North Western and Central part of India where Christianity has limited presence.

Now coming back to the historical perspectives of communal development when viewed from the prism of freedom struggle movement, apparently these region are the most active regions where there was a huge mass involvement, the Sepoy mutiny being the most prominent amongst other. The point to note here is that axe of British cruelty fell on these people the most, these regions bore the brunt of the worst form of human injustice which will not heal anytime soon. The whole of idea of freedom movement revolves around the anti-British thought with the sole intention of throwing the British out of the country along with their culture and religion which they propagated just to prove their supremacy and commercial interests. Hence the anti-Christian flame was ignited long back but the blame for its continuation has to be shared equally. The dangerous cocktail of  religion and politics is continuously utilized as a theme of government- making till now.

If ones asks the question as to why this communal phenomenon is not visible in the North eastern states or in the South India, the answer is obvious. These regions were not active participants in the freedom struggle. In the North East particularly the British got a free hand to regulate and promote their policy. The backwardness provided a perfect platform for the white race to extend its domination, the missionaries got free pass to operate with abundant financial support. I suppose this is the reason we have abundant  Christian population in this region. Preferably we got to taste only the sweet side of British policy without getting to share the same assault that  our brothers and sisters experienced in the other parts of India. Historically the whole tribal movement in the struggle were mostly constricted to local grievances. They were not interested nor had knowledge about Nationalism, and the same scene can be extended to the North Eastern states where tribal population is quite large. Hence  the people of this region did not taste the ugly and cruel side of the British which is now reflected in our strong affinity towards western religion and culture.

Politics- a remedy for safeguarding minority interests?

An important question for the citizens of Meghalaya to introspects and contemplate upon before surrendering our valuable votes is whether we can expect and trust our candidates to safeguards the collective fear of Christians ones elected, leaving aside all developmental agenda which no one discusses now? Past experiences of politics offer no optimism at all. People are mere vote bank tools and politicians capitalise on the fear sentiments. That how  the political masters get to claim the crown of political power; that’s why we don’t see real progress or development in our respective constituencies. Rural constituencies are the worst where the people are suffering with the least HDI index. So it’s naive and foolish on our part to expect politics with the current standard we are practicing, to be the saviour of Christianity and Christians. Undeniably, altogether the current communal problem which we are facing is  because we mix religion and politics and expect politics to cure our malady. There is no faith system in politics; vote bank is the only faith they are tied to no matter how sleazy and tacky their morality will be.

Way ahead:

We shouldn’t forget that the agony of minorities is not restricted to only the Christian community. Minorities around the world, whether on basis of ethnicity, linguistics, religion  etc always have to pay the price as a negative fallout of political war. The Rohingya Muslim in Myanmar, the Kurds in Syria-Turkey, the Christians in Central Africa etc are examples. We cannot replace democracy but we can improve the way it function, where countries like Norway and Sweden can exhibit wonderful results through democracy. All this is possible due to active participation and altruism of citizens in establishing non-biased and effective government to deliver their expectations and aspirations. There jails are being converted into hotels and museums since the crime rate is almost zero. People don’t find crime attractive anymore because the quality of life is already good if not perfect. Constructive and clean politics can bring affirmative results whereas divisive politics brings destruction and hatred and it’s sad that we are practising the latter politics.

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