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Mainstream, VOL LX No 21, New Delhi, May 14, 2022

Communalism in Contemporary India: A brief review of Bhagat Singh’s Perspective | Gurjeet Kaur and Prabhjot Kaur

Saturday 14 May 2022


by Gurjeet Kaur and Prabhjot Kaur *

Intensified conflicts between religious communities have shaken the country. We have been listening to news of communal violence from many places of the country like Jahangirpuri in Delhi, Karauli and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Gujarat, Karnataka. Now the communal flames have also spread to Punjab, where two groups, Shiv Sena and Khalistani supporters, clashed. Communal violence is not a recent phenomenon in Indian Society. It has been a part of Indian history since ancient times. But it has gained new momentum in contemporary India.

India witnessed communal violence under the rule of almost all Indian Governments. India witnessed the deadliest riots in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the 2002 Gujrat riots, and the 2020 Delhi riots. Thousands of people lost their lives in these riots. Children and women were brutally exploited. During 2002 and 1984, communal violence rioters even murdered their neighbours with whom they had been living for so long. They were doing so just to prove the supremacy of their own religion. Religion has always been at the center of Indian politics. Recently, religious leaders have been openly inciting people against other religions peoples. Religious leaders like Bajrang Muni Udasin are also instigating people for doing sexual violence against Muslim women. In India Constitution is the supreme law. This supreme law says that no one can incite the violence in the country by delivering hate speeches. But it seems like the country’s supreme law is losing its value as the government is not taking suitable action against those leaders who are playing a part in bringing ethnic and religious conflicts in the country. Instead, the government is pursuing the path of demolition politics against a particular community which clearly shows how the government has become one-sided and partial.

Moreover, the presence of political leaders in the Ram Navami procession in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, where shops were demolished and at least 10 houses were burnt down, shows political leaders’ direct involvement in provoking these riots. But the ongoing inter-communal violence raises an unignorable question why even after 75 years of independence our nation is still entangled between caste and religion? Why couldn’t India reach at that level of development at which it should have been? Why is it that we have to face the pain of riots even today?

The answer to this question was given by Shaheed Bhagat Singh about 95 years ago. After the Jallianwala Bhag incident in 1919, the British began to escalate religious hatred in the country, resulting in inhuman communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in Kohat in 1924. Describing the whole situation during the riots, Bhagat Singh wrote that the followers of one religion had become bitter enemies of followers of other religions. Therefore, belonging to one particular religion was enough reason for killing the people.

Even after so many years, the situation in India is still the same. People are fighting in the name of religion. They see each other as Hindus, Muslims, or Sikhs, not as humans. Every year Ram Navami is being celebrated in India as the birthday of lord Rama. But this year, during Ram Navami celebration on 10th April, the communal clash between Hindus and Muslims broke out in many states. People pelted each other with stones. During this clash one person in Gujarat was killed and several innocent people in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhaya Pradesh, Goa, West Bengal got critically injured. During this conflict, devotees of one religion had no particular reason for attacking the devotees of other religion during this conflict. They were trying to kill the people simply because someone was Hindu or Muslim. After the partition,

Each reason given by Bhagat Singh that was responsible for the 1924 riots is still valid. Blaming the media of that time Bhagat Singh wrote that newspapers with bold headlines on the front page spread more hatred among communities. Till this date news media is doing the same thing. The only difference is that now along with newspapers TV news channels are also in this race of making India a hub of communal riots. Today the TV news channels display such headlines that further paved the way for several communal incidents. Sometimes the debates shown on these news channels manipulate the people of one religion against the people of other religion. For example, after communal riots occurred in Jodhpur, a newspaper on its official website posted the news with the headline, ’Jodhpur mein dange kee thee saajish, hare rang ke nukeele patthar de rhe gavaahee’. Moreover on 15 October, 2019 around 7 pm a day before the Apex Court concluded hearing of Ayodhya case a news channel broadcast a show titled, ’Janambhoomi hamari, Ram humare, namaz wale kaha se padhare’. The headlines and titles itself are self-explanatory. They indicate how media is trying hard to make the Hindu community believe that Muslims are their only and the biggest enemy.

The best example of this is the Gujrat riots that occurred in 2002. After the Godhra train incident, local newspapers and TV news reporters used such statements to incite violence against the Muslim community. That was why post-Godhra riots happened in Gujrat.Along with news channels, social media platforms are also fanning the communal violence. Social media has become a tool of rumors. Recently a video clip has been widely circulating on twitter. In this video, a group of men is brutally beating a man with iron rods and sticks. Some people on internet are claiming that the man who is being beaten up is a Hindu and others are Muslims. But after investigation it has been found that the person was thrashed due to personal enmity. There is no communal angle. But some people are misusing this video to raise the communal tension in India. Thus all these things confirm that news channels and social media platforms play a critical role in inciting communal violence.

The fundamental reason for communal violence stated by Bhagat Singh is the economic condition of common people. The Corrupt nature of government officials and wrong policies resulted in frustration among people. This frustration can either be channelized to bring agitation in the country or it can lead to riots in the country. To channelize this frustration, class consciousness is the only way. Poor workers and peasants should realize that their economic, social, and political interests are the same. So instead of fighting with each other, they should fight against the capitalist and government. Apart from this lack of knowledge related to religious violence in ancient India is also a contributory factor. Students in India grow up with the myth that India was free of religious conflict before the arrival of the Muslims. In their history books, they are taught about communal hate during the medieval period, particularly under the reign of Aurangzeb. They are never taught about the demolition of monasteries and statues of Buddhism by Hindu Kings. Thus they always think of Muslims as foreign attackers and consider their rule as a “reign of terror.” The seriousness of the matter lies in the fact that students of class 12 are mostly 17 years or 18 years old. It means already voters or likely to be the voters in future. So their voting decision should be based on rationality. But they are more guided by these false notions regarding the Muslim community. Thus it is necessary to impart the correct knowledge of Indian history to avoid communal hate in the near future. Improving the country’s education system is the government’s responsibility that holds the majority in Loksabha. But no special attention has yet been paid to this matter as this communal violence helps the government to strengthen its traditional “Vote Bank”.

This communal violence might also lead to unrest between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The demolition of Babri masjid in 1992 by Hindu extremists created a communal tension between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan. As a result of which angry Muslims destroyed about 200 Hindu temples. About 70,000 Hindus fled to India to save their lives from the brutal massacre. In Bangladesh Hindu temples, shops and houses were also burned down after the demolition of the Mosque.

Consequently, the spate of communal violence in India is a great threat to humanity across different countries where Hindu and Muslim religions coexist. But the political leaders are completely ignoring this issue. Instead of creating communal harmony, they are trying to generate more hatred among communities. The preamble to the Indian constitution declares India a Secular State. It means the state has no religion of its own. Here all religions are treated equally. But due to communal violence, secularism in India is under serious threat. Thus it is important to address this problem. To get rid of this problem, there is a need for collective efforts. India can be a powerful nation only if all communities live in harmony with each other and work together for its prosperity.

* (Authors: Gurjeet Kaur, Assistant Prof., Mata Gujri College Fatehgarh Sahib; Prabhjot Kaur, Student of BAHSS-II)

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