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Communalism is a term used to denote attempts to construct religious or ethnic identity, incite strife between people identified as different communities, and to stimulate communal violence between those groups.[1] It derives from history, differences in beliefs, and tensions between the communities.[2] Communalism is a significant social issue in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.[2] Communal conflicts between religious communities in India, especially Hindus and Muslims have occurred since the period of British colonial rule, occasionally leading to serious inter-communal violence.[3]

The term communalism was coined by the British colonial government as it wrestled to manage Hindu-Muslim riots and other violence between religious, ethnic and disparate groups in its colonies, particularly in British West Africa and the Cape Colony, in early 20th century.[4][5][6]

Communalism is not unique to South Asia. It is found in Africa,[7][8] the Americas,[9][10] Asia,[11][12] Europe[13] and Australia.[14]


The term came into use in early 20th century during the British colonial rule. The 4th Earl of Minto was called the father of communal electorates for legalising communalism by the Morley-Minto Act in 1909.[15] The All-India Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha represented such communal interests, and the Indian National Congress represented an overarching "nationalist" vision.[16] In the runup to independence in 1947, communalism and nationalism came to be competing ideologies and led to the division of British India into Pakistan and the Republic of India. British historians have attributed the cause of the partition to the communalism of Jinnah and the political ambitions of the Indian National Congress.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Horowitz, Donald (1985). Ethnic Groups in Conflict. ISBN 978-0520053854.
  2. ^ a b Pandey, Gyanendra (2006). The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. Oxford India.
  3. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey; Raj, Suhasini; Yasir, Sameer (2020-02-25). "New Delhi Streets Turn Into Battleground, Hindus vs. Muslims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  4. ^ Klinken, Gerry van. Communal Violence and Democratization in Indonesia - Small Town Wars (PDF). Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-41713-6.
  5. ^ Valiani, Arafaat A. Militant Publics in India: Physical Culture and Violence in the Making of a Modern Polity. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 29–32. ISBN 978-0230112575.
  6. ^ Killingray, David. "Colonial Warfare in West Africa". In Moor, Jaap A. de; Wesseling, H. L. (eds.). Imperialism and War: Essays on Colonial Wars in Asia and Africa. Brill Academic. ISBN 978-9004088344.
  7. ^ Kynoch, G. (2013). "Reassessing transition violence: Voices from South Africa's township wars, 1990–4". African Affairs. 112 (447): 283–303.
  8. ^ McCauley, John F. (February 2013). "Economic Development Strategies and Communal Violence in Africa". Comparative Political Studies. 46 (2): 182–211.
  9. ^ Willis, G. D. (2014). "Antagonistic authorities and the civil police in Sao Paulo Brazil". Latin American Research Review. 49 (1): 3–22.
  10. ^ "Resource guide for municipalities" (PDF). UNODC.
  11. ^ Mancini, L. (2005). "Horizontal Inequality and Communal Violence: Evidence from Indonesian Districts". CRISE Working Paper No. 22. Oxford: Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
  12. ^ Werbner, P. (2010). "12: Religious identity". The Sage handbook of identities. ISBN 978-1412934114.
  13. ^ Todorova, T. (2013), ‘Giving Memory a Future’: Confronting the Legacy of Mass Rape in Post-conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina, Journal of International Women's Studies, 12(2), 3–15.
  14. ^ Bell, P.; Congram, M. (2013). "Communication Interception Technology (CIT) and Its Use in the Fight against Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) in Australia: A Review of the Literature". International Journal of Social Science Research. 2 (1): 46–66.
  15. ^ Laxmikanth, M. (2017). Indian Polity (Fourth ed.). Chennai, India: McGraw Hill Education. p. 1.6. ISBN 978-93-5260-363-3.
  16. ^ Akbar, M. J. (1989). Nehru, The Making of India. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140100839.
  17. ^ "BBC - History - British History in depth: The Hidden Story of Partition and its Legacies". BBC. Retrieved 2020-06-07.


Further reading