VI – History Gist

Sites: Sites are the places where the remains of things were found. These were made, used and left behind by the people.

Paleolithic period: The earliest period is Paleolithic, which comes from two Greek words, ‘palaeo’, meaning ‘old’ and ‘lithos’ meaning stone. This period extends from 2 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago. This time is divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic ages.

Mesolithic period: The period when we find environmental changes, beginning about 12,000 years ago till about 10,000 years ago is called Mesolithic (middle stone). Stone tools found during this period are generally tiny, and are called microliths.

Neolithic Period: The next stage, from about 10,000 years ago, is known as the Neolithic.

  • Many of the Harappan cities were divided into two or more parts. Usually, the part to the west was smaller but higher. Archaeologists describe this as Citadel. Generally, the part to the east was larger but lower. This is called the lower town.
  • The Great Bath was built in Mohenjodaro. This was line with bricks, coated with plaster, and made water-tight with a layer of natural tar. There were steps leading down to it from two sides, while there were rooms on all sides.
  • In cities like Kalibangan and Lothal, there were fire altars, where sacrifices may have been performed.
  • Some cities like Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Lothal had elaborate store houses.
  • Many of the cities had covered drains.
  • Most of the things that have been found by archaeologists are made of stone, shell and metal, including copper, bronze, gold and silver. Copper and bronze were used to make tools, weapons, ornaments and vessels. Gold and silver were used to make ornaments and vessels.
  • The most striking finds are those of beads, weights and blades.
  • The Harappans also made seals out of stone. These are generally rectangular and usually have an animal carved on them.
  • From the remains of plants, its known that the Harappans grew wheat, barley, pulses, peas, rice, sesame, linseed and mustard.
  • The Harappans reared cattle, sheep, goat and buffalo.
  • The city of Dholavira was divided into three parts, and each part was surrounded with massive stone walls, with entrance through gateways. A unique find in this area are the large letters of the Harappan script that were carved out of white stone and perhaps inlaid in wood. This is unique as generally Harappan writing has been found on small objects such as seals.
  • The city Lothal has a dockyard.
  • There are four Vedas – the Rigveda, the Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. Theb is the Rig Veda, composed about 3500 years ago.
  • Sanskrit is part of a family of languages known as Indo-European. Some Indian languages such as Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri and Sindhi, and many European languages such as English, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish belong to this family.
  • Other languages used in the subcontinent belong to different families. Those used in north-east belong to the Tibeto-Burman family; Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam belong to the Dravidian family; and the languages spoken in Jharkhand and parts of central India belong to the Austo-Asiatic family.
  • The practice of erecting megaliths (bigger rocks) began about 3000 years ago, and was prevalent throughout the Deccan, south India, in the north-east and Kashmir.
  • The priests divided the people into four groups, called varnas. According to them, each varna had a different set of functions.
  • The first varna was that of the Brahmin. Brahmins were expected to study and teach the Vedas, perform sacrifices and receive gifts.
  • In the second place were the rulers, also known as kshatriyas. They were expected to fight battles and protect people.
  • Third were the vish or the vaishyas. They were expected to be farmers, herders and traders. Both the kshatriyas and the vaishyas could perform sacrifices.
  • Last were the shudras, who had to serve the other three groups and could not perform any rituals.
  • Painted Grey ware: Plates and bowls are the most common vessels made out of Painted Grey ware. These are extremely find to touch, with a nice, smooth surface. Perhaps these were used on special occasions, for important people, to serve them.
  • The word janapada literally means the land where the jana set its foot, settled down.


  • About 2500 years ago, some janapadas became more important than others, and were known as mahajanapadas.
  • Most mahajanapadas had a capital city, many of these were fortified.
  • The new rajas now began maintaining armies. Soldiers were paid regular salaries and maintained by the king throughout the year.


  • As the rulers started building huge forts and maintaining big armies, they needed more resources and they started collecting regular taxes.
  • Taxes on crops were the most important. Usually, the tax was fixed at 1/6th of what was produced. This was known as bhaga or a share.
  • There were taxes on crafts persons as well. These could have been in the form of labor.
  • Herders were also expected to pay taxes in the form of animals and animal produce.
  • There were also taxes on goods that were bought and sold, through trade.
  • And hunters and gatherers also had to provide forest produce to the raja.

Changes in agriculture:

Two important changes in agriculture around this time. They are:

  • Growing use of iron ploughshares.
  • People began transplanting paddy.

Magadha Mahajanapada:

  • It became the most important mahajanapada in about two hundred years.
  • Many rivers such as the Ganga and Son flowed through Magadha. This was important for (a) transport, (b) water supplies (c) making the land fertile.
  • Magadha had two very important rulers, Bimbisara and Ajatasattu, who used all possible means to conquer other janapadas.
  • Mahapadma Nanda was another important ruler. He extended his control upto the north-west part of the subcontinent.
  • Rajagriha (present-day Rajgir) in Bihar was the capital of Magadha for several years.
  • Later the capital was shifted to Pataliputra (present-day Patna).


  • Vajji, with its capital at Vaishali (Bihar), was under a different form of government, known as gana or sangha.
  • Gana : is used for a group that has many members.
  • Sangha: means organization or association.
  • Rajas of powerful kingdoms tried to conquer the sanghas. Nevertheless, these lasted for a very long time, till about 1500 years ago, when the last of the ganas or sanghas were conquered by the Gupta rulers.

The story of Buddha:

  • The Buddha belonged to a small gana known as the Sakya gana, and was a kshatriya.
  • He attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
  • He then went to Sarnath, near Varanasi, where he taught for the first time.
  • He passed away at Kusinara.
  • The Buddha taught in the language of the ordinary people, Prakrit, so that everybody could understand his message.


  • Many of the ideas of the thinkers were recorded in the Upanishads.
  • These were part of the later vedic texts.
  • Upanishads literally means ‘approaching and sitting next’ and the texts contain conversations between teachers and students.
  • Most Upanishadic thinkers were men, especially Brahmins and rajas.
  • The women thinker, Gargi, who was famous for her learning, and participated in debates held in royal courts.
  • Satyakama Jabala, a poor person had a deep desire to learn about reality, was accepted as a student by a Brahmin teacher name Gautama, and became one of the best-known thinkers of the time.
  • Many of the ideas of the Upanishads were later developed by the famous thinker Shankaracharya.

# one of the most famous scholar was Panini, who prepared a grammar for Sanskrit.


  • The most famous thinker of the Jainas, Vardhamana Mahavira, also spread his message around 2500 years ago.
  • He was a kshatriya prince of the Licchhavis, a group that was part of the Vajji sangha.

# The rules made for the Buddhist sangha were written down in a book called the Vinaya Pitaka.

# the monasteries which were built for the monks were known as Viharas.

# Around the time when Jainism and Buddhism were becoming popular, Brahmins developed the system of ashramas. Four ashramas were recognized: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and samnyasa.

  • The empire that Ashoka ruled was founded by his grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, more than 2300 years ago.
  • Chandragupra was supported by a wise man called Chanakya or Kautilya. Many of Chanakya’s ideas were written down in a book called the Arthashastra.
  • Dynasty: When members of the same family become rulers one after another, the family is often called a dynasty. The Mauryas were a dynasty with three important rulers – Chandragupta, his son Bindusara, and Bindusara’s son, Ashoka.
  • The capital of their empire is Pataliputra.
  • Tribute: Unlike taxes, which were collected on a regular basis, tribute was collected as and when it was possible from people who gave a variety of things, more or less willingly.
  • Ashoka was the first ruler who tried to take his message to the people through inscriptions. Most of these inscriptions were in Prakrit and were written in the Brahmi script.
  • Ashoka’s dhamma did not involve worship of a god, or performance of a sacrifice.
  • The use of iron began in the subcontinent around 3000 years ago. Some of the largest collection of iron tools and weapons were found in the megalithic burials.
  • Irrigation works that were built during this time included canals, wells, tanks, and artificial lakes.
  • In the Tamil region, large landowners were known as vellalar, ordinary ploughmen were known as uzhavar, and landless labourers, including slaves, were known as kadaisiyar and adimai.
  • In the northern part of the country, the village headman was known as the grama bhojaka. The post was hereditary. He was often the largest landowner. Besides, as he was powerful, the king often used him to collect taxes from the village. He also functioned as a judge, sometimes police
  • Apart from the gramabhojaka, there were other independent farmers, known as grihapatis, most of whom were smaller landowners.
  • There were men and women such as the dasa karmakara, who did not own land, and had to earn a living working on the fields owned by others.
  • The earliest coins which were in use for about 500 years were punch marked coins.
  • Mathura has been an important settlement for more than 2500 years. It was important because it was located at the cross roads of two major routes of travel and trade – from the northwest to the east and from north to south.
  • Around 2000 years ago Mathura became the second capital of the Kushanas. Mathura was also a religious centre – there were Buddhist monasteries, Jaina shrines, and it was an important centre for the worship of Krishna.
  • An extremely fine pottery, known as the Northern Black Polished Ware is found here. It gets its name from the fact that it is generally found in the northern part of the subcontinent. It is usually black in color, and has a fine sheen.
  • Varanasi in north, and Madurai in the south are the important centres for manufacture of cloth.
  • Many crafts persons and merchants now formed associations known as shrenis. These shrenis of craft persons provided training, procured raw material, and distributed the finished product.


Desert: It is an arid region characterized by extremely high or low temperatures and has scare vegetation. Depending on the temperatures, there can be hot deserts or cold deserts.

The Hot Desert – Sahara:

  • It has an area of around 8.54 million sq. km
  • The Sahara desert touches eleven countries. These are Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia and W. Sahara.


  • It is scorching hot and parch dry.
  • It has a short rainy season.
  • The temperatures during the day may soar as high as 50o C and the nights may be freezing cold with temperature nearing zero degrees.

Flora and Fauna:

  • Vegetation in the Sahara desert includes cactus, date palms and acacia.
  • Camels, hyenas, jackals, foxes, scorpions, many varieties of snakes and lizards are the prominent animal species living here.


  • Bedouins and Tuaregs are the nomadic tribes rearing livestock such as goats, sheep, camels and horses.
  • The Oasis in the Sahara and the Nile valley in Egypt supports settled population.
  • Crops such as rice, wheat, barley and beans are also grown.
  • Egyptian cotton, famous worldwide is grown in Egypt.
  • The discovery of oil in Algeria, Libya and Egypt is constantly transforming the Sahara desert.
  • Other minerals found here are iron, phosphorous, manganese and uranium.

The cold desert – Ladakh:

  • Ladakh is a cold desert lying in the Great Himalayas on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Karakoram range in the north and the Zaskar mountains in the south enclose it.
  • Indus is the most important river which flows through Ladakh.
  • The dry temperatures in summer are just above zero degree and the night temperatures well below -30O
  • It is freezing cold in the winters when the temperatures may remain below -40O C for most of the time.
  • Ladakh is also known as Khapa-chan which means snow land.

Flora and Fauna:

  • Due to high aridity, the vegetation is sparse.
  • Groves of willows and poplars are seen in the valleys.
  • During the summers, fruit trees such as apples, apricots and walnuts bloom.
  • Several species of birds are sighted in Ladakh. Robins, redstarts, Tibetan snowcock, raven and hoopoe are common.
  • The animals of ladakh are wild goats, wild sheep, yak and special kinds of dogs.
  • The Chiru or the Tibetan antelope is an endangered species. It is hunted for its wool known as Shahtoosh, which is light in weight and extremely warm.


  • The people here are either Muslims or Buddhists.
  • Some famous monasteries are Hemis, Thiskey, Shey and Lamayuru.
  • In the summer season, the people are busy cultivating barley, potatoes, peas, beans and turnip.
  • The national highway 1A connects Leh to Kashmir valley through the Zoji la pass.
  • Manali – Leh highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la, Baralacha la, Lungalacha la and Tanglang la. The highway opens only between July and September when snow is cleared from roads.


  • As climate plays an important role in the formation of grasslands, it is generally used as a basis to divide the world’s grasslands into two broad categories: those that occur in the temperate region and those that occur in the tropical regions.

The Prairies:

  • The temperate grasslands of N. America are called as the Prairies. It is a region of flat, gently sloping or hilly land.
  • The Prairies are bound by the Rocky mountains in the West and the Great lakes in the East.
  • The Prairies cover parts of USA and parts of Canada.
  • In the USA, the area is drained by the tributaries of Mississippi and the Canadian prairies are drained by the tributaries of Saskatchewan Rivers.
  • The grasslands of Prairies were the home of Native Americans often called “Red Indians”. They were the actual habitant of the continent. The prairies are were the home of other tribes also like the Apache, the Crow, the Cree and the Pawnee.


  • The climate is continental type with extreme temperatures.
  • Due to the absence of the north-south barrier, Chinook is a hot wind that blows in winter and therefore raises the temperature within a short time.

Flora and Fauna:

  • Where water is available, trees such as willows, alders and poplars grow.
  • Though the major crop of this area is maize, other crops including potatoes, soybean, cotton and alfa-alfa is also grown.
  • Large cattle farms called ranches are looked after sturdy men called cowboys.
  • Bison or the American Buffalo is the most important animal of this region. It nearly got extinct due to its indiscriminate hunting and is now a protected species.
  • The other animals found in this region are rabbits, coyotes, gophers and Prairie dog.


  • Important cities in the American Prairies are Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Kansas and Denver.
  • In the Canadian prairies the important cities are Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary and Winnipeg.
  • The Prairies are also known as the “Granaries of the world”, due to the huge surplus of wheat production.
  • Dairy farming is another major industry. The dairy belt extends from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast in the east.
  • Large mineral deposits particularly coal and iron and a good network of roads, railways and canals in this region have made it the most industrialized region in the world.

The Velds:

  • The temperate grasslands of S. Africa are called the Velds.
  • These are rolling plateaus with varying heights ranging from 600 m to 1100 m.
  • It is bound by the Drakensburg mountains on the east. To the west lies the Kalhari desert. on the northeastern part, “high velds” are located that attain a height of more than 1600 m, in some places.
  • The tributaries of the rivers Orange and Limpopo drain the region.


  • The velds have a mild climate due to the influence of the Indian Ocean.
  • Winters are cold and dry. Temperatures vary between 5o C and 10o July is the coldest month. Summers are short and warm.
  • The velds receive rainfall mainly in the summer months from November to February. This is mainly because of the warm ocean currents that wash the shores of the velds.

Flora and Fauna:

  • In the high velds acacia and maroola are seen to be growing.
  • The animals of the velds are primarily lions, leopards, cheetah and krudu.


  • Velds are known for cattle rearing and mining.
  • The main crops are maize, wheat, barley, oats and potato.
  • Cash crops like tobacco, sugarcane and cotton are also grown.
  • Sheep rearing is the most important occupation of the people.
  • Merino sheep is a popular species and their wool is very warm.
  • Dairy farming is the next important occupation.
  • The velds have rich reserve of minerals.
  • Iron and steel industry has developed where coal and iron are present.
  • Gold and diamond mining are major occupations of people of this region.
  • Johannesburg is known for being the gold capital of the world.
  • Kimberley is famous for its diamond mines.


Life in the Amazon basin:

  • The tropical region lies very close to the equator; between 10o N and 10o So, it is referred to as the equatorial region.
  • The place where a river flows into another body of water is called the river’s mouth.
  • The Amazon river basin drains portions of Brazil, parts of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia and a small part of Venezuela.

# Tributaries: These are small rivers that join the main river. The main river along with all its tributaries that drain an area forms a river basin or the catchment area. The Amazon basin is the largest river basin in the world.


  • Is characterized by hot and wet climate throughout the year.
  • Both days and nights are almost equally hot and humid.


  • As it rains heavily in this region, thick forests grow.
  • This region is very rich in fauna. Birds such as toucans, humming birds, birds of paradise and bills are common here. Animals like monkeys, sloth and ant-eating tapirs are found here.
  • Reptiles like Anaconda, boa constrictor are some of the species.

People of the rain forests:

  • People grow most of their food in small areas after clearing some trees in the forest.
  • While men hunt and fish along the rivers, women take care of the crops. They grow mainly tapioca, pineapple and sweet potato.
  • They practice slash and burn agriculture. It is a way of cultivating land where farmers clear a piece of land by slashing or cutting down trees and bushes. These are then burnt, which releases the nutrients into the soil.
  • The staple food of these people is manioc, also known as cassava that grows under the ground like the potato.
  • Cash crops like coffee, maize and cocoa are also grown.
  • In 1970, the Trans Amazon highway made all parts of the rainforest accessible.

Life in the Ganga – Brahmaputra Basin:

  • The basin lies in the sub-tropical region that is situated between 10o N to 30o N latitudes.
  • The tributaries of the River Ganga like the Ghaghra, the Son, the Chambal, the Gandak, the Kosi and the tributaries of Brahmaputra drain it.
  • The plains of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra, the mountains and the foothills of the Himalayas and the Sunderbans delta are the main features of this basin.
  • The area is dominated by monsoon climate.
  • The environment plays a dominant role in the distribution of the population.
  • The density of the population in the plains is very high.

# Population Density: It is the number of persons that live in one of area.

  • The main crop is paddy.
  • Wheat, maize, sorghum, gram and millets are the other crops that are grown.
  • Cash crops like sugarcane and jute are also grown.
  • In West Bengal and Assam, tea is grown in plantations.
  • Silk is produced through the cultivation of silk worms in parts of Bihar and Assam.
  • There is a variety of wildlife in the basin. Elephants, deers, tigers and monkeys are common.
  • The one-horned rhinoceros is found in the Brahmaputra plain.
  • In the delta area, Bengal tiger, crocodiles and alligator are found.
  • In the fresh waters of River Ganga, and River Brahmaputra, a variety of dolphin locally called Susu (also called blind dolphin) is found.
  • Kolkata is an important port on the River Hooghly.
  • Tourism is another important activity of the basin.


Site : The place where a building or a settlement develops is called a site. The natural conditions for selection of an ideal site are –

  • Favorable climate
  • Availability of water
  • Suitable land
  • Fertile land

Settlements: are places where people build their homes. They can be permanent or temporary.

Temporary Settlements: Settlements which are occupied for a short time are called temporary settlements. People in these settlements practice hunting, gathering, shifting cultivation and transhumance.

Transhumance: It is a seasonal movement of people. People who rear animals move in search of new pastures according to changes in seasons.

Settlements can be rural or urban.

Rural settlements:

  • The villages are rural settlements where people are engaged in activities like agriculture, fishing, forestry, crafts work and trading etc..
  • They can be compact or scattered.

Urban settlements:

  • The towns are small and the cities are larger urban settlements.
  • In urban areas the people are engaged in manufacturing, trading and services.

Transport: Transport is the means by which people and goods move. The four major means of transport are roadways, railways, waterways and airways.


  • They can be metalled (pucca) and unmetalled (kutcha)
  • Manali – Leh highway in the Himalayan Mountains is one of the highest roadways in the world.
  • Roads built underground are called subways/under paths.


  • Indian railway network is the largest in Asia.
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway system connecting St.Petersburg in Western Russia to Vladivostok in the Pacific coast


  • Waterways are the cheapest for carrying heavy and bulky goods over long distances.
  • They are mainly of two typesinland waterways and sea routes.
  • Some of the important inland waterways are the Ganga-Brahmaputra river system, the Great lakes in the N.America and the river Nile in Africa.
  • Some of the important ports of the world are Singapore and Mumbai in Asia, New York, Los Angeles in N.America, Rio de Janerio in S.America, Durban and Cape Town in Africa, Sydney in Australia, London and Rotterdam in Europe.


  • The fastest way of transport developed.
  • It is the only mode of transport to reach the most remote and distant areas where there are no roads and railways.
  • Some of the important airports are Delhi, Mumbai, New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt and Cairo


  • Is the process of conveying message to others.
  • Through newspaper, radio and television we can communicate with a large number of people. They are therefore called mass media.
  • Satellites have helped in oil exploration, survey of forest, underground water, mineral wealth, weather forecast and disaster warning.


Natural vegetation is generally classified into three broad categories as follows:

  • Forests: which grow where temperature and rainfall are plentiful to support a tree cover. Depending upon these factors, dense and open forests are grown.
  • Grasslands: which grow in the region of moderate rain.
  • Shrubs: Thorny shrubs and scrubs grown in the dry region.

The changes in the type of natural vegetation occur mainly because of the changes in the climatic condition.


Tropical Evergreen Forests:

  • Also called as tropical rain forests.
  • Occur in the regions near to equator and close to the tropics.
  • Hardwood trees like rosewood, ebony, mahogany are common here.

Tropical deciduous forests:

  • Are the monsoon forests found in large part of India, N. Australia and in Central America.
  • The hardwood trees found in these forests are sal, teak, neem and shisham.
  • Tigers, lions, elephants, langoors and monkeys are the common animals of these regions.

Temperate Evergreen forests:

  • These are located in the mid-latitudinal coastal region. They are commonly found along the eastern margin of the continents, e.g., In South east USA, S.China and in SE Brazil.
  • They comprise both hard and soft wood trees like oak, pine, eucalyptus, etc.

Temperate Deciduous Forests:

  • These are found in the NE part of USA, China, New Zealand, Chile and also found in the coastal regions of W.Europe.
  • The common trees are oak, ash, beech etc.
  • Deer, foxes, wolves are the commonly found animals. Birds like pheasants, monals are also found here.

Mediterranean Vegetation:

  • The west and south west margins of the continents have this vegetation.
  • Mostly found in the areas around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, Africa and Asia, hence the name.
  • These regions are marked for hot dry summers and mild rainy winters.
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, figs, olives and grapes are commonly cultivated.
  • These regions are known as ‘Orchards of the world’ for their fruit cultivation.

Coniferous forests:

  • These forests are seen in the higher latitudes.
  • These are also called as Taiga.
  • The trees are tall, softwood evergreen trees. The woods of these trees are very useful for making pulp, which is used for manufacturing paper and newsprint.
  • Match boxes and packing boxes are also made from softwood.
  • Chir, pine, cedar are the important variety of trees in these forests.
  • Silver fox, mink, polar bear are the common animals found here.

Tropical grasslands:

  • These occur on either side of the equator and extend till the tropics.
  • This vegetation grows in the areas of moderate to low amount of rainfall. Ex: Savanna grasslands of Africa
  • Elephants, Zebras, giraffes, deer, leopards are common here.
  • Tropical Grasslands in East Africa are called Savannahs.
  • They are called Campos in Brazil
  • They are called Llanos in Venezuela

Temperate Grasslands:

  • These are found in the mid-latitudinal zones in the interior part of the continents.
  • Wild buffaloes, bisons, antelopes are common here.
  • The temperate grasslands of Argentina are called Pampas.
  • They are called Prairie in N.America
  • They are called Veld in S.Africa
  • They are called Steppe in C.Asia
  • They are called Down in Australia.

Thorny bushes:

  • The vegetation cover is scarce because of scanty rain and scorching heat.

Tundra Vegetation:

  • This is extremely cold.
  • The growth of vegetation is very limited here.
  • Only mosses, lichens and very small shrubs are found here. It grows only during the very short summer.
  • This is found in the polar areas of Europe, Asia and N.America.
  • Seal, walruses, musk-oxen, Arctic owl, Polar bear and snow foxes are some of the animals found here.


  • Environment is derived from the French word “Environer/Environner” meaning “neighborhood”
  • Environment is the basic life support system. It provides the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we eat and the land where we live.
  • The place, people, things and the nature that surround any living organism is called environment. It is a combination of natural and human made phenomena.
  • Components of environment: Natural, Human made and Human.
  • Natural environment refers to both biotic and abiotic conditions. Biotic is the world of living organisms whereas abiotic is the world of non-living elements.

Natural Environment:


  • The solid crust or the hard top layer of the earth.
  • Made up of rocks and minerals and covered by a thin layer of soil.


  • Domain of water.


  • Thin layer of air that surrounds the earth.

Ecosystem: it is a system formed by the interaction of all living organisms with each other and with physical and chemical factors of environment in which they live, all linked by transfer of energy and material.

# World Environment day – 5th June.

Communalism in India – II

Post-Independent India factors:

  • Political opportunism was an immediate factor which led to strengthening of communal politics. The power struggle between the congress led by Indira Gandhi vs Jana Sangh and Swatantra party (mainly former princes angered by Indira Gandhi’s abolition of Privy Purse). Other parties which were anti-socialist joined. They insisted communal passions to weaken Mrs. Gandhi’s appeal.
  • The continued questioning of the loyalty of Muslims to India strengthened communal politics. For example, Jana Sangh in 1969 Patna session openly called for Indianisation of Muslims which amounted to question Indianess and nationalism of Muslims.
  • The continued backwardness of some regions with incidentally community being a majority presents a perfect opportunity for communalism by narrow sectarian leaders. In a backward and communally divided society, it is difficult to develop class solidarity across communal identities.
  • Formation of political parties by communal leaders as a political strategy for the party’s success is also factoral. For example, formation of Shiv Sena in 1969.
  • Communalism is also strengthened because of militant insurgence, regional along with communal identities to get a larger share in limited economic resources. For example, the Nairs of Kerala encouraged the RSS to strengthen bases in Kerala to grab more economic opportunities in limited Kerala.
  • Communalism is also used as a strategy/rivalry between criminal systems. For example, in Baroda’s riot, it was rivalry between illicit liquor gangs of Hindus and Muslims.
  • The Godra riots are actually a manifestation between the Sindhis and the Ganchi muslims, both of who are dominant entrepreneurial classes and hence have an entrepreneurial rivalry.

Need of a law:

Commissions of enquiry setup after every major communal conflict have consistently come down heavily on the state authorities as also certain parties and organizations for their role in violence. However, it is in very rare cases that perpetrators have been convicted. By and large, police and the administrative classes have been left untouched by the law. Hence, a carefully designed law on communal violence is needed.

Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005:

  • This bill provides for (a) prevention and control of communal violence, (b) speedy investigation and trials, and (c) rehabilitation of victims.
  • The state government can declare an area as communally disturbed under certain conditions. The district magistrate or the competent authority appointed by the state government can take measures such as regulating assembly, directing persons to deposit their arms, searching premises etc to control communal violence.
  • The bill provides double the punishment as provided by other existing laws. The state governments shall establish special courts to try offences under this law. These courts may direct convicted persons to pay compensation to victims or dependents.
  • Communal Disturbance Relief and Rehabilitation Councils will be formed at the national, state and district levels.
  • The district council shall pay atleast 20% of total compensation as immediate compensation to victims.

Historical perspective of Communalism in India

  • Communalism became a political force only after 1937.
  • It’s a modern ideology like nationalism, which emerged in British India along with nationalism.
  • It was not an inevitable product of Indian history though it definitely borrows some elements of the past, like religious diversity. Hence communalism should not be seen as restoring the past, because it was absent in the past. Its social roots and its socio-economic, political interests (objectives) are modern.
  • Communal consciousness emerged like nationalism as a consequence of modern politics based on people, i.e. modern politics based on notion of popular sovereignty, popular participation of people and politics based on mobilization of public opinion.
  • Communalism is not a legacy of medieval India, but it is a particular view of medieval history, where the view itself is based on communal ideology.

For example, politics of medieval period was based on relations between the upper ruling classes, but not between the ruling class and people. In medieval India, if there was any communal politics, it was the activities of the leaders but not of the masses. The isolated events of communal politics in medieval India had much more to do with territorial wars rather than seeing the society is made up of separate nations of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. In fact, in medieval India, these communities didn’t form separate nations and they didn’t even form a distinct homogenous community except for some religious purposes. They were no sharply separate interests of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. In fact the conditions of the Hindus, Muslims and the Sikhs were the same. Socially, culturally and economically these Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs equally belong to any regional society and to common divisions between communities based on religion. The real division was because of linguistic regional groups. This reality on division based on linguistic regional factors is clearly evident when Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan declared that they had no linguistic, cultural, economic and political affinity with the Punjabi dominant West Pakistan. In north India, for example in Medieval times, social groupings were formed at the village level or a group of villagers on the basis of caste with Muslims serving in practice as another caste.

  • In historical India, even the bond of religion between members of a given religious group existed as the sentimental level rather than in terms of specific objectives.
  • Communal nationalism also didn’t exist in India. The communalists failed to represent national interests and in fact didn’t even represent the interests of their own communities. Many times, political activity of these communalists were harmful to their own communities. The very idea of considering Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs as separate communities is itself wrong because such groups were not really present in Indian society. The grouping itself was created to spread communalism.
  • The advent of modernism in India following the entry of Europeans led to new social, economic and political institutions and realities. There was inability of Indian people to grasp these new realities. Hence, compelling them to understand these new realities in terms of familiar traditional identities based on region, religion, language etc. The developing contradiction between colonialism and the Indian people along with the formation of new social classes made it necessary to look for wider identities. The inability of the Indian people to identify such wider categories of identity made them fall back on pre-modern categories of self identity, based on religion, region and caste and hence leading to the slow emergence of communal consciousness.
  • Communalism was not anti-imperialism or nationalism which is a consciousness based on a real conflict, but represents a distorted reflection of the real conflict. It has historical roots to the extent of presence of religious diversities in India, but making this diversity the basis of political organization, mobilization is development of the false consciousness in modern India unlike the true consciousness of nationalism which also developed in modern India.


It is a belief that religion based communities form distinct and separate national units. Hence, followers of a religion are believed to share not only common religious interests, but also common political, social and cultural interests.

Communalism is an ideology which states that society is divided into religious communities whose interests differ and are, at times, even opposed to each other. The communalism between the Hindu and Muslim communities is the single largest threat to the secular ideas that are enshrined in our Constitution.


The antagonism practised by the people of one community against the people of other community and religion can be termed ‘communalism’.

This antagonism goes to the extent of falsely accusing, harming and deliberately insulting a particular community and extends to looting, burning down the homes and shops of the helpless and the weak, dishonouring women, and even killing persons.

Communalism implies that every religious community has its own separate history. Religion is the basic social identity and the basic determinant of social relationships (Communist Argument).

  • That religious community is the basis of organization of modern politics in India.
  • That each religious community constitutes a homogenous unit and a distinct society by itself (false argument).
  • That India is a confederation of religious communities and hence communal identity and division have always been part of Indian society.
  • The most meaningful distinction among Indian people is to be made on the basis of units of religious communities. This distinction overrides all other distinctions.
  • Members of a given religious communities are seen to be making choices and getting benefits as members of those communities.
  • That economic, political and cultural interests are divergent and incompatible are considered to be self-evident truths, which are wrong.
  • That mutual hostility and even hatred between communities is and always been normal in India, while tolerance and peaceful co-existence are considered to be temporary and also conditional.

Meaning of Communal Tension:

Spasmodic manifestation of strained relations between religious communities. Communal tensions often involve the lower classes of the society. During times of communal tension, the mutual relations between communities are snapped and communal passions are aroused by vicious propaganda. This manifests sometimes as communal riots. The middle and upper classes rarely participate in such riots, but provides moral and material support. Each episode of communal riot and tension leaves behind a legacy which can become the source of communal tension in the future. In India, communal riots started appearing from the last quarter of 19th century.

India witnessed maximum communal riots before independence between 1923-26.

 Communal Violence:

In communal violence, the involvement of people is mobilized against another community. The movements here are unpredictable, uncheckable and carry an emotional fury and violent expressions which take the form of rioting. The degree of violence and the methods of executing violence also vary in communal violence. In communal violence, the fight is against social discrimination, social neglect and social and religious exploitation.

The degree of cohesion also varies. The high degree of cohesion in a communal riot situation is built around hostility, tensions and popularization of population. The target of attack is members of the ‘enemy’ community. Sometimes, violence is exercised against public property in the form of loot and arson. Anti-social elements are given a free hand to operate in communal riots. The flare-ups in communal disturbances are restricted to particular structures.

There is no leadership in communal riots which could control and contain the riot situation. The aftermath of communal violence is intensified animosity, prejudice and mutual suspicions of one community against the other. It could, thus, be said that communal violence is based mainly on hatred, enmity and revenge.