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.