The Hatred Communalism Breeds: How India Could Be On The Brink Of A Civil War

Posted on June 9, 2015 in Society

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

The previous article had briefly examined the essential tenets of the communal ideology – namely the belief that people belonging to the same religion have common social, economic and political interests and that these are opposed to the interests of those belonging to other religions. Thus a communalist would believe that a Hindu has interests that are different from and opposed to the interests of a Muslim.

The communalisation of a nation has devastating consequences. India is not unique in experiencing this phenomenon and world over, countries that have been afflicted by communalism have faced similar problems.

mob violence

Increased Separatism

Globally the pattern is clear and the evidence is glaring: as communalism increases in a nation, border areas that are dominated by minority religions start demanding independence. India has to look no further than its own history of partition to realise the truth of this. Other examples from across the world reinforce this pattern. The conflict between Sinhala Buddhists and non-Buddhist Tamils in Sri Lanka led to the rise of the LTTE and the demand for independence in the North. The conflict between the Muslim North and the Christian South in undivided Sudan finally led to its bifurcation. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants in the United Kingdom led the region of Northern Ireland to demand a merger with Catholic-majority Ireland. The conflict between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq has led to the rise of the ISIS.

Based on this pattern, it can be extrapolated that the separatist movements in states dominated by minority religions will gain greater currency with the rise in Hindutva communalism. The Islamist elements in Kashmir and separatist elements in Christian dominated states such as Nagaland will be strengthened and find greater acceptance against the oppression of what will be seen as ‘Hindu India’. Recent events in Jammu show that Sikh separatism has not completely died out and that Punjab is susceptible to a revival of the movement for Khalistan.

Civil War

This is the most dangerous consequence of communalism. Trust between communities will begin to break down with the result that interaction will rapidly diminish and ghettoisation will increase. Such religious segregation will further entrench communal identities and these will become no-go zones for members of the ‘other’ communities. The frequency of communal riots and acts of terrorism from all sides will greatly increase. Over time this will descend into a state of open civil war that will extract a terrible toll on life and property. Hindus will be engaged in ceaseless battle against Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and whichever other community is targeted. The international community will also seize this opportunity to merrily supply arms to different warring factions.

This has already happened in Indian history. The decades between 1920 and 1940 were rocked by continuous communal riots. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his book ‘Pakistan Or The Partition Of India’ (Chapter VII) says of this period that, “It would not be much exaggeration to say that it is a record of twenty years of civil war between the Hindus and the Muslims in India, interrupted by brief intervals of armed peace.

Pakistan is today riven by civil war with almost daily reports of bomb blasts and attacks on Shias and Ahmadis. The ongoing civil wars in the countries of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Myanmar have driven people to a point of desperation where death in the open seas is preferred to life in a war-torn land.

The pain and suffering inflicted upon the common people by civil war cannot be imagined. It is far worse than what an authoritarian government can do as centralised tyranny functions in a somewhat predictable manner whereas in the case of civil war the people are subject to the brutalities of omnipresent chaos.

Rise Of The Police State

The greatest victim of this state of affairs will be the culture of liberty and tolerance. Civil liberties such as freedom of expression, right to fair trial, respect for human rights and so on will be obliterated. The right of people to decide what they want to eat, what they want to wear, who they choose to marry and so on will come under threat and the self-appointed guardians of religious custom and tradition will dictate these things.

Tolerance as a culture will die out. The acceptance of difference and the celebration of diversity will be replaced by a climate of suspicion and hate of ‘others’. India’s rich composite culture will be replaced by fanatical Hindutva bands battling it out to decide what is ‘real’ Hinduism, as has happened in the case of Pakistan.

This dismal situation will provide the government with an excuse to absorb ever increasing powers of surveillance and arbitrary action under the garb of maintaining ‘security’. These powers will be used to crush dissent and the country will even run the risk of becoming a military dictatorship.

Destruction Of The Development Agenda

Social peace is rightly referred to as an undervalued good. In its absence no development can take place. There will be flight of capital and the status of India will be the same as that of Somalia, Iraq, etc, places where no sane investors (barring merchants of death such as arms and reconstruction companies) would want to put their money. The working poor will especially suffer and their issues will be lost in the din over cows and temples.


This dismal scenario is unfortunately highly possible. If these forecasts of the future seem too forlorn, it must be remembered that the present is no paradise either. The supporters of Hindutva must understand exactly what they are signing up for and what their ‘vision’ for the nation entails. However this direction is not destiny and it is possible to prevent it from occurring.

The next article shall explore some of the ways through which communalism can be neutralised and the larger goal of promoting peace and harmony achieved.

This is the second of a four part series that explores the issue of communalism and communal violence in India. Part I explains the phenomenon of communalism and why it occurs. Part II examines the likely implications if this phenomena is left unchecked. Part III and IV discuss solutions.