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

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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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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