This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abdul Muheet Chowdhary. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Hatred Communalism Breeds: ‘Religion Must Be Relegated To The Private Sphere’

More from Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary:

Thus far this series has examined what communalism is, what will be the implications of its unchecked growth and what policy solutions can be taken by the Government to neutralise it. This final and concluding part of the series will lay out strategies for political action for countering communalism. This consists of three main activities:

i) Dismantling the communal ideology and pointing out its fallacies
ii) Promoting real secularism
iii) Class-based mobilisation

These can be adopted by anyone – individuals, social organisations and of course political parties. However it is vital to first examine the current state of affairs and see where things are going wrong.


Existing political discourses regarding ‘secularism
The behaviour of the ‘secular’ parties whenever a communal incident takes place is routine and predictable: cry hoarse about the communal character of the aggressor, polarise communities and ensure that the situation burns for as long as possible so maximum political mileage can be gained from it. The strategy is clear: minorities ko dara ke rakho, daba ke rakho (keep the minorities terrified and oppressed). The grandmaster of this strategy is the Congress which has perfected it through decades of practice. Other ‘secular’ parties have also learned from the master with the result that this is now more or less the norm. Hasan Suroor has excellently documented this phenomenon in his book ‘India’s Muslim Spring’.

This strategy has over time resulted in secular meaning ‘pro-minority’. The Hindutva, right through its mobilisation has expanded this to mean ‘pro-minority and anti-majority’. Thus secularism today has overwhelmingly come to be understood as pro-Muslim/Christian and anti-Hindu.

The consequences of this are serious. ‘Secular’ parties will begin to see that their Hindu voters are deserting them for parties such as the BJP, Shiv Sena or AGP which they believe stand for ‘Hindu interests’. As numbers are everything in politics, the ‘secular’ parties will drop the sham and politics will be reduced to competitive Hindu communalism with each trying to outdo the other as the defender of ‘Hindu interests’. This is already happening in many parts of the country with Gujarat being the finest example where the Congress is headed by Shankarsinh Vaghela, a former RSS man. Truly secular people will then find themselves without a political voice and for the minorities the appeal of parties such as the MIM will increase. This is clearly an undesirable and unsustainable state of affairs and course-correction must be undertaken immediately.

Dismantling the communal ideology
An all-out political onslaught on the communal ideology has happened only once in the history of modern India – during the 1952 general elections when Jawaharlal Nehru made it a major point of his campaign. ‘Rozi roti ka sawaal hai’ (the question is of livelihood) was his rallying cry which succinctly captured the essence of the problem – that the real issues of people were of livelihood and not of their religion. He relentlessly pointed out that communal mobilisation was only a ploy by the rich to divide the poor and served no fruitful purpose.

This sort of public campaigning against communalism is absolutely crucial in India today. There is no longer time for complacency or subterfuge. The country faces a very real risk of descending into permanent civil war as discussed previously. Progressive forces of all shapes and sizes must launch an all-out attack on the communal ideology and show it for what it really is – a fallacious and pathetic discourse that only barters hate and resentment to its followers and obscures them from their real issues. It must be pointed out repeatedly, in a simple manner and on all possible platforms, especially social media, that Hindutva has nothing to offer to Hindus except for resentment, that the communal assumption that Hindu and Muslim/Christian interests are opposed, is utterly false, and communalism actually benefits the rich and powerful who use it to divide the poor against each other.

It must be shown how endless drum-beating of Hindu victimhood over the activities of Aurangzeb, Mahmud of Ghazni, Nadir Shah etc brings absolutely no benefit to modern day Hindus and only serves to alienate them from their fellow countrymen. Hindutva ‘nationalism’ must be exposed for its anti-national character which goes against the tolerant, syncretic and pluralistic ethos of India and actually works to break up national unity. It must also be shown that far from having separate and opposing interests, both Hindus and Muslims/Christians ultimately want dignified livelihoods, a clean and safe environment to live in, best possible opportunities for their children and the freedom to live life as they see it. The issues that unite are infinitely more numerous and more powerful than the (non) issues that divide.

Promoting real secularism
Progressive forces must educate the public that ‘secularism’ is a belief in two principles:

i) Complete separation of religion from public affairs
ii) Live and let live.

It is high time that there was complete separation of religion from the State, and progressive forces should actively campaign for this. There should be a complete stop to public funding of religion in any manner, whether it be building temples, providing Haj subsidies or managing temple authorities such as Padmanabhaswamy. There should also be a complete removal of religious symbolism from the public sphere. Today, it is a common sight to see posters of gods and goddesses in government offices as well as public property such as buses. This violates the principle of separation of religion from public affairs and therefore all such symbols should be removed. The State must be divested of any religious character whatsoever. This is all the more important in these times when the idea of India as a ‘Hindu country’ is dominant and there is an increasing perception of non-Hindus, including even dalits and tribals, as second class citizens who are living on the mercy of their benevolent masters.

The principle of live and let live, which is essentially tolerance, should also be vigorously promoted. Difference should not be seen as a threat and diversity should be celebrated. To be secular should mean to be one who celebrates the different religions, cultures, customs and traditions of India and sees it as the different strands that make up the multi-coloured mosaic of the Indian nation.

Class based mobilisation
The third and most important strategy in the battle against communalism consists of:

i) Shifting the focus from communal to class issues
ii) Creating class identities

It must be shown that the issues which the communalists raise such as temple construction, cow protection, religious conversions, etc are not the primary concerns of the vast majority of Indians. The vast majority of Indians are mainly concerned with getting good jobs, good education, affordable and comfortable housing, access to finance for their business activities, etc. These are all class issues and must be given the dominance they deserve.

It must also be repeatedly stated that poor Hindus and Muslims have much more in common with each other than with their middle class or rich co-religionists. Mukesh Ambani and Azim Premji have much more in common with each other than with say Hindu and Muslim marginal farmers and vice versa. This fact must be driven in and class identities must be created such that mobilisation can take place on class lines and on class issues. Religion must be firmly relegated to the private sphere as a matter of personal belief. When used as a force for social mobilisation it must be pointed out for what it is – a diversionary ploy and nothing more.

The path to paradise lies through perdition and there must be no illusions that the struggle for social peace will be a long and hard one. The malaise has taken deep roots and changing this will not be easy. However it must be done for the alternatives are too grave to be borne. One thing must be kept in mind at all times during this journey – the focus must always be on what is being fought for, not what is being what fought against. For as Nietzsche says,

“He who fights monsters must take care that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into the Abyss, the Abyss also gazes into you.”

This is the final and concluding part 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.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    The following narrative is about what Modi and his goons did in Gujarat. It will send a shiver down your spine.

    “I Couldn’t Even Tell Them I Was 5 Months Pregnant Because Their Feet Were on My Mouth.”

    1. ItsJustMe

      People are forgetting the meaning of being a Hindu. It means to be a descendant of a civilization which gave land for the second Masjid in the world in Kochi. Which has hosted religions,new and established and acted as a homeland for spirituality and philosophy, while the majority of people remained within the Aryan religion. The word Hindu was never used until Islam emerged as a religion in indian subcontinent. So how can these goons call themselves Hindus. They are the opposite of Hindus. They may be as bad as ISIS, what they have succeeded to do however is that they leveraged the Hindu votes. Having said that, there are many Muslim dominated areas where only Muslim league has won the election even after 68 years of independence. So while whole of India has voted for a secular candidates, these small pockets of Muslim majority remained with their religious party. Which further created woes in non Muslim population. Each community have to step forward and free themselves from their religious identities and vote for the country’s future. If we create a scenario where it is no longer possible for politicians to exploit our religious diversity, they will be forced to do better in real administration and policy making

    2. Avinesh Saini

      Old timers can come up with several such stories from the times of Partition. These things will probably continue to happen in India to people of both communities. Maybe, it’s time to stop being Hindus, Muslims, Christians and just be humans. Maybe, it is just time to stop believing.

  2. Pranav

    Finally, an article on Youth Ki Awaaz that calls a spade a spade. You have told exactly what is wrong with so many of today’s so-called journalists and intellectuals. Today’s definition of secularism benefits no one and in the long run will affect everybody and only divide the people and affect unity.
    Hats off to you brother.

More from Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

Similar Posts

By Sannaya

By Dr. Manish Goutam🇮🇳

By Ashish Kotadiya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below