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

How Communalism Has Grown To Become A National Crisis In India

More from Anwarul Hoda

By Anwarul Hoda:

“But don’t forget, so had Hitler’s Nazis and the fascists under Mussolini …it (the RSS) is a communal body with a totalitarian outlook.”
Sardar Patel

After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in India, communalism along with nationalism suddenly came to be among the most debated issues which are being discussed from the dhabas to the five-star newsrooms of media channels.

These two subjects complement each other. The narrow notion of nationalism, which the Bharatiya Janta Party and its parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is propagating on the streets is creating a wave of communal feeling among the religious majority group as well as minorities. Nationalism serves as the ground for the operative ideology of communalism to advance a theory of the nation which is based on a common political consciousness of the majority community. RSS with its different political and social organisations is successfully clubbing Hinduism with nationalism by their political theory of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

In post-colonial India, there is a long list of communal riots. But what is common in all such incidences is the state‘s ‘invisible hand’. The state’s role has been alleged in all riots from the 1984 anti-Sikh riot to the recent Muzaffarnagar riot, and also the 2002 Gujarat riots. The most surprising part in all these instances of communal violence is that they begin for reasons that are not religious. The common reasons which trigger communal violence are mostly land disputes, eve teasing, fights among individuals or, more commonly these days, mixed marriages which later turn into a matter of religious conflict often after the intervention of political figures sometimes even associated with ‘secular’ parties.

A famous line by an English songwriter John Lennon offers a good explanation. He once said, “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you’re playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they have got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour.”

Communalism also results from a breakdown of common consciousness based on the idea of plurality and of social integration. ‘Fear of the other’ is something which acts as a catalyst in the process of communal riots. And this often done by advertising a sense of insecurity among the communities. And once ‘the fear of other’ is injected among them, it becomes almost impossible to get rid of it. C.G. Shah, in his book ‘Marxism, Gandhism, Stalinism’, says, “Under the pressure of communal propaganda, the masses are unable to locate the real causes of their exploitation, oppression, and suffering and imagine a fictitious communal source of their origin.”

Tracing The Foot-Marks

To take our understanding further we need to go way back to the Gandhi-Nehru era when efforts were made to create a secular state in a religious society. Sumanta Banerjee, in his latest article for Economic & Political Weekly, highlights how eminent leaders of the freedom movement failed in countering the communal seeds sown during their struggle for independence. In this same piece, he also questions the ‘good terms’ of leaders like M.K. Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayprakash Narayan with the RSS in different periods of Indian history. According to him, whether it be the Congress or the Left or the Socialist Party, all had relationships with the RSS for various reasons, and it was only because of such support that RSS, in the post-Independence period, gained legitimacy.

Once Nehru declared his dream of India by stating, “The one thing that should be obvious to all of us is that there is no group in India, no party, no religious community, which can prosper if India does not prosper. If India goes down, we go down, all of us… But if it is well with India, if India lives as a vital, free country, then it is well with all of us, to whatever community or religion, we belong.” But soon after his death, his successors failed in controlling the root of communalism and in fact they, in a way, gave them freedom to spread their influence across the country.

The Babri Demolition

With the Independence of India, communal forces were restricted to an extent. But the event that took place on December 7, 1992, propelled Indian democracy into a radical phase. Babri masjid’s demolition is one of the most unfortunate incidents that happened in post-colonial India which revived a situation like that in 1937-47 which is considered as a stage of extreme communalism in colonial India according to Bipan Chandra, when the communal organisations like the Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were at the height of their operations.

The Babri demolition became the reason behind major communal riots all over India during the year 1992-93 in which more than 2000 lives were lost and mostly Muslims were oppressed from Mumbai to Meerut. Noted activist Aruna Roy termed the Babri demolition as an assault on reason and rationality of the Constitution. The differences and hatred among the Hindu and Muslim communities continue to grow as an aftereffect of the demolition. And since then identity politics of the BJP got established in the political arena of India.

“I shall wish for an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; [and above all] an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony.” This is the Gandhian idea of Independent India based on social equality and on communal harmony which is now facing some serious setbacks.

BJP’s totalitarian outlook upholds the RSS agenda of ending diversity and establishing a state with a monolithic culture. Since Modi succeeded Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, RSS through the BJP is trying to push forward its political Hindutva ideology through different educational and cultural institutions. Appointment of RSS sympathisers to prestigious institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and at various other reputed chairs reveals so much.

The BJP came to power with the promise of development and of removing the existing corruption. But in two years, Indian politics has largely revolved around the issues like ‘love-jihad’, ‘Ghar Wapsi’, ‘Gau Mata’ and the most recent, ‘Bharat Mata’. These issues appear to be tactical tools for the divisive identity politics of the BJP. However, it doesn’t mean that India suddenly transformed after BJP was sworn into the power. The point here is the degree of communal feeling seems to have increased. The cold-blooded murder of Govind Pansare and Professor M.M. Kalburgi, the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq have shocked the entire civil society. Slogans like ‘Muslim Mukt Bharat‘ are highly communalising and politicisation of the Kairana migration are results of the same.

In the 21st century, when the world is reaching new heights of development and prosperity, organisations like RSS still believes in regressive ideas like ‘Akhand Bharat’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The worsening communal atmosphere in the country is curbing the space for reason and rationality. Sumanta Banerjee in the same article argues for “break[ing] the umbilical cord with the political tradition of appeasing Hindu majoritarianism, and social toleration of obscurantist divisive religious beliefs and customs”. The time has come to challenge the Parivar and its government in the socio-religious sphere where they violate, every now and then, that provision of the Fundamental Duties given in the Indian Constitution (Part IV – A) which requires every citizen to “develop a scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”.

It needs to be understood that the future of India lies in secularism and any war against linguistic plurality, cultural or religious diversity will only break India. One is well aware of how India changes every 10 kilometres. The identity of India rests in its plurality and diversity which must be preserved.

Featured image credit: Deepak Malik/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

You must be to comment.

More from Anwarul Hoda

Similar Posts

By Devansh Mishra

By Martha Farrell Foundation

By Rohit Malik

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