Communalism moves in three main stages: one is people following same religion have same social, political, economic interests. The second notion is that in a multi religious society the interests of one religion are different from the others. The third stage is reached when the interests are seen to be incompatible or antagonistic to each other. 

Beginning of Communalism

In the 19th century Hindu Muslim unity was high. They fought shoulder to shoulder in the 1857 struggle. Even when Muslim intellectuals noticed their community tagging behind Hindus in jobs they didn’t blame the Hindus but the government’s anti minority stands.

Syed Ahmed Khan

Syed Ahmed khan began his educational activities in the 19th century without any communal bias. The Aligarh movement was started by him for social and educational advancements of Muslims in India. The scientific societies were founded by him to support education.

The Aligarh College was founded to fight the bias against modern education in the Muslims. It had received large donations from the Hindus. Also the faculty and student components were largely Hindus.

It was only when the congress was formed did he changed his stance and directed Muslims to stay away from politics. The Viceroy and the British administration were against the congress due to its anti imperialist stand. This led Syed Ahmed khan to criticize the congress as a Hindu body since he wanted Muslims to have more share in administrative jobs and professions which could happen only if they had sympathy of colonial rulers.

Syed khan also believed that English would be the best protector of Muslim interests in India. The congress wanted democratic elections but I such a situation the majority would clearly dominate the minority. He preached Muslims from supporting the congress. But he didn’t float a party of his own as the British were not keen on supporting any form of political organization. He preached the Muslims to remain non agitational in their objectives. The British thus saw the importance of communalism and actively supported it.

After his death however the charge that congress was a Hindu body didn’t hold ground. Many intellectuals joined the congress from Muslim religion. Badruddin tyabji was the first Muslim president of the congress. The Muslim intelligentsia argued that none of the congress demands were communal. Hence till 1920s the Hindu Muslim unity was high.

Second phase of communalism

The communal forces felt that the need to join politics was necessary. The all India Muslim league was formed due to this with ex bureaucrats, Nawabs and big zamindars. It was a communal, conservative political party. The aim was to protect Muslim interest by supporting the British, demanding separate electorates, safeguards in government jobs etc. The activities were directed against congress not the British.

At the same time even Hindu communalists started taking root. They blamed the congress for uniting the Indians under a single nation and appeasement of minorities. However for a long time the Hindu mahasabha remained smaller compared to its Muslim counterpart. This was due to the domination of big zamindars, ex bureaucrats, mullahs and Nawabs in Muslim community whereas in the Hindu community there was a domination of intelligentsia who weren’t interested in communal politics. The other reason was that the colonial government gave more concessions to the Muslim communalists and couldn’t placate both simultaneously.

The colonial government added fuel to the fire by introducing communal electorates for Muslims which meant that the particular community could ignore others and make inflammatory speeches for elections.

The younger Muslims however got tired of the upper class Muslims slavish mentality and were drawn to more radical nationalist ideas.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul kalam azad was one such scholar. He was educated from Cairo University. He propagated rationalist and nationalist ideologies in his paper Al Hilal. The nationalist then took over the leadership of the league and the brilliant congress leader Jinnah was invited to be the leader of the league. From 1912-1924 leagues policies were in sync with the congress. The league however wasn’t totally secular it looked at imperialism from point of view of religion i.e. colonial policies on caliphate.

Period of Waning

The years of non cooperation, khilafat and Rowlett bills were a period of great unity between Hindus and Muslims. The big zamindars and bourgeois had left the league and the league itself was overshadowed by the khilafat committee as many of the league leaders couldn’t handle the politics of mass movements. The drawback here was the religious politics of Muslims couldn’t be elevated to secular plane.

Rise of Communalism

After the non cooperation movement was withdrawn people felt disillusioned and frustrated. In this period communalism reared its head and league and Hindu mahasabha were revived. The fear psychology was created slowly and nationalists were riled as traitors. The leaders of congress too couldn’t withstand the pressure and turned communal or semi communal. A new group called responsivists emerged which cooperated with colonial government for concessions to Hindus. Old khilafat leaders too joined this trend and accused congress of being a communal party. The period from 1922-1927 saw many riots.

The congress tried to solve this situation by acting as an intermediary with different communal groups or mediating directly with different groups. One such attempt was the all India conference called between all leaders to jointly decide on a constitution. The Muslim communal leaders met at Delhi to frame their basic demands known as the Delhi proposals.

These included:

  1. Sind should be  a separate province
  2. NWFP should be treated same as any other provinces
  3. 1/3rd reservation in central legislatures for Muslims
  4. In Punjab and Bengal the reservation for Muslims should be in accordance with the population and in other provinces the existing structure should continue.

The congress response came as the Nehru report that envisioned amongst other things joint electorates, seats reserved for minorities in legislatures [center and state] on basis of their population. However it conceded first and second demand of Delhi proposals. A section of the league was willing to accept this report with three amendments [two were same as points 3 and 4 of Delhi proposal and an additional amendment that residuary powers should belong to the provinces]. Congress didn’t want a weak center envisioned by Jinnah. The section of Muslim league wanted separate electorates. The Hindu mahasabha and Sikh communal group were opposed to points on Sind, NWFP, Punjab and Bengal.

The Muslim communal forces came together and Jinnah too fell in line. Jinnah 14 point plan was proposed that had the Delhi proposals, 3 Calcutta amendments and separate electorates, reservations in jobs and government. These formed the basis of all communal propaganda in future.

Failure of the Congress

The congress’s policy of mediating with different communal groups was disastrous. It meant that the congress recognized these groups as representatives of communities. The concessions given to them hurt the Hindu middle class and inflamed Hindu communal tensions. Wherever the concessions were given newer more extreme concessions were demanded by the leaders. The appetite for concessions was unlimited. This strategy also weakened the secular community leaders. The congress couldn’t confront its own communal or semi communal leaders.

Gandhiji did make Hindu Muslim unity one pillar of nationalist political reforms. But the congress never provided a deeper analysis to communalism. However riots were confined mostly to cities. Communalists had a narrow social base. Peasant, trade and youth movements were fully secular.

Anti Simon commission protests and second civil disobedience pushed the communalists in the background and divided them on matters whether to support or oppose these.

New leash to communalism

The round table conferences gave a new lease of life to the communal movements and they joined it to persuade the British that Hindu Muslim interests were different. Each wanted the British to give concessions to their own community and promised support to British if these were made.

The British gave the communal award to Muslims accepting all their demands included in 14 point plan. However after this their path to was unclear. Till 1937 the communalists remained in the background.

Q. The Trade Disputes Act of 1929 provided for (UPSC CSAT 2017)

    1. the participation of workers in the management of industries.

    1. arbitrary powers to the management to quell industrial disputes.

    1. an intervention by the British Court in the event of a trade dispute.

    1. a system of tribunals and a ban on strikes.

Ans . D

  1. Trade Disputes Act of 1929 made compulsory the appointment of Courts of Inquiry and Consultation Boards for settling industrial disputes; It forbade trade union activity of coercive or purely political nature and even sympathetic strikes.

Q. Consider the following statements:
1. The Factories Act, 1881 was passed with a view to fix the wages of industrial workers and to allow the workers to form trade unions.
2. N.M. Lokhande was a pioneer in organizing the labour movement in British India.
Which of the above statements is/are correct? (UPSC CSAT 2017)

    1. 1 only

    2. 2 only

    3. Both 1 and 2

    4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans . B

  1. Lord Ripon introduced the Factory Act of 1881 to improve the service condition of the factory workers in India. The Act banned the appointment of children below the age of seven in factories. It reduced the working hours for children. It made compulsory for all dangerous machines in the factories to be properly fenced to ensure security to the workers. Narayan Meghaji Lokhande (1848-1897) was a pioneer of the labour movement in India.