India is a secular nation where several religions co-exist and the Constitution asks of each citizen to be tolerant of other religions. However despite the provisions of the Indian Constitution to protect the interests of people belonging to all religions, communalism has often endangered peace and harmony of our country in several instances in the past.
Communalism actually stems from religious fundamentalism that makes one believe that one’s own religion is the only true faith. Communalism itself is the ideology of a social , political or a religious group that their religion and practices are superior to that of other groups. Religion is a personal and sensitive issue for most people. Therefore any hint of antagonism or a sign of disrespect towards one’s religion immediately triggers hatred and violence. Communalism is divisive in that it stresses the significance of one religion over the others. While effectively the preaching and values of all religions do not differ , it is the conflict of interests and desire for dominance that provokes hostility.
It has also been observed on various occasions that religious leaders arouse fanatic behaviour among followers through fundamentalist speeches and political leaders do the same to ensure themselves of a vote bank for attaining power.
Historically communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims have occurred regularly. The seeds of this conflict lie in the Partition and formation of Pakistan. A case in point is the Ram Mandir – Babri- Masjid issue that was responsible for violent communal clashes acrossthe nation and resulted in loss of innocent lives and property. Religious fundamentalism and fanaticism have left such wounds on the psyche of the people that it has led to building of stereotypes. Muslims are viewed suspiciously and often experience difficulties in assimilation. The New York Twin-Tower terror event has brought in it’s wake other issues like racial profiling at airports which is creating a greater sense of alienation in the Islamic community.
Communal conflicts between Hindus and Sikhs, Hindus and Christians or even Muslims and Christians have been observed but sparingly. In recent times communal strife has also spread to rural areas of the country implying prejudices can exist anywhere.