Anatomy of communal violence in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Communal violence in India


Communal violence, a complex phenomenon, has been over-simplified to suit a convenient political narrative.

India’s syncretic traditions and impact of invasions

  • For aeons, India has had syncretic traditions inspired by the Vedic aphorism, “Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti” (there is only one truth and learned persons call it by many names).
  •  Because of this underpinning, Indian society has never insisted on uniformity in any facet of life.
  • This equanimity of Indian society was, however, disrupted by invading creeds.
  • The first such incursion came in 712, when Muhammad bin Qasim vanquished Sindh, and as Chach Nama, a contemporary Arab chronicle states, introduced the practice of treating local Hindus as zimmis, forcing them to pay jizya (a poll tax), as a penalty to live by their beliefs.
  • In the 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni, while receiving the caliphate honours on his accession to the throne, took a vow to wage jihad every year against Indian idolaters.
  • The fact is, ties between the two communities were seldom cordial.
  • There were intermittent skirmishes, wars and occasional short-lived opportunistic alliances.
  • When Pakistan declared itself an Islamic Republic in 1947, it would have been natural for India to identify itself as a Hindu state.
  • It didn’t, and couldn’t have — because of its Hindu ethos of pluralism.
  • India, is, and will always be, catholic, plural, myriad and a vibrant democracy.


It’s relevant to recall what Lester Pearson (14th PM of Canada) said: “Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.”

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