What is different now in communal violence in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Communal violence and its implications for society


India has a long history of communal violence. Just how similar or different are the recent episodes? And what kind of dangers do they pose to the polity and society?

What is different this time?

  • Religious processions: It should first be noted that such processions have historically been some of the largest triggers for communal riots.
  • Such processions can be, and have been, intensely political, often morphing from the religious to the communal.
  • Communalism Vs. Religiosity: Communalism in South Asia has always been distinguished from religiosity.
  • Religiosity may be about deeper meanings of life, but communalism is about a coercive assertion of power or a bloody search for retribution, often historically construed and presented.
  • Thus, it is not the coexistence of religious processions and riots that is surprising today.
  • What is different this time? Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti are not the principal religious processions touching off riots.
  • Eroding neutrality of state: The second difference that in the past, processions might have caused riots, but the state rarely gave up the principle of neutrality in dealing with them.
  • When a state either explicitly favours a community or looks away when a particular community is hounded, intimidated and attacked, it is no longer a riot, but a pogrom.
  • The rapidly eroding religious neutrality of the government in several states is one of the most alarming political developments.
  • In recent months, there have been spectacles of calls to murder in Dharam Sansads (religious assemblies).
  • Such speech is criminally liable. India’s Constitution prohibits speech that endangers “public order”.
  • In the past, it was invariably hard to find clear evidence of who led the riots.
  • The riot leaders now openly proclaim call for violence.
  • Such leaders are either not punished, or are merely given a slap on the wrist and some of them are even celebrated as heroes and rewarded with high office.
  • New research on vigilantism makes it clear that vigilantism, especially lynchings, cannot flourish unless the state provides impunity to vigilante groups.


Even though India has a long history of communal violence the recent episodes of violence are different and pose grave dangers to the polity and society.

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