Communal Violence In India(GS-1 Study Material)-2020


GS 1 Current Issues


Context :

New Delhi witnessed one of the worst communal violence in the history of the national capital.


Communal violence includes all forms of violent action by members of one community against the members of other community. These days the occurrence of communal violence is a regular feature. Communal violence, either major or minor, leaves a deep impact on the society. When the religious thoughts are mixed with politics, it leads to aggression and violence.

The Indian law defines communal violence as, “any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clauses (24) and (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution of India.”

From Past-

  • The riots in India are not new. Such events are occurring since 17th century. But the riots were sectarian at that time and not based on religion like in 1720s among Afghans, Abyssinians, Satnamis and Mughals.
  • But in 18th century, the scenario changed and riots took the communal colour. More clashes between religions witnessed.
  • Hindu revivalist movements in 19th century like Shuddhi Movement of Arya Samaj and Muslim movements like Faraizi movement to bring Bengali Muslims back on the true path of Islam.
  • Formation of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha based on fear and hatred. 
  • Partition of India in 1947– After partition, millions of population was forced to move from both sides of the border. Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India were killed in masses, women were raped, and many children lost their parents.
  • Anti Sikh riots, 1984– Sikhs in large number were massacred by anti- Sikh mob. This massacre took place in response to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by his own Sikh body Guard in response to her actions authorising the military operation.
  • Ethnic clashes in Kashmir and exclusion of Kashmiri Pundits in 1989– the brotherhood saw a serious blow due to Extremist Islamic terrorism in the Kashmir valley, which led to mass killing and large scale exodus of Kashmiri Pundits from the valley to the various regions and corners of the India, giving them the status of refugee in their own country.
  • Babri Masjid Demolition in 1992– in 1990, due to some political mobilisation, there was atmosphere of protest by Hindu religious groups and in large scale “kar sevak” visited Ayodhya from all parts of India, in support of demolishing Babri masjid and building Ram temple there.
  • Godhra Incident and Gujarat riots 2002– Godhra incident in 2002, when “kar sevak” returning from Ayodhya in a Sabarmati Express were killed by fire in the coaches of train. This act was followed by the extended communal violence in Gujarat.

Recent developments-

  • Assam Communal Violence, 2012– In 2012, there were ethnic clashes between Bodos (Tribal, Christian & Hindu faith) and Muslims. Ethnic tensions between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims escalated into a riot in Kokrajhar in July 2012, when unidentified miscreants killed four Bodo youths at Joypur.
  • Muzaffarnagar violence, 2013– The cause of this ethnic clash between Jat and Muslim community is very much disputed and has many versions. According to few, it was started after some suspicious post on Social media platform Facebook. According to some, it was escalated after the eve teasing case in Shamli.
  • Delhi riots 2020– Delhi saw the riots between Hindu and Muslim community after the hate speeches that followed the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests in Delhi region.
  • The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) characterizes India as a country of particular concern, in its annual report.

Reasons for communal violence-

  • Majority-Minority issue– sense of victimization and oppression in the minds of minorities.
  • Orthodoxy– feeling associated with distinct cultural pattern, personal laws and thoughts which prevents acceptance of secularism and religious tolerance.
  • Psychology– like feeling of Hindus about Muslims as unpatriotic and fanatics and feeling of Muslims that they are considered second-rated citizens & outsiders. 
  • Social causes– cultural distinction between sections.
  • Economic status– economic inequalities mainly due to education, skills, training, etc. This generates a sense of hatred with growth.
  • Politics– vote bank appeasements, favouring particular section, etc. incites feeling of hatred about others.
  • Rumors and False news– the biggest cause of violence in the World these days be it about cow slaughter, child trafficking, theft, etc.
  • External factors– non-state actors, enemy nations try to incite hatred in the minds of minorities to destabilize the nation.


  • Violation of Human Rights– violence takes away lives, properties, source of income, etc. violating human rights.
  • Economic loss– damage to source of income, killing of sole earners, etc. have lifelong impacts on families.
  • Sectarianism– the feeling of marginalization and alienation gives way to tendencies of secessionism, separatism, etc. affecting nation-building.
  • Internal security issues– violence and law & order issue has negative impact on national interest.
  • Threat to Democracy– favouratism in politics, voting for an ideology, etc. is not good for a healthy society.
  • Loss of public infrastructure– damages to roads, bridges, railways, etc. puts the nation on negative side of growth prospect.
  • Public trust degradation– alienation within society develops which have a long-lasting effect often proving a permanent dent.
  • Threat to Constitutional values– the values like secularism, fraternity erodes due to violence on the name of religion and castes.
  • Refugee problem– people have to live as refugee in their own country and area.

What Government has done?

  • Human Rights Commissions– statutory National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commission are being created to protect human rights and to act against those spreading hatred and intolerance.
  • Sachar Committee– appointed in 2005, recommended to set up Equal opportunity commission (EOC) in 2010
  • Nanavati Committee– set up by Gujarat government in 2002 to enquire about Gujarat violence.
  • Ranganath Mishra Commission– entrusted by the Government of India to suggest practical measures for the upliftment of the socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities and to include the modalities of implementation for the same. It suggested 10% should be reserved for Muslims and five% for other minorities in central and state government jobs in all cadre and grades.
  • Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, but it lapsed.

Constitutional Safeguards for Minorities in India-

  • Right to Freedom of Religion– Article 25 to 28.
  • Article 29– Protection of interests of Minorities
  • Article 30– Right of minorities to establish & administer educational institutions
  • Article 46– promoting educational & economic interests of the weaker sections
  • Article 347– Special provision relating to language spoken by a section of the population of a State.
  • Article 350A– Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage.
  • Article 350B– Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities.

Uniform Civil Code and Religion-

  • Article 44, under Directive Principles of State Policies, states that the State should secure a Uniform Civil Code for its citizens throughout the territory of India. However, it is still unimplemented.
  • India is a multi-religious society and the rites & rituals changes with region and religion. It is proposed to make a uniform society. This will help in narrowing the religious cleavages.
  • However, this comes in contradiction with the Constitutional freedoms provided to religions and minorities (those stated above). So it faces much heat whenever discussed in public forum. 

Social Media and Freedom of Expression-

Now a day’s social media has become notorious for spread of communal hatred. It provides almost instant transfer of provoking material on which our government has no control.

Though, Fundamental Rights, under article 19(1), gives citizens freedom of expression. But proviso to this article also empowers government to impose reasonable restrictions to guard unity and integrity of the country.

But we also have a Fundamental Duty under Article 51A(e) provides– “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.”

What can be done?

  • Legislative support, administrative efficiency and alertness.
  • Mutual respect– to move away from ‘Our belief alone is true’ and ‘rest is untrue or incomplete’ towards ‘sarv dharm sadbhav’.
  • Appeasement politics– selection of candidates on the basis of religious community or sect by keeping aside the qualifications, having section-favouring policies, etc. should have to be disapproved.
  • Hate speeches– which clearly divert the mind of youth and proves fatal for the society and harmony.
  • Social media surveillance
  • Education– society and its citizens, become so much capable and empowered, that they can take sensible, ethical and rational decisions.

Way forward-

  • Moving away from Fundamentalists and Conservative ideologies– these sections in all religions is the main cause of hatred among various religion as they try to project their religion as best and disrespect the others.
  • Role of Media– The media can also prove to be significantly useful in preventing communal feelings. Media, movies and other cultural platforms can be influential in promoting peace and harmony. The communal press can be banned and legal action can be taken against communal writers.
  • Employment for youths– proper economic activity when available for youth, they will not divert to rumours or false news and communalism, in particular.


Though, India is a secular country but due to communal feelings the secularization is getting affected. Secularization is narrowing down the sphere of religion to the private life of the individual.

Each of us, have to make a balance between our own religious community and national interests, we have to unite with nationalism, and then should move forward.

Exam Time Synopsis:

Introduction Communal violence includes all forms of violent action by members of one community against the members of other community.
From Past Sectarianism till 17th century; communal colour only after 17th century; movements like Shuddhi movement, Faraizi movement; Partition of India in 1947; anti-sikh riots 1984; exclusion of Kashmiri Pundits 1989; Babri Masjid Demolition 1992; Godhra incident and Gujarat Riots 2002.
Recent Developments Assam violence 2012; Muzaffarnagar violence 2013; Delhi riots 2020; characterization of India as a country of particular concern by USCIRF.
Reasons Majority-minority issue, orthodoxy, social causes, psychology, economic status, politics, rumours and false news, external factors.
Impacts Violation of human rights, sectarianism, economic loss, internal security issue, threat to democracy, loss of public infrastructure, public trust degradation, threat to constitutional values, refugee problem.
What government has done?- Human Rights Commissions, Sachar Committee, Nanavati Committee, Ranganath Commission, Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 (lapsed).
Constitutional safeguards for minorities Right to Freedom of Religion, Articles 29, 30, 46, 347, 350A, 350B.
UCC and Religion Article 44, under Directive Principles of State Policies- to secure UCC.

In contradiction with the Constitutional freedoms provided to religions and minorities.

Social Media and Freedom of Expression Spread of communal hatred.

Article 19(1) gives citizens freedom of expression.

What can be done? Legislative support, administrative efficiency and alertness; Mutual respect; no appeasement politics; control hate speeches; Social media surveillance; Education.
Way forward Moving away from Fundamentalists and Conservative ideologies; Role of Media; Employment for youths.


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