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Home > Articles on Religion > Religion and Communalism
Religion and Communalism
Religion and Communalism is a very debated topic in our country. Many consider that if there is no religion there will be no communalism. Though it is a very hypothetical thought. Religion is a must for human beings because they need some ideology to follow. And some form of struggle starts between followers of one or the other ideology.

Religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and values with associated rituals to give these beliefs and values a concrete form.Religion and Communalism When these beliefs and values are held in common and rituals are performed in congregation it gives rise to a sense of commonality and a religious community comes into existence. This community is also product of a pre-existing social structure and this social structure deeply influences the religious community and its practices. No religious community can totally transcend this pre-existing social structure.

A religious community induces a sense of belonging in its members what we call identity in modern political discourse. This identity, for its members, in course of time, becomes more important than the beliefs and values. And it is this sense of identity, which creates problems rather than religion. It is equally important to note that a community exists in this world and hence represents worldly interests of its members. These worldly interests become as important as religious beliefs, rituals and values.

A religion must be understood on basis of ritual, social and cultural level of values. There are often marked differences on ritual and partially on social and cultural levels between religions but the values are similar to each other. The commonality of every religion is based on these values. Thus all religions teach to be truthful, compassionate, honest etc. It is this commonality of values, which is often asserted to promote communal harmony. But there are marked differences between religions in terms of rituals and cultural practices. Conflict between communities are created by asserting these ritual, social and cultural differences. Over assertion of these differences often lead to social or political confrontation.

There is no direct relationship between religion and communalism. Even a firm believer in religion or an orthodox believer may not necessarily be communal.Religion and Communalism And even one who does not care for his religion or might not have ever practiced it may be communal. Many of our orthodox leaders in freedom struggle were quite supportive of secular democratic India and many otherwise liberal modernistic leaders tended to be communal or separatist. It is also interesting to note that quite orthodox believers in Islam, opposed two-nation theory and firmly stood by the concept of composite nationalism.

It also is true that religion is used mostly in the pursuit of Politics. A religious community or its members have their own worldly interests and politics is based on these worldly interests. Hinduism and Islam had survived in India for thousand years peacefully. There were no serious problems, no inter-religious clashes or no communal riots. But in modern India there have been serious clashes between the two communities. While in medieval India there was no political or economic competition between the two communities, in nineteenth century there was both political and economic competition between the elite of two communities.

The medieval politics was feudal and non-competitive. Power was wielded through sword, not through ballot. In modern society, on the other hand, power is wielded through ballot. It was this competition for power between the elite of two communities, which created communal consciousness among some members of both the communities. Religion creates a sense of belonging and sense of identity and it is this sense of identity, which is appealed by the politicians for gathering their political support. The politicians cleverly mix up political discourse with religious discourse to mobilize support of their fellow religionists.

In a democracy, politicians exploit religious identity for political power. They, by clever mix of religious beliefs and worldly interests, win the hearts and minds of people. The masses who are really religious are left high and dry. Some liberals and atheists believe that the antidote of communal politics is anti-religious political discourse. This is an incorrect approach. One can be atheist, if atheism appeals to him but the real antidote of communalism is not anti-religious discourse. It will only strengthen communalists.

One can hardly disregard religious feelings of millions of people in the society. There are two alternatives for fighting communal politics. One alternative is to evolve carefully a secular discourse around real developmental issues and mobilize people around these secular issues. The other alternative is to use religious discourse in a creative manner making religion an option for the poor rather than for the powerful elite. Every religion has certain traditions, which can be used for empowering the poor.

Thus we can state that religion is not the only reason of Communalism in our country though it might be one of the reasons.
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