Communalism in India – A Socio-Legal Perspective

Religious/communal violence is a form of ethnic or community-based violence in which violent parties feel a sense of solidarity with their respective group. It is known as a spontaneous or organized action which, by means of its membership, leads to injuries and/or harms to any person/property in order to do so.

In our country, it has a long history. It was not suddenly growing and has ancient roots. It is not confined to Hindus and Muslims because of the recent increase in violence against Christians.

What is the concept of communalism?

It is essentially an ideology composed of three elements:

1. Belief that individuals practising the same religion share similar secular values, i.e. have the same social, political and economic interests. So, socio-political communities emerge here.

2. An idea that these common secular interests of one religion in a multi-faith society such as India are different and divergent from the interests of one religion’s followers.

3. Followers of different religions and communities are considered totally incompatible, antagonistic and violent with the interests of the different communities. 

The political trade in religion is communalism. It is an ideology that is founded on community policy. The conjectural consequences of communal ideology are community violence.

How is communal violence in India caused?

The legislators of our nation believed that division would address the issue of communal violence in India. But it turned out to be entirely the other way around.

In order to eradicate this communal violence in India, it becomes important to study the reasons so deeply rooted in our society.

The following three types of reasons can be divided:

1. General 2. Religious 3. Trivial

General Issues

1. Policy of Divide and Rule

The British divide and rule approach has still had consequences for Hindu-Muslim relations. Mahatma Gandhi did, however, on several occasions to restore, but failed miserably, the spirit of brotherhood in both communities.

2. Country Partition

After the nation was divided into two, the situation became worse. Every citizen was regarded as an Indian before he was divided. After that, though, Muslims became a minority in India, Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan became minorities. Occasionally allegations have been made in both countries of persecution of minorities.

3. Struggle with Identity/Class Conflicts

The division of societies is referred to as a class conflict or class stratification. These regional groups had tensions because of the same internal division. Various researchers have argued that communities vary based on their economic needs that often emerge from religious problems that contribute to communal violence.

Political Aspects

The majority have been found to be politically motivated by communal violence. Many communalism has been believed to be the means of political affirmation and community conflict.

Regional Concerns

1. Proselytization

Proselytization is called an effort to transform somebody’s religious belief and has become one of the main causes of violence in the community since the people have become very resentful.

In 2008, Adhivas and Gorkha’s change to Christianity resulted in community violence in Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand against the Christian community.

2. Hurting Religious Sentiments

The hurt of religious feelings of a specific religious group has been shown to result in communal violence.

The 1982 demand for a total ban on the sale of cigarettes was in Patiala and Amritsar on religious violence.

Trivial Problems

In addition to general and religious problems, it was found that community violence can occur due to a few trivial problems. Some of the following problems are listed:

• Cow Slaughter

• Religious Disputes

 • Emotional and Insecurity

 • Personal Quarrels

 • Displaying obscene signs or symbols

Current Legislation and Laws

There are currently different laws and legislation in India that regulate and forbid communal violence in India. However, the Indian Penal Code, and especially the punitive provisions thereof, will be a special focus for the purposes of this blog.

Office against Public Tranquility

Unlawful Assembly

Section 141

Unlawful assembly, according to Section 141, refers to five or more assembly members in disobeying the law, or when sanctions by the government are imposed.

Section 142

According to Section 142, if someone becomes an illegal member of a meeting and is aware of the illegitimacy of the assembly and continues to form part of it at any time, he or she shall have responsibility for all actions of the assembly. 

Section 143

According to this section, if anyone, who is a member of an illegal assembly, is liable for imprisonment up to six months, fine or both.

Section 149

This section makes the individual accountable, if the unlawful assembly shares a common intent, engaged in disturbances, incendies, attack, loots etc. He/going she’s to be guilty.

Section 151

Under Section 129, where there is a risk of disturbance of public peace, the State can prohibit an assembly of five or more persons. In the event that someone does not disperse following a similar order, a prisoner may be punished, either with imprisonment of up to six months, or with fines, in accordance with Section 151 of the IPC, or with both.

Joining Dead Weapon Unlawful Assembly

Section 144

If a person is armed with a lethal weapon or weapon that can cause death in an unlawful assembly, then such person may be punished by up to two years of imprisonment, fine or with both, according to this Section. 

Section 145

Under this Section, if anybody, even if an order has been given to disperse, joins or remains a member of an illegal assembly, then a person shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to two years.


Section 146

The Indian legal system acknowledges the powers and scope of Section 146 as communal violence.

Section 147 

This Section shall punish for an act of riot which is up to two years’ imprisonment or in fine or for any of these.

Section 148

This section punishes the individual who has a deadly weapon and commits an offensive riot. Such an individual is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, or fine, or both.

Promoting enmity among various groups

Section 153-A 

This section punishes those who cultivate enmity among various groups for race, religion, place of birth, language, residence, etc.

Section 153-AA 

Added to this in 2005, this Section makes the arms transport act punishable in any procession that often leads to a communal situation and can hold a person liable to up to six months’ imprisonment and up to a fine of two thousand rupees.

Section 153-B 

Under the provisions of these Section, a person shall be held responsible for up to five years of imprisonment with a fine, if the offence is committed in a place of worship, or where a meeting is being held for religious worship or a religion ceremony.

Defilement of Places of Worship 

Section 295

This section states that if a person destroys, damages, or defiles a worship place intended to insult religion, then that person shall be punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment, or a fine or with both.

The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control And Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control, and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill of 2005 calls for the prevention and control of communal violence, as well as the expeditious investigation and prosecution of perpetrators and victims.

The Bill doubles the punishment imposed by other existing laws. To prosecute offences under this law, the state government must establish special courts. These courts have the authority to order convicted individuals to pay compensation to victims or dependents. National, state, and district Communal Disturbance Relief and Rehabilitation Councils will be formed. The district council must pay victims at least 20% of the total compensation as immediate compensation.

Recent Cases of Communal Violence 

Article 370 Issue

In August 2019, India’s Central Government revocated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gives the State of Jammu and Kashmir a special status in order to make legislation of its own. The arrangement limited the government’s power to make state laws. In addition, it permitted it to hold its own constitution and its own flag, but it did not allow the state to take security and foreign affairs decisions.

The central government sent troops into the state and imposed a state-wide lockdown. This decision sparked widespread protests and violence across the state, resulting in a number of fatalities.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Issue

This act has only just been passed by central government whereby anyone without a document (passport and visa) has entered India on or before the 31st December 2014 and is Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian or Parsi refugee from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Bangladesh will not be treated as an immigrant.

Accordance to Section 2 of the Act, after six years of continuous residence, such a person shall be granted Indian nationality by naturalization. The act is still being debated because it does not grant such rights to Muslims in these states. Across the country, religious protests were held in opposition to the act. New Delhi has been the hardest hit, with many people killed.


A specific solution to eradicate this serious problem cannot be found. Apart from legislative and administrative support, citizens themselves need to avoid communal violence. While this is not a concrete solution, only such steps can bring about sustainable change.

Religious community teachings may be great, but community followers must understand that nationalism is more important. They will be divided from the nationalistic stream if they keep away from the fact of nationalism.

Elimination of youth unemployment, illiteracy and poverty must be the next step. This will aid in the resolution of issues and raise public awareness of the value of national interests.

Enact strong legislation against these tortures and prosecute as a proper member of security forces who are unable to stop crime, irrespective of rank.

Abolition of the community party system. It is necessary to prohibit all those parties which prosper in religious loyalties.

The promotion of inter-religious marriage. That will diminish people’s social justice.

Author: Isha Mendpara from Navrachana University, Baroda.

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