Communalism means placing one’s own community and religion above all other interests, sometimes even above the nation. This is a great hindrance to the efficient working of a democracy.
According to the constitution, India is secular state. All the religions are given equal importance in India. There is no state religion in India. Although 80% of the population of India belongs to Hinduism, we do not call ourselves a Hindu nation. There are many religious communities in India. Some among them are minorities. People belonging to all communities actively participated in the freedom movement. But, unfortunately, India was partitioned on the basis of religion. Many unfortunate incidents occurred in connection with this.
All the religions teach tolerance and the brother hood of man. Then, why do such shameful incidents happen? It is because of the narrow interpretation of religion and exploitation of communal feelings by vested interests. Sometimes, many people lose their power of reasoning and blindly follow communal fanatics. Nehru said, “In political matters religion has been displaced by what is called communalism, a narrow group mentally basing itself on religious community but in reality concerned with political power and patronage for the interested group”.
India is a land of unity in diversity. India’s rich cultural heritage has been praised by scholars and leaders all over the world. It is the culture not of one community, but of many. All the communities and people who lived here for thousands of years have contributed to our cultural heritage. India’s art, music, literature and architecture have been enriched by people belonging to different communities. All the citizen of India should be aware of the dangers of communalism.
Of late, religious fundamentalism has raised its ugly head in India. The resurgence of communal forces in some parts of the country presents a danger. Today, political parties use communalism to come to power. They mix religion with politics and use it as an easy short cut to come to power. They exploit the religious sentiments of the people and campaign for votes in the name of religion. This is very dangerous and should be discouraged at the earliest. This will lead to the disintegration of the country. Whenever unhealthy differences occur, external forces find an opportunity to interfere and this result in the loss of freedom.
Intolerance on the part of any community can harm democracy. Communalism can harm when people belonging to one community alone are elected to power and the others neglected. It destroys the good-will, trust and co-operation among the people. It causes economic decay also. So, communalism must be checked to make democracy safe.