Communal Violence In India: A chronological study

Communal violence, an increasingly acquainted term nowadays, is an ongoing trend in India. The innumerable questions raised against each incident are left unanswered even today. What, when, why and how? This piece is going to address each of these with its legitimate dig into the past.

What is communal violence as a concept?

It is a condition of conflict between two groups that belong to two different ethnic or religious communities. The grounds for the dispute is formed from the feelings of hostility, religious fanaticism and prejudice at a social level. The utmost zeal and belief in the superiority of one’s religion or community has been observed as a common trait among the participants of such violence. With Gandhiji getting murdered in the late 1940s by a mob of Muslims getting killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the series continues in the country. 

The idea of communalism and the violence that comes with it is extensive in itself. It can create a huge impact on society’s political and financial status. Like any other brutality, it puts the country’s peace and safety at stake. Such mob attacks are also a weapon for political leaders and business tycoons to gain or sustain a monopoly.    

Chronology of communal riots in India

The onset of communal violence in India was marked by the riots that happened in Mumbai in 1983 which reported almost 100 deaths. The country witnessed the scariest communal fight right after the Indo-Pak division in 1948. Listed below are some of the major communal riots that took place over the course of the 20th century and early 21st century.

1984 Sikh riots 

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31st resulted in a 15-day-long confusion in the country. As soon as death was declared, an extreme disorder broke out. The country’s capital became a battle zone that saw more than 2000 deaths. The outbreak of this massacre left so many people homeless and the efforts of the police mostly went in vain.

1987 Meerut riots

The violence lasted for two months which started from May 21st, 1987. The root of the issue began with the resistance of ordinary men from Hashimpura, near Meerut, to the PAC men. One of the PAC personnel wanted to arrest a man from Hashimpura but as the crowd turned violent, they retaliated immediately. This caused 350 shops to be completely gutted by fire and 350 people were killed.  

The Uttar Pradesh government had to remove many cases from the court under the pressure of the then ruling government at the centre.

1989 Bhagalpur riots 

The carnage that took place on October 23rd 1989 was a result of police brutality. The silk city was set on fire, which mass murdered more than 1000 residents and many were displaced. 

In Chanderi village, a military man put 100 men, women and children in a house. The house was found empty the next day and later on, 61 bodies were spotted in a nearby pond. 

1992 Mumbai riots

Soon after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, violence in Mumbai erupted. It continued for five days and again in the month of January next year. Under Justice Srikrishna, a Srikrishna Commission was set up by the Maharashtra government on January 25, 1993 to investigate. The final submission of the report by the commission was on February 16,1998. Till date, not a single one has not been arrested among the 17 police officials who were formally accused.

2002 Gujarat riots

On 27th February 2002, the burning of a train in Godhra by Muslim mob left many Hindu pilgrims dead as they were coming back from Ayodhya. The incident instigated violence in Ahmedabad targeting the state’s Muslim population. 

What could be the possible causes of such violence and how can we restrain it?

The seed of communal hatred was sown by the country’s history itself when the Britishers brought the policy of divide and rule. At present, religion and caste is a card for election manifestos that inculcates communal feelings between groups. The cultural differences that exist between different religions in the form of traditions and customs have also made people grow apart from each other. 

Is there a way to curb all these? The likelihood is not huge in the recent future but there is no harm in trying. The foremost step should be in the form of constitutional defense as it provides a shelter for the minority.The light of the nation lies in the hands of the media in the coming days. Only a balanced and critical press can give out the information in its true sense. Society should be able to provide the space for equal representation and development through legal reforms. Politics and religion should get disconnected. Lastly, the idea of nationalism should be promoted in an adequate amount among the citizens so as to reinstate harmony in the country. Thus, India can once again become the ideal model of unity in diversity.

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