Brief notes on the Rise and Growth of Communalism in India


Communalism refers to an ideology on which, communal politics rests. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries communalism grew rampant and that led at last to the partition of India in 1947.

The following factors contributed for its rise:

The early apathetic policy of the British:


Conquest of India by the British ended the glorious rule of the Mughals. During the Great Revolt of 1857, the revolutionaries proclaimed Bahadur Shah II as the Emperor of India. With the suppression of the Revolt, the British authority considered the Muslims, their traditional enemy.

The Government tried to deal with the Muslims with scorn and contempt. So, communalism emerged among them for their self-protection and survival.

Sir Slayed Ahmad Khan and Aligarh Movement:

In order to bring awakening’ among the Muslims, Sir Slayed Ahmad Khan started the Aligarh Movement. To educate the Muslims, he established Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College at Aligarh which was later on converted to the Aligarh Muslim University. He envisaged that to be safe, the Muslims should back the British rule. That is why; he wanted to unite the Muslims which made communalism strong.


Policy of William Hunter and Mr. Beck:

William Hunter, a British administrator in his book, The Indian Muslim appealed the Britishers to bring a change in their attitude towards the Indian Muslims.

On the other hand, Mr. Beck, the principal of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, advised the Muslims to support the British Government for their safety. He also generated anti-Hindu feelings in the minds of the Muslims and told them to oppose the Indian National Congress. Thus, the British and the Indian Muslims came closer and it contributed to the growth of communalism.

British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’:


The British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ was largely responsible for ‘ the growth of communalism in India. For gaining the favour of the Muslims, Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal in 1905 and created a Muslim-dominated Province. This policy of Lord Curzon continued with vigor in the -forthcoming years in several ways by the British Government or make the Muslim communalism strong.

Hindu communalism:

Communalism among the Hindus also served as a background for the growth of Muslim communalism. In 1870s, the Hindu landlords, money-lenders and middle-class professionals generated anti-Muslim sentiments. They demanded that seats should be reserved for the Hindus in the Legislature and government services. This brought the Muslims closer to the British Government and made communalism strong.

Communal electorate: In 1906 Sir Agha Khan headed a Muslim delegation and met Viceroy Lord Minot. He convinced the Viceroy that the Muslim minority should be given separate electorate. In the forthcoming elections that was granted to the Muslims. The Morley-M*into reforms and the Montague Chelmsford reforms gave vent to this communalism.


Activities of the Muslim League:

Nawaz Salimulah Khan established the Indian Muslim League in 1906. It aimed at generating better opportunities for the educated Muslims in polities and to put a check to the growing influence of the Indian National Congress. With the gradual march of time, the Muslim League demanded separate electorate and other facilities from time to time and the British Government fulfilled them. The League was instrumental in spreading communalism among the Muslims.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah and extreme communalism:

AH Jinnah was an educated Muslim leader who preached that Congress was the Hindu-dominated organisation and it would fail to protect the interest of the Muslims. So, he wanted the partition of the country and gave a clarion call to the Muslims on 16th August, 1946 by saying ‘larker lunge Pakistan’ (We will take Pakistan by force) and that day was famous as the ‘Direct Action Day’. Thus communalism reached its zenith with the demand for Pakistan.

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