Fifty years ago | November 6, 1969 Archives

From the Archives (November 6, 1969): Communalism in politics(From an Editorial)

The National Integration Council, founded as far back as 1961, comes to life every time there is a big communal riot, but apart from calling for mass campaigns to preach tolerance and understanding, no antidote has been found for this dread disease of the body politic. The meeting of the all-parties conference at New Delhi heard various speakers prescribe their remedies. Mr. S.M. Joshi of the Samyukta Socialist Party thought economic development and social reform was the answer. Mr. Gajendragadkar said that the roots of communalism were to be found in illiteracy and obscurantism. Other speakers called for severe punishments for those found guilty of promoting riots. It is, of course, true that poor and illiterate elements in the slums of big cities are easily persuaded to attack each other and that they would be less ready to destroy property if they had some of their own. It is also true that rioting would become less popular if the trouble makers were identified and severely punished. But backwardness is not necessarily at the bottom of the periodic clashes that take place in India. For example, a Western reporter has recorded a conversation with a Muslim motor driver who said: “My village in Uttar Pradesh has a Muslim majority and we have always lived on the best of terms with our Hindu neighbours. We have never had communal riots, not even in 1947. That it because we show each other consideration. For example, we never kill cows, at the most buffaloes, usually goats, and the Hindus so arrange their processions that they never pass before our mosque.” And the man added, “We have a Muslim headman; he is very important, he gets votes, so the M.L.A., who is a Hindu always consults him.” It is this readiness to participate in politics not as Muslims but merely as citizens that distinguishes the non-communalist from the communalist.

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