DMPQ- India was poised by communal tension on the eve of Independence.” Elucidate.

Communalism in India was largely a result of divide and rule policy of the British and it was later strengthened by the two nation theory of Pakistan and hatred bred by it for all non-Muslims. It later gave birth to a counter force in terms of ideas of a potential Hindu State.

Partition triggered off a communal bomb which claimed more than 5 lakh lives, making it one of the greatest human tragedies and it once threatened the social and political fabric of newly independent nation. Bengal and Bihar were worst affected. Gandhiji made extensive tours and urged both communities to placate their members. Government of India showed exemplary responsiveness and no measure was left unturned. Army was called in streets at time and national leadership itself came to fore. Nehru used persuasions as well as threats in form of resignation.

As a result, the situation was under control within a few months and minority Muslims were given a sense of reassurance. Communalism further retreated with the death of Gandhiji who was mourned equally by both Hindus and Muslims and Nehru declared on All India radio that ‘the light has gone out of our lives’. Some of RSS cadre even celebrated death of Gandhiji and RSS was banned which was however lifted in 1949 on the condition that RSS will limit itself to only cultural activities and not dabble into politics and will have a written constitution.

Communal riots were over, but not communalism as an ideology. Nehru made extensive public speeches and took active efforts to discourage it and even compared it with fascism. He even advocated a ban on political organization on the basis of religion and he was supported by Sardar Patel and Rajagopalachari as well.

Next big challenge was rehabilitation of Hindu immigrants and refugees as fallout of communal riots in Pakistan. Challenge from East Bengal was greater as refugees continued to come for several years till 1971 due to intermittent riots. While refugees in Punjab and UP etc were able to settle relatively easily as plenty of land was left by the emigrant Muslims in these areas, but it was not so in case of Bengal. Linguistic and cultural barriers also prevented refugees from East Pakistan to look beyond West Bengal and as a result the refugees were forced to abandon their traditional agriculture occupation and take to menial tasks in crowded urban and semi-urban areas leading to considerable impoverishment of once prosperous Bengal.


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