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Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity - Indian Social Institute

Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity - Indian Social Institute

Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity - Indian Social

14 SOCIAL ACTION VOL. 60 JANUARY – MARCH 2010 Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity Leela D’Souza Communal violence in India has taken different dimensions today. The increasing incidences of communal violence in recent times can be closely linked to the crisis of identity, that itself is a complex issue. Selfperception is an important factor in creating feelings of fear of threat to self-identity. It can emerge due to one or several factors that operate successively or simultaneously: in times of rapid social change where economic conflicts and pressures create feelings of insecurity, or where in a democracy the political manipulation of communities adds to the perceived threat to self-identity. It can also be linked to perceptions of threat in the context of majority-minority community relations. The word “community” arises from the root word, ‘commune’ (n), meaning a group of people bound together on some basis (ethnicity, religion, territory). P. Heehs speaks of communalism as a complex phenomenon, whose roots cannot be exposed by tracing its genesis (Heehs,2006:ix). Communalism is not the same as terrorism, though it is often difficult to sharply distinguish the two, for one often slips into the other and they can overlap. The Naxalite uprising in India may be termed acts of terror, as also the recent attacks by the Sanatan Sanstha in different parts of India. The carnage in Gujarat following the burning of the train at Godhra could be considered a clash between two religious communities. Communal violence in India’s past In history, violence, which may be communal in nature, has always existed and clashes between communities/tribes have often resulted in wars. India was formed as a nation by bringing together the preexisting communities of different languages, cultures, historical Guiding Faculty at the Institute of Indian Culture, Andheri, Mumbai. E-mail: leelads2009@gmail.com

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