Let’s define the word “Communal” for Indians

Let’s begin with defining Communal from the Oxford Dictionary

communal – ADJECTIVE Shared by all members of a community; for common use:a communal bathroom and kitchen

Err…. This is not what the news in India makes me believe. I always thought being Communal meant you were a religious  extremist. So, drawing stings out of a hair, by definition if we were to identify communities – there could be different type of communities. Let’s try and explore these different type of communities along with trying to understand their root.

Territorial Communities

  • Tribal people are communal. They do everything for the community
  • Inhabitants of Indus Valley Civilization were communal
  • Connan – the Destroyer might have been doing something for his community
  • Elephants, Jackals, Monkeys, Wolfs and like many other animal, we – Homo Sapiens (a.k.a. Human Beings) live in communities.

Being communal is natural for social animals. That’s where members of the community watch out for each other. They provide food, shelter, security and a common ground for thinking and development. It provides a common ground for building society. A society in which all members are a part of the same community.

In older times, when there was no religion, community was defined by territory. So, wars between tribes to occupy more land could be called communal riots. These tribes, due to communal conflicts started guarding their territories and deployed armies and over the years they became what we now call are countries. Wars between countries, to protect borders, can technically be called communal?

We just established that countries are nothing but Honey-in-blew-up-our-community. I am not undermining the complexities and hierarchy of today’s communities. Country is a community, State/Province is a community under country, District/County is under it, City/Town under it, a division/neighborhood, houses. So, my identity can be drawn down to any level of community I belong to. So, an argument between neighbors on who should get the fence repaired can be communal disagreements?

Faith Based Communities

Back in the day, all members of the tribe had a common object as their God. So, these types of communities did not exist or should I say, they had a 100% overlap. As larger territorial communities started mixing, their set of beliefs and traditions started mixing up. And as a part of building identity within the territorial community, a religious tag got on people making people a part of a matrix of communities. Here, I’ll bring sub-faiths into the mix. So, now you were an Indian Muslim, or a Punjabi Hindu, or a Malyali Christian, or a Mumbai Sikh, or an Atheist, or an Agnostic. Hindus and Muslims fighting over temple/mosque land is definitely communal riots.

Occupational/Caste Communities

I’ll keep going back to territorial communities, because that’s the root of Communal-ism. When the tribes built their territories, the first few occupations probably were Hunters, Guards and home keepers. Leaders in hunting packs may have emerged and then as some equals became more equal, the less equals became servants. Slowly, but surely society emerged, more professions grew and people’s identity was known by their profession or the profession of their father. Some occupations were considered superior than others and people identity got another title in the form of Surname. Commonly called – Caste… So, now people were Traders, Cobblers, Blacksmiths, Kings, et al by birth giving another interesting aspect to one’s identity and sub-dividing community. In the modern world, people don’t usually follow the occupation of their fore-fathers, but it gives them an interesting mix. So, an IT consultant with a last name Blacksmith will fall under 2 groups – Ancestral occupation identifier and current occupation identifier. So, an Architect and Builder arguing over the stability of the front wall of the house is a communal conflict?

Economic Class Communities

Free markets, capitalistic economics, global village, free movement of resources creates another divide in the society – The income inequality gives rise a the Class based communities… this one needs no explanation… Upper Class, U-M, Middle, L-M, Lower, Poor – above poverty line, poor below poverty line. They all have arguments and there is always conflict in interest of different strata of the society.

Racial/National Communities

People move for variety of reasons – in search of food, truth, answers, peace, better life or run away from law or were moved around by colonials. Whatever said and done, they move and they take their physical and behavioral characteristics with them. So, a person’s origin becomes a part of his/her identity and there are communities called out as say Ukrainians in Canada or Nepali’s in India. People from different origins, but similar physical characteristics merge into the indigenous communities usually within 2-3 generations, but people who look different remain a part o a different community forever. So, an Italian in India will be in the Southern European community in India.

Where did India go wrong?

The point of capturing demographics for census world-over for profiling the the ethnic mix (used for variety of reasons – social, product marketing and of course political). Indian politicians have made every possible effort to divide and alienate people falling in every community type in every possible way. For… no guesses here… the vote and the power which comes from it. For this vote, every politician wears a hat when addressing people in the community he’s addressing. A hat that people from that community can identify with. And then the politician talks about the gains to that particular community. So, is it not a communal speech?

  • Rahul Gandhi making a speech to uplift Amethi sounds pretty communal to me. But who cares about him… He’s a moron anyway…
  • Police giving special beating to a goon because he hit a cop, the police might be communal in looking out for the cop community
  • The so-called “secular forces” coming together and waging a media war against NDA, could be communal as these “Secular forces” built a community against Communal BJP and became communal themselves.
  • The army definitely is communal in all shapes and forms. It”s single mission is to protect the borders of the community of India.

I can keep expanding this list for 5 more pages, but I’m sure you got the point that India defined a word incorrectly. India took a perfectly useful word like “Communal” and plagiarized it to mean only religion-based communities. Media and politicians re-defined Communal as the opposite of Secular. The poor word’s feeling trapped in a jail. Let’s try and free this word from the clutched of evil politicians and media. So that I can proudly claim that I am communal and will service any community I can be associated with.

What India needs to do…

Its time to for India to go back on all other types of communal identification except territorial and economic

The political agenda of every party has to be agnostic to religion, race, caste, state or any other ethnic profile. The agenda needs to be trade, infrastructure, jobs, economy, talent retention. The moment a politician goes to a temple and addresses a group of Hindus and says I’ll do this particular thing for your community, the question needs to be how will it help India in the short and long term. When the same politician goes to a mosque and says the same thing, the question needs to be – will your special grant to Muslims reduce unemployment rate in the country. On the point of reservations in educational institutions, the question from Dalits should be why is reservation being given to a Dalit whose household income is more than Rs. 5 lakh a year.

No politician has ever identified with “India” with all population and might and diversity as one single Community. A larger community that encompasses Hindus and Muslims and Dalits and Assamese. Every one who holds an Indian Nationality belongs to the Indian Community and they all walk towards a brighter, developed and and advanced India. Every Indian needs to be Communal and work towards the betterment of his community – the Indian Community. As long as the common goal is to work for our larger community “India”, no one has to be ashamed of his ethnic identity. Politicians, who lure people by making them think that their community is a small division, and not India as a whole should be crucified in the elections.

What Indians need to understand is it is OK to be communal and look out for one’s community. What politicians need to understand is that dividing the country in the name of exploiting communities in ever shape and manner is pulling India down. National policy should needs to be built around national interests, and not religious interests, not caste interests. National policy need to understand the territorial strengths and weaknesses; it needs to understand the economic class gap and work on expanding the middle class and boosting economy.

If we are able to reach there, India will be truly a great nation… where the community is India and communal riots occur only if some other country lays its evil eyes on any part of India.

Alas!!! no one will read this because to bring this change, “Political Will” is required.


4 thoughts on “Let’s define the word “Communal” for Indians

  1. U’v done a gr8 job to define communal word…….in starting i also thought that community is all about religious based thing….
    we the people should think about it either we have to suffer by this type of religious,castism etc or look forward for our growth n betterment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m honestly not up to speed on Indian politics. I’ve always found the clinging to the caste system baffling in a country that seems very advanced in many other ways. Your post was very enlightening and educational for me.


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