Communalism etymologically has been derived from Communal meaning deriving out of some commonality and ism, which means ideology. Hence communalism is referred to as a set of ideology which has been derived out of a commonality. Communalism is generally synonymous with religion but Religious communalism is just a facet of it. There can be other types as well: Linguistic, Racial, Cultural, Ethnic, Caste etc. Except for racial communalism, India’s contemporary history is replete with instances of linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious communalism.
India’s partition on the basis of Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory saw the country fall into the clutches of Religious Communalism. India witnessed some of the worst communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in its western state of Punjab and eastern state of West Bengal. This period of 1946-1948 saw the amity of India’s peaceful ancient society fall apart and acted as a preclude to India’s communally divided polity. The Babri Masjid riots, Muzzafarabad riots, Godhra riots, Anti Sikh riots and Gujarat clashes are all examples of India’s religious communal clashes.
Also, India has witnessed linguistic communalism right since independence. The linguistic fervour was manifested in Potti Sitaramulu’s movement in 1956, of a separate Telugu speaking state from the majority Tamil speaking Madras Presidency state. Such was the impact of the movement that inspite of the rejection of demand of state reorganization on linguistic basis by the state reorganization commission, the Telugu speaking state was carved out. Similar movements, on linguistic basis led to the carving out of Marathi speaking Maharashtra and Gujarati speaking Gujarat state from Bombay Presidency State. Haryana was separated from Punjab on similar lines.
North East India is an apt example of ethnic and cultural communal tensions in India. The people of North East are of different ethnicities than the people of the rest of India. They differ in physical characteristics. There were communal clashes in the Indian capital last year towards the people of North East. This is Ethnic Communalism. Also, North Indians are discriminated in the South and South Indians in North, due to their ethnic differences.
Also, the North Eastern area is replete with diverse cultural groups. From Nagas to Bodos to Garos and Khasis to Manipuris, each group has distinct social identities. They are similar in their ethnic origins but differ in their cultural and societal beliefs. There have been instances of frictions between these societal groups leading to cultural communal tensions.