Communalism and Secularism

Communalism and Secularism

Our Approach to Communalism and Secularism is based on the following foundational Principle:

For education to have a deep impact and have transformative capacities, it should bridge the gap between the classroom and the society the students inhabit. This will not only give more meaning to what the students are learning, but will also engage them into thinking about what good citizenship looks like.

In one of the videos in this library, Professor Bipin Chandra explains how communalism is an ideology that has plagued India since the 19th century. In another resource, Communalism – Illustrated Primer, Professor Ram Puniyani defines communalism as an ideology that has at its core principles of hatred and building fear of an external enemy. Using examples from the past and contemporary times, he describes how communal politics is spread through ‘ mass social common sense’ and how this manifests itself through direct and indirect violence. He goes on to talk about how such an ideology is not easy to break and hence, continuous efforts need to be made to prevent this ideology from deepening its roots.

This resource base is one such attempt. The collection here has feature films like Amu and Firaaq that speak to us of the mayhem prevalent during incidents of communal violence. They tell us of lives that were derailed and how the survivors slowly picked up the pieces that remained and started building their lives again. The documentaries have captured for posterity how the violence was played out, the complicity of the state and the utter helplessness of the victims. Some also explore structural concepts related to communal violence. For instance, Anand Patwardhan’s documentary, Father, Son and Holy War explores how patriarchy manifests itself in communal situations.

The video lectures included here give us a sense of direction and a plan of how to understand this ideology and the violence that stems from it. The speakers link events of the past to explain to us what is happening now and how this will affect our future. For example, Sohail Hashmi talks about the Formation of Indian Identity, Mihir Desai talks about Secularism as a Constitutional Right. Videos such as those of Community Workers from Bhagalpur depict experiences of the riots. Passionate appeals are made for all of us to recognize the importance of secularism, of living together and of refusing to fall victim to the propaganda of communalism.

The short stories, novels and poems included here are a testament to the suffering people had to endure, of how they dealt with that pain and their quest for justice. Asghar Wajahat’s Spirits of Shah-e-Alam Camp and Colder Than Ice by Saadat Hassan Manto prove to be deeply haunting reads. The poem A Moment of Silence by Emmanuel Ortiz puts us face to face with different kinds of injustice that have and continue to plague different parts of the world.

Our intention in curating these materials is to provide you with a set of resources that present various aspects of communalism: from the wounds this ideology creates to the scars that are now healing . Our curriculum needs to be reinvigorated with issues that contemporary India is dealing with. We need to step out of classrooms with knowledge not just of dates, events, numbers and grammar; we need to unlearn what we’re being taught about being ‘alright’ with inequality and injustice; we need to strive to create an environment of justice, equality and peace.