By Sufiya Pathan
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Extra resources for A Historical and Theoretical Investigation into 'Communalism'
In fact, for many years Gandhi chose not to speak at all on the matter of the ‘HinduMuslim problem’ because he confessed that he could not understand it. 51 One of the first statements of the Congress on the issue of ‘communalism’ is the report of the Congress committee on the Kanpur riots of 1931. Although the committee was to investigate the Kanpur riots, the report was used instead as an opportunity to give extensive expression to the Congress position on ‘communalism’60. The prevailing impression is that the Hindu-Muslim problem in its present form is an age long problem and that the two communities have, in their different religions and cultures, a source of inexhaustible and ineradicable antagonism which has made their mutual relations bitter, distrustful, and hostile from the very outset.
What is surprising in the Hindu-Muslim contact is not the fact that it resulted in conflicts and antagonisms – those were inevitable as the later struggle for power between the Indians and the British. The important and significant fact, often forgotten, is that the Hindus and Muslims composed their antagonisms and evolved a new culture” (Mehta and Patwardhan 1942: 10). This ‘new culture’ is what processes of economic and social change unleashed by colonisation had destroyed. The Government policies destroyed the village as a unit, and thus disintegrated the social cohesion it signified.
The history of a thousand years supplies more evidence to prove this than to prove the opposite tendency of wars and conflicts. What is surprising in the Hindu-Muslim contact is not the fact that it resulted in conflicts and antagonisms – those were inevitable as the later struggle for power between the Indians and the British. The important and significant fact, often forgotten, is that the Hindus and Muslims composed their antagonisms and evolved a new culture” (Mehta and Patwardhan 1942: 10).