Social empowerment is influenced by ideologies of communalism, regionalism, and secularism which are integral parts of the political system. Read here to understand their significance and differences.
Social empowerment is crucial for the development of society as a whole, and political ideologies like communalism, regionalism, and secularism make the society function towards achieving empowerment and rights.
Social empowerment: From communalism, regionalism, to secularism
The principle of personal and social empowerment is described as a process in which individuals or social groups come to acquire the skills necessary for taking control of their own lives. It is important for supporting and reinforcing the personal empowerment of other members of their group or community as well.
Communalism, Regionalism, and Secularism are political ideologies with different belief systems and different modes of application. The three are important parts of Indian polity but have different interpretations based on the ideologies.
Communalism is defined as prioritizing association toward one’s ethnic group rather than the society as a whole.
Regionalism can be defined as a political ideology focusing on the development of a political or social system based on one or more particular regions.
Secularism is based on the principle that the affairs of the state are distinct from religion and should not be intermixed.
Social empowerment is understood as the process of developing a sense of autonomy and self-confidence. It also involves acting individually and collectively to change social relationships and the institutions and discourses that exclude poor people and leads to an increase in poverty.
Individual empowerment is influenced by individual assets like land, house, and savings along with social factors like health and education. Also, concepts of choice, liberty, agency, capacity, contribution, self-sufficiency and increased resources are all crucial to societal empowerment.
Social empowerment has both individual and community aspects related to it. Individual factors like self-esteem. Self-confidence, imagination, and aspirations all influence social fulfilment. People’s collective assets and capabilities such as voice, organization, representation and identity also sway the social responsibility.
It is important that socially and economically backward classes of people get involved in local associations and inter-community cooperation mechanisms can contribute to social empowerment by improving their skills, knowledge, and self-perception.
One such example is the formation of farming cooperatives to empower the agrarian class. It helps to organize economic aid through cooperative banks or microfinance groups.
It is also important to understand that associational life at the local level takes place within the informal sphere, such as religious organizations, traditional and customary institutions, and informal community-based groups. Such groups have more reach into peoples’ lives.
The phrase social empowerment is also linked with gender equality. The role of women and women’s organizations is important in empowering women and building an inclusive society.
The human being is seen as a part of society, and change is considered impossible unless social structures related to political power are changed. Individual and structural transformation is closely associated with the individual’s inner life shapes, and social environment, and that environment, in turn, exerts a deep influence on one’s well-being.
The ability to recognize the root causes of inequality is decisive to the empowerment of populations to become agents of social transformation. Social empowerment leads to social transformation, and it involves the ability to identify the forces to recognize the drivers of social injustice and eliminate such practices.
To eliminate social injustices, the people need to form groups and raise their voices. And throughout history, many such groups have been formed which gave rise to multiple ideologies.
Social empowerment and Communalism
The term “communalism” was first coined by socialist author Murray Bookchin in the early 20th Century.
Communalism is a philosophical notion and causes competition, ferocity, and tension among different communities. It manifests as an expression of the superiority of one’s community combined with intolerance of different communities.
Communalism is used as an instrument of power for operating in economic, social and political domains. The ideology is generally looked upon unfavorably in society.
Communalism is practised in society since the nineteenth century. Especially in the Indian context, it is defined as faithfulness to one’s group, be it ethnic, religious, or political. It promotes belief in orthodox principles, intolerance and hatred of other religions in the end dividing the society.
Communalism acts in a negative sense for social empowerment as it emphasizes the separate identity of a religious group from other groups with a tendency to promote its own interests at the expense of the others.
Communalism is also defined as a mechanism to energize people for or against by raising an appeal on communal lines. India has seen great communal events since medieval times. It is a political philosophy with its roots in the religious and cultural diversity of India.
It has been used as a political propaganda tool to create division, differences, and tensions between the communities based on religious and ethnic identity leading to communal hatred and violence.
Causes of communalism:
- Historical factors like Islamic invasions.
- Social factors like traditional differences in religious practices
- Psychological factors like extremist and fanatical thinking
- Foreign entities creating internal security threats on a religious basis like terrorism
- Misinformation spread through media
Medieval India witnessed the arrival of Islam which is when occurrences of violence based on religion started to take place. Mahmud Ghazni’s destruction of Hindu temples and Mahmud of Ghori’s attack on Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists are well documented in history books.
Till then religion was an important part of people’s lives but there was no communal ideology or communal politics based on violence. The Indian society was more concentrated on the caste-based divide than religion-based.
But some sectarian rulers like Aurangzeb were among the least tolerant towards other religious practices and destroyed various places of worship and took lives in the name of religion.
In modern India, communalism grew due to British colonial impact and their poor understanding of Indian social strata. But they very well took advantage of the religious diversity of the country and used the policy of divide and rule. It is true to say that the base of today’s communal problems in India was laid down by inhumane British rule.
Major incidents of communalism in India were:
- 1947: The partition of India witnessed mass bloodshed and violence that continued up to 1949.
- 1961: The Jabalpur riots took place due to economic competition between a Hindu and a Muslim bidi manufacturer.
- 1964-67: A series of riots broke out particularly in the eastern part of India (Rourkela, Jamshedpur, and Ranchi) in places where Hindu refugees from the then East Pakistan were being settled.
- 1969: Ahmedabad riots due to the Jan Sangh passing a resolution on Indianisation of Muslims to show its intense opposition to Indira Gandhi’s leftward thrust.
- 1983: The violence took place in Nellie after the decision to hold the controversial state elections amidst the Assam Agitation, after Indira Gandhi’s decision to give 4 million immigrants from Bangladesh the right to vote. It has been described as one of the worst pogroms since World War II.
- 1984: The anti-Sikh riots broke out after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, where more than 4000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and other parts of India.
- 1985: The Shah Bano controversy and the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi controversy became powerful tools for intensifying communalism.
- 1992: The Babri Masjid was demolished by right-wing parties. This was followed by the worst riots of post-independence India – in Mumbai, Surat, Ahmadabad, Kanpur, Delhi, and other places.
- 2002: Gujarat witnessed communal riots when violence was triggered by the burning of a train in Godhra.
- 2006: Riots occurred in Vadodara due to the municipal council’s decision to remove the dargah of Syed Chishti Rashiduddin, a medieval Sufi saint.
- 2013: Uttar Pradesh witnessed the worst violence in recent history with clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the Muzaffarnagar district.
There is a need to eradicate communalism for which the people and government should work in tandem.
Social empowerment and Regionalism
Even though it’s the age of globalization, the sense of regionalism hasn’t left the minds of people yet. With the current global trade and economical trends, regionalism is gaining over globalization.
Regions can be described as groups of countries belonging to similar geographic areas with social and cultural similarities and shared political attitudes. And high levels of interdependence across multiple dimensions that include economic transactions, communications, and political values as determining whether a group of countries constitutes a region.
Regionalism is a psychic phenomenon. It is built around an expression of group identity, as well as loyalty to the region. It presupposes the concept of development of one’s region without taking into consideration the interest of other regions. It prohibits people from other regions to be benefitted from a particular region.
Regionalism in India
The origin of regionalism is in India’s diversity of languages, cultures, ethnic groups, communities, and religions.
For many centuries, India was the land of many regions, cultures, and traditions. The linguistic, tribal, religious, regional or their combinations, have remained the principal form in which regionalism in India has sought to express itself, historically as well as in contemporary times.
The many empires that came and went in India had united and bifurcated regions over the years. The north and south divide is the prominent so is the east and west divide.
During colonial times, the divide and rule policy were not only applied on religious lines but also on the sentiments of regionalism. They build and bifurcated the country according to their selfish gains. This territorial reorganization became the seed for a larger regional divide in the country.
After Independence, the leaders tried to encourage a feeling among the people that they belonged to one single nation. The framers of the constitution wanted to achieve this by introducing single citizenship for all.
But India is a complex country, and keeping given its vastness and diversity in culture and language, a strong sense of regional loyalty started appearing, and thus regionalism became inevitable.
Types of regionalism:
- Supra-state regionalism is a manifestation of the group identity of numerous states. In this form of regionalism, the group of states unites to make common views on the issue of mutual interest vis-à-vis another group of states or at times against the union.
- Inter-state regionalism is coterminous with local territories and involves contrasting the identities of one or more states against another. This form of regionalism is issue-specific. For example disagreements between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the distribution of Kaveri water may be interpreted as inter-state regionalism.
- Intra-state regionalism is a type of regionalism that signify that wherein a part of the state strives for self-identity and self-development and therefore, it is taken in a positive sense.
Instances of regionalism in India
1950-60: Intense (ethnic) mass mobilization occurred in south India. The demand for separate statehood for the Telugu-speakers out of the composite Madras Presidency led to the formation of the State Reorganization Act, 1956.
1970-80: The tribal uprisings in the North-eastern region for separation and statehood led to the formation of the North-eastern States Reorganisation Act, 1971, which upgraded the Union Territories of Manipur and Tripura, and the Sub-State of Meghalaya to full statehood, and Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh (then Tribal Districts) to Union Territories. The latter became states in 1986.
The 1990s: Demand for Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand out of Bihar, and Uttaranchal out of Uttar Pradesh. Regional backwardness was the reason. In 2000 all three states were carved out of their parent state.
2014: The division of Andhra Pradesh, giving a separate state of Telangana.
The reasons for regionalism are somewhat similar to that of communalism, and efforts from the ground level to the administrations level is needed to bring in the sense of unity among diversity in the county.
Social empowerment and Secularism
Secularism is the opposite of communalism and was adopted by Indian Constitution, which signifies respect for all religions and broad-mindedness of all faiths, no State religion and support or favour to any religion by the State. Secularism is a form of government process that enhances democracy and commitment to financial development.
Secular means separate from religion and stands for equal opportunities to everyone without discrimination.
Secularism in India
Indian culture is a blend of various spiritual traditions and social movements. In ancient India, the Sanatan Dharma was a holistic religion that welcomed different spiritual traditions and integrated them into a common mainstream.
The development of the four Vedas and the various interpretations of the Upanishads and the Puranas highlight the religious plurality of Hinduism.
In the third century B.C, Emperor Ashoka announced that the state would not prosecute any religious sect. In his Rock Edict, Ashoka appealed not only for the toleration of all religious sects but also to develop a spirit of great respect toward them.
Even after the advent of Jainism, Buddhism and later Islam and Christianity on the Indian soil, the quest for religious toleration and coexistence of different faiths continued.
In medieval India, the Sufi and Bhakti movements brought together the people of various communities. The leading personalities of these movements were Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Baba Farid, Sant Kabir Das, Guru Nanak Dev, Saint Tukaram and Mira Bai.
In Mughal India, religious toleration and freedom of worship marked the State under Akbar. He had several Hindus as his ministers, forbade forcible conversions, and abolished Jizya. The most prominent evidence of his tolerance policy was his promulgation of ‘Din-i-Ilahi’ or the Divine Faith, which had elements of both Hindu and Muslim faith.
The British had always tried to break the secularity and the seeds of hatred were watered by the colonial rule. But the spirit of secularism was strengthened and enriched through the Indian freedom movement too, though the British pursued the policy of divide and rule.
British acts like:
- Partitioning of Bengal in 1905.
- Separate electorates were for Muslims through the Indian Councils Act of 1909, a provision which was extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Europeans, and Anglo-Indians in certain provinces by the Government of India Act, 1919.
- Ramsay MacDonald Communal Award of 1932, provided for separate electorates as well as reservation of seats for minorities, even for the depressed classes became the basis for representation under the Government of India Act, 1935.
These were acts that escalated the communal and regional sentiments of the people and the negative effects of which are still being felt in the country.
The Indian freedom movement was characterized by secular tradition and ethos right from the start. In the initial part of the Indian freedom movement, the liberals like Sir Feroz Shah Mehta, Govind Ranade, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale by and large pursued a secular approach to politics.
The constitution drafted by Moti Lal Nehru as the chairman of the historic Nehru Committee in 1928, had many provisions on secularism as: ‘There shall be no state religion for the commonwealth of India or for any province in the commonwealth, nor shall the state, either directly or indirectly, endow any religion any preference or impose any disability on account of religious beliefs or religious status’.
Gandhiji’s secularism was based on a commitment to the brotherhood of religious communities based on their respect for and pursuit of truth, whereas, Jawaharlal Nehru’s secularism was based on a commitment to scientific humanism tinged with a progressive view of historical change.
Heterogeneity is the basis of Indian culture and religious tolerance is the core factor of Indian secularism. The Introduction of the Constitution along with Articles 25 to 28 highlights the concept of secularism represented in the constitutional scheme.
Secularism is a part of a democratic state which grants to citizens equal rights. It guards democracy by restricting the power of the majority. Secularism is therefore advantageous for a plural culture in India.
India is a diverse land by all means- it has seen worst and best times- communalism, regionalism and in the end upheld secularism for social empowerment and well being of the people of the country.
The attack on religious minorities is representative of the crisis threatening secularism in India. Communalism and regionalism are for the narrow-minded and is based on prejudices about the other factions of the society. In India, communal politics based on region and religion drives the deep-rooted colonial mindset that still exists like a parasite.
In the Indian framework, secularism and communalism are considered to be two contrasting facts. Secularism is a symbol of modernity, plurality, co-existence, rationalism, and development within a fast-growing multicultural society.
Previous years Mains questions from the topic:
Do you agree that regionalism in India appears to be a consequence of rising cultural assertiveness? Argue. 
India has immense potential for solar energy though there are regional variations in its developments. Elaborate. 
How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate on your answer. 
What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism? 
What is water stress? How and why does it differ regionally in India? 
What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space? 
“Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, the caste system cannot be eradicated in India?” Comment’ 
How the Indian concept of secularism is different from the western model of secularism? Discuss. 
Mention core strategies for the transformation of aspirational districts in India and explain the nature of convergence, collaboration, and competition for its success. 
‘Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation.’ Argue by giving suitable illustrations. 
In the context of the diversity of India, can it be said that the regions form cultural units rather than the States? Give reasons with examples for your viewpoint. 
What are the two major legal initiatives by the State since Independence, addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)? 
Distinguish between religiousness/religiosity and communalism giving one example of how the former has got transformed into the latter in independent India. 
What is the basis of regionalism? Is it that unequal distribution of benefits of development on regional basis eventually promotes regionalism? Substantiate your answer. 
Debate the issue of whether and how contemporary movements for assertion of Dalit identity work towards annihilation of caste. 
How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West? 
The growing feeling of regionalism is an important factor in the generation of demand for a separate state. Discuss.