What Is Meant by ‘communal Harmony?’

Peter Harrison/CC-BY 2.0

“Communal harmony” refers to the principle that different peoples within a community or society must live together peacefully and in pursuit of mutual goals. Disharmony, therefore, is the product of alienation of groups from one another based on differences. In addition to this general definition, the term “communal harmony” has taken on special meaning in the nation of India, where it represents an overcoming of traditional separations within society based on religion and caste.

India is one of the most deeply divided societies in the modern world. For thousands of years, Indian culture has largely embraced a strict caste system governing professional and social conduct. Initially rooted in Hindu scripture and pertaining primarily to the professions, morality and ethics, the system grew to encompass religion, wealth, prestige, education and virtually all other aspects of life. Historically, the system has offered little chance of meaningful interaction or upward mobility between certain castes. The social situation is further complicated by the increasing prevalence of the Muslim, Christian and Sikh faiths in the traditionally Hindu and Buddhist country. The term “communal harmony,” as well as the principles behind it, has become commonplace in Indian society, despite strong opposition from traditionalists. Although India is an extreme case, similar circumstances can be seen all over the world.