Communalism and Partition in Modern South Asia

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS1064

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon 

Type of Course: Elective

Cohort for which it is compulsory: None

Cohort for which it is elective: All MA (History ) students and students of other MA programmes

Course Coordinator and Team: SalilMisra

Email of course coordinator: salil[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This is a four-credit elective course on the basic structures and processes that went into the making of communalism in 19th and 20th century India. It will also focus on the linkages that existed between communalism and the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. The paper looks upon partition as the culmination of the process of the communalization of Indian society and polity since the second half of the 19th century. There exists a very rich body of historical and sociological works on these themes, which would form the basis of the class room transactions on communalism and partition. Given that both the themes are extremely contentious, students would be made familiar with the kind of debates that exist within social sciences, regarding the explanation of these phenomena.

Course Outcomes:

After completing this course, the students will be able to connect the period just after independence with the earlier periods of Indian history and thus acquire a holistic understanding of the different periods of Indian history. They will also be in a position to appreciate the trajectories of independent India’s political and economic development and get a sense of the enormous constraints involved in the process. The course will also enable the students to get a sense of the contemporaneity of Indian history and the presence of multiple layers of India’s past in the contemporary society. The analytical skills acquired by the students during the transaction of the course will enable them to comprehend social change and the role of history in it.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules: Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Following sub-themes would be taken up during the course of teaching this paper:

  • Definitions: what is communalism; communal violence and politics; communalism as ideology; communalism as a form of colonial knowledge; debates around the question of communalism; the modernist and the primordialist positions; religious assertions vs. Elite manipulation; various components of communalism.
  • Social roots of communalism; the 19th century social churning; beginning of religious revivalism; quest for identity; its manifestations in religious feelings and anxiety.
  • Transformation in India’s community profile in the second half of the 19th century; transformation from local, fuzzy communities into pan-Indian religious communities of Hindus and Muslims.
  • Institutional politics in the 20th century; formation of communal organizations; their demands for a share in power.
  • The role of colonial policies; creation of institutional structures containing separatism; subsequent enlargement of these structures; its impact on communal relations at the regional and local levels.
  • Politics in the 1920s and 1930s; communalism and the national movement; shift to extreme communalism; an increasing communalization of Indian polity and popularization of communal politics.
  • The emergence of social and political forces working towards partition; constitutional dimensions; the high politics of India’s partition; debates around it.
  • The story of India’s partition, 1945-47; an explanation for the emergence of Pakistan; a discussion of the two newly born nation-states of Indian and Pakistan.


  • Anita Inder Singh, The Origins of the Partition of India, 1936-47
  • Asim Roy, Islam in South Asia: A Regional Perspective
  • Ayesha Jalal, Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in south Asian Islam Since 1850
  • Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan
  • Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900
  • Beni Prasad, Hindu-Muslim Questions, Allahabad, 1941.
  • Bipan Chandra, Communalism in Modern India, New Delhi, 1984.
  • C.H.Philips and M.D.Wainwright (ed.), Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives, London, 1970.
  • David Lelyveld, Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India
  • David Page, Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial System of Control
  • Farzana Sheikh, Consensus and Community in Islam
  • Francis Robinson, Islam and Muslim History in South Asia
  • Francis Robinson, Separatism among Indian Muslims: The Politics of United Provinces Muslims, 1860-1923
  • Gyanendra Pandey, Construction of Communalism in Colonial north India
  • Gyanesh Kudaisya and Tai Yong Tang, The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia
  • H.V.Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain, India, Pakistan.
  • Joya Chatterji, Bengal Divided: Hindu communalism and Partition, 1932-47.
  • Kenneth W.Jones, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th Century Punjab
  • Khalid Bin Syed: Pakistan: The Formative Phase, 1857-1948
  • Mohammad Mujeeb, Indian Muslims
  • Mushirul Hasan (ed.), India’s Partition: Process, Strategy and Mobilization, New Delhi, 1993.
  • Mushirul Hasan, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1885-1930
  • Paul R.Brass, Language, Religion and Politics in North India
  • Penderel Moon, Divide and Quit: An Eyewitness account of the Partition of India
  • Peter Hardy, The Muslims of British India
  • Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims, 1871-1906: A Quest for Identity
  • Rakesh Batabyal, Communalism in Bengal: From Famine to Noakhali
  • S.R. Mehrotra, Towards India’s Freedom and Partition, New Delhi, 2005.
  • S.Settar and Indrani Baptista Gupta (ed.), Pangs of Partition (in two volumes), New Delhi, 2003.
  • Salil Misra, A Narrative of Communal Politics, Uttar Pradesh, 1937-39
  • Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan
  • Stanley Wolpert, Shameful Flight: the Last Years of the British Empire in India
  • Sucheta Mahajan, Independence and Partition: the Erosion of Colonial Power in India, 1945-47
  • W.C.Smith, Modern Islam in India: a Social Analysis, New York, 1946.

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:



Date/period in which Assessment will take place



Take Home Assignment 1

Around 15 August



Take Home Assignment 2

Around 15 October



End-Semester Examination

As per AUD calendar



Assessment Details with weights:

Reading List: