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I have studied in school that the British used the Divide and Rule strategy to rule in India. But, for them to think of applying Divide and Rule, I think some sort of communal tension between Hindus and Muslims must have already existed. I am just curious to know when the first riots or communal violence between Hindus and Muslims happened in India. The earliest I am able to find are 1905 riots in Bengal, but I don't think they are earliest.

PS: This question came from an engineer, so both the question and language of the question may sound naive.

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Are you asking about the first incidents of religous-based civil unrest in the series that eventually split the territory into Pakistan and India, or the first time in history someone living in that geographic area picked up a rock and hucked it at someone for having a different religon? –  T.E.D. Sep 4 '12 at 20:17
@T.E.D. I am asking the earliest religious based civil unrest that eventually led to partition of Hindustan. PS:Sorry for late reply –  anks71990 Sep 8 '12 at 15:49
The British strategy of divide and rule exploited more divisions than simple religious tensions. There is more than one division within India. –  Mark C. Wallace Jul 19 '13 at 18:04
Interesting Question. Since you have come across 1905 as the earliest instance, which was followed by the formation of the Muslim league in 1906, maybe exploring the years around 1892 (Indian councils act) would help. –  user3689 Feb 11 at 14:00
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2 Answers

A quick search of Google netted this entry from Wikipedia. The page says that conflict started in 711 CE with Islamic expansion, specifically by the Umayyad Caliphate. While this doesn't qualify as a riot, this marks the start of violent relationships between the two groups. This is reiterated here and here, although the time frames differ slightly from each other.

If you want to know exactly when the first riots were (defined as "a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets" from Dictionary.com), that information may be impossible to find. There was almost certainly resistance against Muslim rule by Hindu groups, but this waned and waxed with the Muslim ruler. Some rulers were very open to Hindu culture, such as Akbar, and probably warranted little unrest from Hindus because he allowed them to maintain normalcy in day-to-day living. Other were more aggressive toward Hinduism, inciting revolts. The ones cited there are the late 17th century.

The complexity is compounded when you look at Hindu tolerance for diversity. Many Hindus probably felt that as long as Muslim rule didn't negatively impact the way they lived their lives, it didn't matter. Riots would be uncommon in an environment where people were already content.

In addition, the issue is further muddled by the large number of differing groups within India and those taking control of India, of which there were many. During these time periods there was no unified Hindu or Muslim group, but there may have been hatred between smaller sects. Unified deviance from one large group toward another would have been impractical given modes of transportation and speed of communication.

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But I think this was some kind of invasion.I think in this there were no common people involved.So this is not what I am looking for . –  anks71990 Sep 4 '12 at 18:20
This gets into an interesting discussion of common people. If the invading army slaughtered entire villages and enslaved women and children, doesn't that constitute involvement of common people? In 1323, Ulugh Khan killed 12,000 ascetics in southern India. These were not troops. –  SocioMatt Sep 4 '12 at 18:29
So in 17th century ,First sign of disharmony between common Hindu and Muslim People emerged? –  anks71990 Sep 8 '12 at 16:24
@anks71990 It looks like that was the first time there were well kept records of common people acting violent towards the governance of Muslim rulers, but it probably started before that. –  SocioMatt Sep 10 '12 at 12:07
-1 Fighting between an Islamic army and a Hindu army does not qualify as "riots". Possibly the "revolts" can, but even that interpretation is quite strange. –  Lennart Regebro Aug 12 '13 at 7:27
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I think first we should understand riot in its present context. Riot is an extreme form of lawlessness where administration is not able to control the violent mass which is indulged in criminal activity of many kinds targeted against particular group. Rulers or people associated with rulers massacring the helpless civilains should not be considered as riot. With this definition, though the first Hindu - Muslim Riot was Moplah Rebellion an Anti Hindu rebellion conducted by the Muslim Mappila community (Moplah is a British spelling) of Kerala in 1921. Moplahs murdered, pillaged, and forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. According to one view, the reasons for the Moplah rebellion was religious revivalism among the Muslim Mappilas, and hostility towards the landlord Hindu Nair, Nambudiri Jenmi community and the British administration that supported the latter. Adhering to view, British records call it a British-Muslim revolt. The initial focus was on the government, but when the limited presence of the government was eliminated, Moplahs turned their full attention on attacking Hindus. Mohommed Haji was proclaimed the Caliph of the Moplah Khilafat and flags of Islamic Caliphate were flown. Ernad and Walluvanad were declared Khilafat kingdoms. Annie Besant wrote about the riots: "They Moplahs murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatise. Somewhere about a lakh (100,000) of people were driven from their homes with nothing but their clothes they had on, stripped of everything. Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means, and we do not want to see another specimen of the Khilafat Raj in India." The second and the most important was of the Direct Action Day of 16th August 1946 when the then Bengal premier Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy had announced a leave (for the administration!) and freedom for the rioters . . . Its a big topic.

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