One of the first major communal riots took place in August 1893 in Mumbai in which about a hundred people were killed and 800 injured.
The period between 1921 and 1940 marked a particularly difficult phase. The 1926 Muharram celebrations in Calcutta were for example marred by a clash that led to 28 deaths.
India witnessed its worst communal riots in 1948 after the partition. Noakhali in Bengal and several villages of Bihar were the worst hit.
The first major riots between Hindus and Muslims after the bloodshed of partition in 1947 occurred in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh in 1961.
1969 Ahmedabad riots: Communal riots between Hindus and Muslims erupted in Ahmedabad in 1969. Atleast 1000 people had died during this riot. At the time there was a dispute over the leadership of the Congress party between Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai. There were suggestions that violence was deliberately engineered to discredit the chief minister of Gujarat who was a supporter of Mr Desai.
They were followed by riots in Uttar Pradesh with periodic violence erupting elsewhere.
Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Jamshedpur and Aligarh in 1979 and in Moradabad in 1980.
1984 sikh riots: The assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 sparked riots that lasted 15 days. Several inquiry panels later, eight people were convicted. The politicians and police got away.
The mayhem began at about 6 p.m. shortly after the death of Indira Gandhi was announced at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. The news set the tone for a communal massacre that India hadn't quite witnessed since Independence. Chaos reigned on the streets and locality after locality in the capital echoed with the shrieks of the dying and burning people. A fortnight of carnage saw over 2,700 dead and many thousands injured.
"President Zail Singh wanted the army to act, but it didn't. The then prime minister and home minister did not take his calls," recalls Tarlochan Singh, who was Zail Singh's press secretary.
The worst affected areas were the ones that had elected Congressmen HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar to the Lok Sabha. Yet the police could do nothing to lay their hands on them.
1987 Merrut riots: The riots began on May 21, 1987 and continued for two months. The state police conducted a probe but all cases were later withdrawn by the state. The armed personnel accused went scot free.
As with most riots, there are conflicting versions on what set this one off: burning of mills or a reaction to the carnage by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel. A majority claim it was the armed police.
The PAC men wanted to arrest a man from the Hashimpura area but were stopped by a mob. When the uniformed men tried to force their way in, the crowd became violent. The PAC called in reinforcements and retaliated instantly. About 40 bodies were later found floating in the canal near Maliana village. This ignited communal passions and Meerut was soon on fire. Within hours, over 350 shops in the city and three petrol pumps had been burnt. In the following two months, 350 people were killed, among them prominent residents including a doctor from Hapur and an army captain.
Rationality took the backseat as one set of residents instigated massacres against another. It took several weeks for a 13,000-strong army detachment to restore peace in Meerut. The Uttar Pradesh government, under pressure from the Rajiv Gandhi government, withdrew hundreds of cases from district courts in Meerut. As a result, there were no convictions. The PAC, having terrorised a large section of Meerut, was the biggest gainer-and justice the biggest loser.
1989 Bhagalpur riots: On October 23, 1989 began the month-long riots triggered by police atrocities. Of the 864 cases filed by the police, 535 were closed and most accused acquitted for lack of evidence.
Following police atrocities in 1989, the silk city of Bhagalpur saw massacre and arson in which over 1,000 people died, nearly 50,000 were displaced and 11,500 houses torched.
In the carnage, an army major herded 100 men, women and children to a house at Chanderi village and posted the local police for their protection. The next morning, however, he found the house empty. Four days later, 61 mutilated bodies were found in a nearby pond, among them a live Malika Bano whose right leg had been chopped off. Bano narrated a story that continues to haunt Bhagalpur.
On the night of October 27, a frenzied mob took over the house from the police, slaughtered the people hiding inside and tossed their bodies in the pond. Of the 864 cases registered by the Bihar Police, chargesheets were filed in only 329 cases. In 100 of these, the accused were acquitted for want of evidence. Chanderi was no different. Of the 38 accused, only 16 were convicted and sentenced to rigorous life terms, while 22 were acquitted.
The Babri masjid demolition set off riots between December 1992 and January 1993. The Sri Krishna panel examined 502 witnesses, but no
police officer has yet been punished.
1992 Mumbai riots: Hours after the demolition of the Babri masjid, Mumbai erupted. For five days in December 1992 and then again for a fortnight in January, the city witnessed unprecedented riots. As many as 1,788 people were killed and property worth crores of rupees destroyed.
On January 25, 1993, the Maharashtra government set up the Sri Krishna Commission of Inquiry, which recorded the evidence of 502 witnesses and examined 2,903 exhibits. But three years later, on January 23, 1996, the BJP-Shiv Sena government wound up the commission, only to reinstate it later under public pressure. The commission finally submitted its report on February 16, 1998. Of the 17 police officers who were formally charged in mid-2001, not one has been arrested so far. Even departmental action has not been initiated against them. In April this year, former city police commissioner RD Tyagi and eight serving police officers accused of killing nine people, were discharged by a Mumbai sessions court.
2002 Gujarat riots: On February 27, 2002 suspected Muslim mob attacked a train carrying activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) back from the disputed holy site of Ayodhya. The attack left 58 Hindu activists dead.
The episode resulted in major riots, which left many Mulims dead in Gujarat.