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On Violence & The Strength

Indian politicians are still seen to be using the horror of Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, seemingly, for narrow political gains, more than seven decades after the tragic event. One may recall the warning of Gyanendra Pandey (b. 1949) that Politics is creating a deeper and wider sphere of violence by changing the society and people. He warned the Indians, while documenting the history of Partition-related violent incidents, about two decades ago. According to the Historian, the issue of violence is becoming more structured than before, and its acceptability is also being created, as the State or socially-recognised Structures are behind it.

Pandey, the Professor of History at Emory University, Atlanta, showed how the new State System was atomising individuals by breaking up the community, and at the same time, the State was maintaining a repressive relationship with individuals, prompting them to turn to the community or group for staging protests. Professor Pandey claimed that conflict and violence were an integral part of this entire process. The technological advancement was also helping the State carry out violent activities. In his words: “…this (political climate) has allowed genocidal murder and violence on an unprecendented scale.

Gyanendra Pandey

In her latest publication ‘The Violence in our Bones: Mapping the Deadly Fault Lines Within Indian Society’, Political Scientist Neera Chandhoke engages the readers in a manner that they remember the words of Historian Pandey. Chandhoke, who taught Political Science at the University of Delhi, is a Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi. She writes mainly about Civil Society, Secularism, Revolutionary Violence, and Democracy. Her latest work is Rethinking Pluralism, Secularism and Tolerance: Anxieties of Coexistence. In The Violence in our Bones, she has discussed the issue of Violence from the perspective of the State. In the very first line of her book, Professor Chandhoke has mentioned “We the People of India”. It may be noted that the Preamble of the Indian Constitution begins with the sentence: “We, The People Of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.” Then, Professor Chandhoke has narrated how Violence is triggered among Individuals. She believes that the concept of other is based on violence, and the Collective Psyche creates an Ideology, thus triggering acts of Communal Violence.

Interestingly, many of great Indian personalities became Globally Famous for their opposition to the concept of Violence. Gautam Buddha (563 BCE or 480 BCE – 483 BCE or 400 BCE), Emperor Ashoka (304 BCE – 232 BCE), and even Mohandas Karamchand ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) are some of them. One of Jainism’s main issues is Ahimsa (Non-violence), too. Even the Ancient Indian epic of Mahabharata promotes Non-violence in the end. However, the history of Modern India has hinted that violence is enduring, ingrained and inviolable in this South Asian Nation. Chandhoke has started her discussion from the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, and then, she has highlighted the next wave of Communal Violence in Independent India. She has mentioned the trend of Caste-based Violence in the next chapter. Violent incidents in Kashmir and Northeast India have also secured their places in Chandhoke’s publication. The author has discussed the Maoist Movement at the end. In this format, she has evinced her interest in describing the character of Inherent Violence in an Independent Nation.

Unfortunately, the readers might not find anything new about the Partition in Chandhoke’s book. The author has only narrated the known history in a systematic fashion… about the violence of that period of time captured in the memory, as those events influenced Art and Literature, and chiefly how communal violence secured its place in the Indian psyche. Once again, Professor Chandhoke has claimed that communal violence and sectarianism could not be understood by religion, but by noticing the tactics of the State Apparatus. The reality of communal conflict and the reality of violence in Independent India after the Partition has linked the two consecutive chapters in this publication.

The way Chandhoke has presented the issue of selecting the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, while explaining the connection between Violence and the Modern State is unimpeachable. This particular region of western Indian Province of Gujarat is traditionally a textile hub. Weavers used to live there even in ancient times, and there was also a guild, consisting of followers of all religions, members of different castes and groups. Gandhi used to prefer this Pre-modern Society. He did not like the contradictory otherness that was the source of all sorts of violence. This is where his worship of Non-violence began. Perhaps, the 2002 Gujarat Violence proved the Thought Process of Gandhi wrong. Or maybe, the Indian Society has changed a lot in the last seven decades. According to Chandhoke, the inactive Civil Society played a terrible role in India in the 21st Century (especially in Gujarat in 2002). However, the roots of Gandhi’s Non-violence should be there in the Civil Society.

M K Gandhi

The society is also responsible for triggering acts of caste-related violence in India. Furthermore, the inactive Administration, as well as the Judiciary, has fuelled those incidents. Violence not only means murder or rape, but also injustice, humiliation, marginalisation, etc. One can find violence in each and every level of Social and Economic Institutions. It encourages violent thoughts and actions within the society, directly or indirectly. In this context, Professor Chandhoke has mentioned the name of Scholar, Writer, Civil Rights Activist and Management Professor Anand Teltumbde (b. July 15, 1950), who has become an enemy of the State-run institutions. In the end, the author has opposed the views of Gandhi, and backed noted Indian Jurist, Economist, Politician and Social Reformer Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (April 14, 1891 – December 6, 1956), saying that it would be wrong to consider violence against Dalits (marginalised people) as just a Social Problem. It is a Political Issue, she stressed. Professor Chandhoke further said that in Indian Politics, Power is in the hands of those who are “a hostile majority”. “They believe in the denial of Liberty and Equal Opportunity to the minority,” she stated.

Considering Kashmir, North-Eastern part of India and Tribal-dominated Maoist areas, there is a shadow of this Power Structure in each subsequent chapter of this book. Professor Chandhoke has also told the stories of Minorities or the Oppression of Minorities. Here, the author has skillfully mentioned the works of French Psychiatrist and Political Philosopher Frantz Omar Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961). Fanon was the first person to clearly mention that Colonial Powers encouraged Colonial Societies to recreate violence, and to re-establish Colonial Power by becoming their carriers. Professor Chandhoke has explained how can violence provide people with self-esteem, and how to help rulers re-establish their manhood through violence. Fanon’s discussions were based on post-colonial Africa. According to Professor Chandhoke, Fanon’s analysis is also applicable to the Post-Colonial States in Asia.

In a country, like India, the Structure of Violence is deeply connected with Democracy. They occupy the same space, together. This has been mentioned by the author in her publication more than once. However, there is no explanation as to why this happens. Otherwise, Professor Chandhoke’s book is definitely an informative one.

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