Visual by Akruthi Akula
The affairs of the world singularize violence as a prevalent norm. The use of brute force to disrupt the lives of millions in the Middle East has raised a furore across the globe. Discourses around disinvestments , the changing security landscapes of countries such as Japan and Germany from pacifism to vast defence spending post Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is indicative of the strong throes of violence that the world is currently gripped by.
These violent manifestations in a coordinated and sustained nature create a situation of war, argue Levy and Thompson in their book Causes Of War while conflicts are devoid of a sustained nature of violence , although “rivalries involving sustained and hostile competitions between social entities are common” (Levy &Thompson, 5). Violence can also be systemic as was observed in 1947, beginning in March and taking a treacherous form in the months preceding the announcement of the Hindu- Pakistan plan, in June 1947. The creation of a new entity called Pakistan constituting of the Muslim – majority provinces of Sind, The North West Frontier Province and 16 districts of Punjab was announced on June 3rd while the remaining 13 districts of undivided Punjab were deemed to be a part of India. The exchange of populations following the violent hostilities started taking place, although the exact boundary line between the two countries had still to be determined by the Boundary Commission. (Menon & Bhasin, 33)
The escalated rioting and arson in Punjab by the first week of March 1947 caused migrations in both directions, note Menon and Bhasin in their book Borders and Boundaries. The suspension of law and order by the communalised bureaucracy was a striking factor, compelling people to leave their homes from both ends of the stipulated boundary, as the space for brutality was created. As the violence increased, “convoys were ambushed, families separated, children orphaned, women kidnapped – and whole trainloads massacred.” (Menon & Bhasin, 35)
The consequences of a violent disposition extend beyond the physical locations of social groups involved, transcending space and time. Such as the violent disposition that occurred prior to the Hindu-Pakistan Plan in June, which only grew in magnanimity and severity in the months to follow. Violence then is of a disruptive nature with its consequences far reaching and impacting lives, both physically and emotionally and as such the suffering that follows isn’t proportional to the violent eruption which causes it. Meaning suffering transcends time of the occurrence of violence.
Amidst such unprecedented forms of violence, a “pact of violence” often becomes inevitable according to Menon and Bhasin wherein the idea of self and the other is asserted through the means of violence and women become the victims of this exchange, considered to be the bearers of male constructs and honour. (Menon & Bhasin, 40)
One aspect of the continuum of violence that began pre partition and continued into the early fifties was the gendered nature violence inflicted on women. Men’s collective selfhood is predicated upon the bodies of women in patriarchal societies. Communal identity, the notion of honour, the sanctity of ethnic and religious groups is attached with the regulation of a female body. Thus, women being rendered as objects of male constructs and honour become the worst victims of conflict argue, Menon and Bhasin.
“The most predictable form of violence experienced by women, as women, is when women of one community are sexually assaulted by the men of the other, in an overt assertion of their identity and a simultaneous humiliation of the Other by “dishonouring” their women.”(Menon & Bhasin, 41)
Women as such were stripped, paraded naked, had their genitalia mutilated, raped, had their bodies disfigured and tattooed being the repositories of their respective social groups by men of the other community. Navigating the plight of women through extensive interviews Menon and Bhasin expound how internalised notions of shame and honour led to the killings of women by their families. Forced burials of women, young girls, handing them vials of poison, pushing them to jump inside wells, ignited piles of quilts all point towards the extremities of violence which was gendered, “a continuum of violence that had death at the hands of one’s own kinsmen at one end, and rape and brutalisation by men of the other community at the other. In between lay taking your own life, sublimating your vulnerability and making of it something heroic” ( Menon & Bhasin, 57)
Violence is destructive, it’s an act of force which can never be justified. Causing immense infliction and loss, displacing and dehumanising lives. Its nature may vary, based on the context but the consequent of violence, being suffering, does not. Of course the context is the determining factor for the cause of it but the way violence impacts individuals is purely subjective. The nature of Suffering can’t be categorised as objectively as the classifications of violence based on their order of tenacity i.e., coordinated, sustained, systemic or organised. In other words suffering isn’t lessened with the loosening of the strongholds of violence. The lesser forms of violence do not reduce the suffering in relation to the more tense and escalated forms of it, as the nature of suffering is complex.
Carl Von Clausewitz, in On War states, “war is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force.” Violence through war or any other act will always be destructive in nature negating the essence of humanism for violence can never have a backing of a rationalistic outlook.
Levy. S. J & Thompson. R.W , 2010, Causes of War , Wiley Blackwell, United Kingdom
Menon. R & Bhasin. K, 1998, Borders and Boundaries, Rutgers University Press, New Jersey
2022, Russia’s invasion prompts more assertive foreign policy from Japan, Washington Post, March 5 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/05/japan-ukraine-russia-foreign-policy/