The realm of everyday violence

  • Moments of violence cannot be isolated from the processes of normal politics in South Asia

Jan 9, 2018-

Classic political philosophy made violence a mark of human nature, and postulated a social need to contain and discipline it. The idea that runs from Marx to Fanon is that some violence is a necessary accompaniment of social transformation. The whole idea of communal violence is based on two different groups of urban poor attacking each other. This idea requires us to look at both violence and power in the South Asian system, mainly the use of violence in normal terms by the agents of the state, the line between state and civil society, private violence and official violence. Violence has the ability to create its own way of relating to different people with similar thoughts. One understands the idea of intersubjectivity as it reaches the crowd in the form of rumours. The crowd believes these rumours to be facts and decide to act upon them, in a majority of the cases.

When we look at the violence that has occurred in South Asia, we can see that there have been legitimate targets and appropriate punishments. The punishment is not simply what one calls death, but death which is conducted in a particular manner. The killings employ a distinctive collection of violence. These types of violence and actions can be looked upon as the extension of everyday forms of violence. The people who are actively involved in the process of violence do it as a part of the belief that their actions are normal and that they are demanding a justice which the state will not provide. When we look at the idea of rumours turning into facts, we understand that it is a collective interpretation which is propagated and developed within the crowd, and one that has the ability to overturn the evidence in the eyes and ears of any witness. These rumours are circulated many times but they reach a certain crowd in special intensity and particular circumstances. Moments of violence cannot be isolated from the processes of normal politics too. There is certainly a lot of evidence to support the view that violence comes suddenly and wildly in everyday life.

The homicide rate in Sri Lanka in modern times is indeed high when viewed through a cross-cultural perspective; between the 1860s and the 1970s the annual homicide rate fluctuated between four and eight per 100,000 populations. There is a very marked gender bias in the figures: only one in 20 homicides was committed by women. In the case of India, when we look at ethnic and communal violence, we find a list of riots that happened against the Muslim community. One of the major riots that happened was the demolition of the Babri Masjid, after which there was outrage in Bombay in 1993. The Shiv-Sena, a Hindu nationalist political party in Maharashtra carried out religious activities in order to make it difficult for the Muslim community. An incident in Nepal also occurred in Nepal in August, 2015 where the Tharu ethnic minority, who had been demanding their own separate province held a protest in response to the seven provinces which were developed in the new constitution of Nepal. The Tharus have struggled to overcome years of slavery to the high-caste landowners. A clash broke out as a result of the Tharuhat demanding a separate province. Anger had been built in the western and southern plains in Nepal when finally legislators stuck a breakthrough deal on the long awaited charter in June, spurred by April’s earthquake. The main idea was to draw a line under many years of inequality, but the decision of dividing Nepal into seven provinces brought a level of dissatisfaction among various different marginalised communities arguing that the political representation would be limited.

It is therefore, foolish to imagine that we can ever rid ourselves of the threat of ethnic violence; instead, we should concentrate on ways of managing the processes that underlie it. Particular instances of ethnic riots usually differ as to the groups and issues that are in contention, and the circumstances in which they occur. Democracy in South Asia is also a manner of conducting politics. The mobilisation of crowds and the wooing of their support is the central process of persuasion. Those who are engaged in the physical acts of violence are drawn from identifiable segments of a particular group or category of a population. The cross-sectional composition of the South Asian riot crowds distinctively links them to a participatory democracy and population movements.

Rimal is a program coordinator at the Institution for Suitable Action for Prosperity (ISAP)

Published: 09-01-2018 08:22

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