Thursday, July 1, 2010

Violence Works!

We generally don't like to debate on violence per se as most liberals would denounce it as uncivilized, illegal or whatever you want to call it. Irrespective of what our attitude towards violence is, the fact is -" IT WORKS".

Living in a high pressure society like Mumbai its easy for me get reminded on what makes people get violent. In fact I feel that it is only because people in the country are tolerant that these acts are of sporadic nature and have still not become norms despite the pressure that exists all around.

There are various levels on which nature of violence can be examined but here i take the opportunity of understanding when does violence actually create the necessary impact at a political level.
War against nation is the biggest demonstration of violence at political level but other than that if we try to understand mass violence within the democratic structure and violence outside the democratic structure it gives us some useful insights on when violence is able to attain immediate ends. I am not talking about any deep spiritual ends here. Only political ends.

In a city where there are over 15m individuals residing and where lakhs of people find their lives getting difficult on account of immigration, anyone who experiences this kind of a life for a few months would get to sense what living at the bottom with limited means can actually mean. With 50% of the society living in slums with extremely sordid living conditions, poor sanitation,  constant stench, with no sunshine, the mind is already in a stressed state. On top of it the daily travel under horrendous commute systems where few people lose lives on a daily basis by slipping off the footboard or from the roof of the train, will it really take too much for people to lose control? What has been written in the Consitution can be debated in rose wood built conference rooms and probably on internet groups. What it means to experience this kind of a life is beyond comprehension unless one really is intending to understand the very nature of this constant stress which is part of everyday existence for millions in the city.

When people are seething with stress, political parties strategically use violence as a means for establishing their own muscular identity and dividends are seen in no time. Its primarily because the party did what the individual couldn't. The native wanted to kick the butt of that person who took away his railway job but could not garner the wherewithal to do it. No wonder Raj Thackeray became a local hero in no time.

 MNS which used violence as a communication tool really well against North Indian immigrants was able to win 13 Assembly Seats in the first elections that they contested. This is no mean feat though there was a legacy involved here as well. Similar was the case of Narendra Modi during the Gujrat carnage. He made a point very clearly but followed the same with strong administrative acumen and now the same person is being touted as a Prime Ministerial candidate from the largest opposition.

On the other hand lets look at what the Maoists are trying to do across hundreds of district which bear the testimony of several decades of government misrule. They are using violence as a strategic tool but since they are doing it outside the ambit of democratic structure and since it is directed against the State itself, there is only going to be loss of people on a long term basis but no transition of power. I don't understand how anyone can imagine that such a war can ever be won. Considering that this war is not driven by agendas possible within the democratic framework, it is foolhardy to imagine that a new Constitution would be drafted by underfed gun weilding Naxalites. But yes, this is the biggest concern of the PM and the Home Ministry at this stage. Why did it take this long for the government to understand that people can't be taken for granted. That speeches in international forums on the journey to become a major international power can't be made unless one keeps the picture of over 70% population also in view.

But if you ask whether its completely futuile to act thus, the answer is probably No. If we take a closer look at it, we realize that the common theme of violence in both these instances is the fact that the parties were able to make their point loud and clear. Its only because of the Maoist struggle that there has been a seperate report by the Planning Commission trying to understand the issues it entails and the reason why the same is being factored in while trying to study India's business attractiveness.

Thus wherever we see mass unrests leading to violence, we can consider it to have a clear rationale (though not necessarily overt) and unfortunately in an imperfect world such as ours, this channel of communication works really well and probably real fast too!

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