Violence never abates – it resounds for ages

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 13, 2019, 04.56 PM (IST) Written By: Sanjay Kumar

When the voice of Humanity is silenced, the voice of Violence is heard for ages.

Violence plagues the world and has plagued the world through all history. Structural Violence may last for a specific period. Experience has established that the after-effects of Structural Violence linger on for generations. It destroys the very fabric of society.

The ghastly atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki produced huge numbers of casualties. There is no doubt that the physical and psychological impacts of the atomic attacks continued for generations long after the actual attack. Similarly, the disruption caused in society continues for generations long after the active phase of the structural violence.

From the United Nations to the leading think tanks, as well as several nations, are struggling to deal with the violence at the physical violence, and in many cases, the physical violence has been controlled. However, the aftermath of the Violence has not been extensively studied. The present writer portrays the aftermath of Structural Violence.

By the term ‘Structural Violence’, I refer to the following:

  • Militancy
  • Terrorism
  • Insurgency
  • Maoism

When I speak about Structural Violence, I include the Economics and Sociology of the violence.

Will the dark clouds of Structural Violence ever be dispelled by the golden rays of Peace? This is a question we all need to seriously think about.

The Cycle of Violence

Unfortunately, India is perhaps unique in the world today in that it faces all four types of Structural Violence. There is Militancy in Jammu & Kashmir, insurgency in Northeast, Maoist violence in many parts of the country, and until recently there was terrorism in Punjab,

History shows us that violence follows a vicious cycle. It is commonly said that ‘violence breeds violence’. The perpetrators are very easy to manipulate into violence – they mostly fall into three categories:

1.      Socially deprived

2.      Economically deprived

3.      Sexually deprived

There is a period of intense violence – which maybe for days or months or years. Yet, when this intense period ends, the cycle of violence is not over. Experience from Ground Zero has revealed that 15 years of violence result in around 150 years of disruption for Humanity. Violence is a phenomenon which lingers on far longer than when peace has supposedly dawned.

I have spent more than two decades in many of the strife-torn regions of India and its neighbourhood. While working for peace, I have interacted with many people, both perpetrators and the affected. On the basis of this, I wish to share my observations.

The collapse of values & the trust-deficit syndrome

The moral fabric of society has been disrupted. People who are economically and sexually deprived are obsessed with material gains and indulgence in sensual pleasures. This, in turn, leads to a disregard for human life and dignity, which in turn leads to violence.

Violence leads to a culture of despondency, of helplessness, and resignation. When citizens lose their self-esteem and confidence to change society for the better, evil elements dominate society. No one is there to oppose them.

The first indication of a violence-prone area is the Trust-Deficit Syndrome among the people. Every society has citizens who appreciate the futility of violence and wish to work for peace. Their voices are stifled. They are branded as informers and government agents and even attacked.

Wherever Structural Violence begins, a significant percentage of the people extend moral and material support. However, these same supporters get victimised by the perpetrators.

Research shows that while we have progressed greatly materially, educationally, and infrastructure-wise, but psychologically we are not able to reap the fruits of this progress.  Research also shows only 25% of millennials have trust in others. This results in fear and mental constraints in the minds of people. This leads to violence, that is invisible but endemic.

An environment of fear

Structural Violence results in long-lasting Physical, Mental, and Emotional Trauma in the general population of the affected region. Psychomatic illnesses and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are widespread.

This is revealed by something as simple as how day-to-day greetings have changed in Kashmir. People now greet each other by expressing concern about health and well-being. If a family member leaves the house for daily chores, and more than an hour elapses without his or her return, the family is greatly worried!

This environment of fear results in widespread health issues in the general population. Pregnant women are particularly affected, with resultant complications.

In this scenario, economic and social revival becomes difficult, even with extensive Government funding.

The epidemic of drugs

It has been observed that it is this endemic fear and mental constraints that leads to the epidemic of drugs. It has been said that a drug is a substitute for love. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also observed where the institution of the family has declined and the trust-deficit in society has risen, drug addiction takes root.

Structural Violence has an international dimension, which provides infrastructural support. Sponsors of Violence provide support initially.

These international agencies supply the perpetrators with drugs, to enable them to generate their own resources. After a passage of time, they often withdraw their support. Instead, they encourage the perpetrators to take up drug cultivation and distribution.

It is no secret that drugs are a potent cause of violence, in all its manifestations. Drug addictions result in sociopathic tendencies and apathy amongst the general public. The families of drug addicts are severely affected. The inability to bear stress results in a significant percentage of society turning to drugs for solace, with catastrophic results. Once drug addiction gets embedded in a region, its impact lasts long. I have sadly observed this in Kashmir, Northeast India, and Nepal. Middle and lower-middle classes have become trapped in drug addiction, and these see no way to escape from this disastrous situation.

The drug trade results in huge profits for the kingpins, and in turn profits from the drug trade are poured into the purchase of armaments, sponsoring terror camps, and disseminating malicious propaganda.

The status of women

Mahatma Gandhi said that the value of a society is shown by how it treats its women. He also said – ‘Educate a man, and you educate a person. Educate a woman, and you educate a family’

Experience has conclusively established that where violence rules, the status of women is low. This results in widespread trafficking in and crimes against women and girls. Prostitution and trafficking of young women and girls have become accepted as a normal activity by society.

Structural Violence has robbed society of its soul.

My experience shows that perpetrators of Structural Violence seek shelter in the homes of people. They have been known to exploit the womenfolk in these homes. When the same people come to realise the actual character of these perpetrators, they plead with security forces to protect their homes and families from terrorists – this is unacceptably not highlighted in media. Amongst these people, they also take up arms themselves to protect their family’s honour and property.

Now, in one of the regions, I have observed a different tragedy unfolding. Militancy developed in the 1990s. Many male students dropped out of colleges to become terrorists. The female students largely continued with their education, and several obtained higher degrees. These educated women were unwilling to marry men less educated and indulging in terrorism. They chose to remain single, despite family pressure and social condemnation. These ladies are now holding teaching or clerical jobs at a mere pittance. I asked some of them, as why they worked long hours for such low pay. They replied that at work, they secured a few hours of solace from family pressures.

The result of the above phenomena is that the self-esteem of both individuals and the whole of society become low. When self-esteem is low, entrepreneurship and innovation diminishes. All the development and infrastructure work of the Government has no effect.

Violence as an industry

Structural violence functions like a corporation. There are many national and international stakeholders who do not wish see the depreciation of the share value!

Further, a small but significant percentage of those involved in violence create a livelihood from Extortion, Protection Rackets, the Rigging of Contracts, as Informers, etc. These individuals have a vested interest in continuing the cycle of violence in perpetuity!

Also, the destruction of the economy is most obvious after-effect of Structural Violence. A violence-ravaged region or country is not one where investments and jobs flow. And idle youth are the seeds of repeated violence.

Holistic solutions are needed

A violence-ravaged region is like a human with a deep wound. Mere ointments applied will not work, intense treatment will be needed. Similarly, the opening of hospitals and schools, the release of monetary compensation, etc. are superficial measures.  Rebuilding Physical Infrastructure and Economic Infrastructure are of course vital. However, these will have superficial results, unless the Social Infrastructure is not rebuilt too.

What is absolutely essential is that we study the long-term consequences of Structural Violence. And devise innovative solutions to address these consequences. This is the need of the hour for India and the world in general.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)  

Sanjay Kumar

The writer is associated with Art of Living and has been working in conflict zones in India for the last two decades.

Story highlights

There is Militancy in Jammu & Kashmir, insurgency in Northeast, Maoist violence in many parts of the country