Sociology and Economics of Violence : An Indian Perspective

Published: Thursday, Nov 29,2012, 23:41 IST
violence, violence, sociology, economics, militancy perspective, politics green revolution, gdp social structure election manifesto, naxalism, jammu kashmir, north east

Violence has become a global phenomenon today, no country or state is untouched by it. Globally, violence accounts for the death of more than 1.5 million people annually. Speaking of India itself, Jammu & Kashmir is facing militancy, North-East is marred with insurgency and as per MHA record the 2/3rd of the country is spawned by Maoism We’ll be amazed to know the figures of expenses being incurred to deal with violence. It’s a bigger menace than corruption and other problems. However, the interconnection between the corruption violence and the political connection is subject matter of another article of mine.

Violent groups who want to achieve their goals are using violence as a means even the government is also using violence to deal with them, amidst this peace has taken a backseat. Though, we hear on daily basis about events and incidents related to violence but hardly have we pondered about the reasons and its genesis. The purpose of my writings on the subject is to create awareness and even a dim hope that political parties are compelled by masses to include in their manifestos their will to deal with violence. The class that actually votes is also the class that is most affected by the violence. We can also save the phenomenal amount being incurred on the internal security of the country; same money can be used on education, health, infrastructure and other noble purposes. People have experienced violence as reality but are not aware about its sociology and economics. I have attempted to bring it forth through this write up and through my talks from time to time as well.

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The very basis of violence in India is quite intertwined with the decline and degeneration of social set up and structure over the years in India. The framework under which the Indian culture functions is called Samaj (‘society’) When we examine our social structure its worth quoting its definition of society (samaj) in Sanskrit;

Samam anjati iti samajah

This means, society is the mechanism in which everyone is inter-related and inter-dependent. The source/basis of taking everybody along is mutual relations or called Sambandh. The factor that facilitates the interaction between ‘society’ and ‘relationship’ (samaj aur sambandh) is called the Yajmani tradition in Indian social science. This framework based on ‘society’, ‘relationship’ and Yajmani tradition was the very foundation of entire Indian socio-economic setup which was free from discrimination and flaws. With time as the equilibrium of this framework started getting disturbed, social values also started changing. This change and decline in values prepared the background for violence in our country.

Although violence has a long history, we will make the advent of the East India Company and its accompanied changes the basis of this write up. The strong framework of Indian society was a big obstacle for the British, to setup trade and to rule India. So, they engineered a meticulous plan for breakdown. Many documents and reports from several committees of their time testify to this. One such committee was formed under then ICS officer JH Hutton. It was called ‘Sociological Survey of India’ but its real purpose was to understand the nature and composition of Indian society in order to dominate or annihilate it. Based on this survey, caste-based division of the country was institutionalized. Religious conversion also began to be encouraged in simple society. The native Indian traditions, language and culture began to be depicted as inferior. Later, additional divisions were made based on sects (communities) within castes. This is what modern historians refer to as “Divide and Rule” policy that is being propagated by the ‘Indian British’ (Indians of British mindset) even today.

In this direction the British developed another mechanism to achieve their goals called ‘Permanent Settlement’. This Settlement struck at the very soul of India. Slowly, the portion of India governed by the British came in the category of slave territory. With the implementation of Permanent Settlement the age old Sambandh or ‘mutual relationships’ in society were replaced by Sadhan (‘the means’). As a consequence, the underlying coherence between the ‘society’ and ‘relationships’ began to fragment. This resulted in a silent social reaction which became the reason of genesis of institutional violence in modern India which later over the period became more and more organized. It is natural to become organized (to form organization) in order to deal with organized ills. For instance, to deal with the organized might of the British many organized revolutionary groups came up. (though the motive of revolutionaries was quite noble and here we are not questioning their motive or means just analyzing the phenomenon of violence). This was the beginning of achieving goals against the organized system through organized violence.

The atmosphere of trust deficiency in society began to rise as the ‘means’ (sadhan) or the system based on ‘profit and loss’ came into practice, ‘mutual relationships’ (samabandh) further got relegated to the background. Now everything had a price. This price with its profit motive disrupted the peace and harmony of the society. Greed and jealousy began to mature. As a result, mutual communication began to decline. Ultimately it contributed to the formation of a society based on discrimination which affected the very self-esteem of the individual as well as the society. Psychologists opine that a person with low self-esteem turns violent (or directs violence) towards self or society.

The aforementioned reasons played an important role in starting institutionalized violence in India. Various other factors only played a supporting role. From Self-Reliance, an atmosphere of dependency syndrome pervaded. This dependence was later termed as ‘development’. Mahatma Gandhi was also against the ‘development ‘based model. According to him, it would augment discrimination in the country. This has been discussed in length in his book “Hind Swaraj”. Remarkably in the entire Gandhian Literature, there is no mention of the word ‘development’.

This so called developmental model affected the Indian villages the most. The village, which was a self-sufficient unit for ages, slowly began to depend on city. This dependency syndrome disrupted the entire rural dynamics. The pattern and the method of farming also saw sea change. As more and more chemicals began to be used on the soil, this had a profound impact on the quality of the food. By the time we could understand the ill-effects of this, it was too late and society was already affected by drugs and addiction. Addiction became a big menace and extension of addiction is violence. It is notable that wherever Green Revolution was successfully implemented in the country, the same areas rapidly became victims of violence. Similarly with Green Revolution, commercial crops were introduced consequently currency became more important. This affected the equilibrium of societal relationships. The most visible impact was breakdown of joint family. This also contributed to the fragmentation of our age old social structure and hence gave further impetus to violence.

Economics of violence: Our ancestors regarded even the economic activities under Shastras. That’s why it is called Arthashastra. The goal of Shastras is to achieve eternal happiness. For this very reason artha (economy) has been placed at par with Dharma (righteousness), Kama (material goals) and Moksha (liberation) in the Indian culture. In Chanakya’s ‘Arthashastra’ also artha and dharma are synonyms.

But in the new arrangement, our final goal became trade and profit which is based on exploitation. Whenever trade faced impediments, heavy terms like ‘Development’, ‘GDP’, ‘Growth’, ‘Socialism’, ‘Communism’, ‘Capitalism’ etc. were coined. This made the entire setup very complex. It had no regard for individual or consideration for human values. Our goals remain limited to profit, GDP etc. Even today, we are more concerned about surveys done by International Rating Agencies but not about human values.

Same as societal structure, with the erosion in ancient economic system violence also kept increasing. Today, as violence has matured, it has spawned its own economy. Take example of Naxalism, which initially began as a reaction, but got transformed into a revolution. And in the present times it has become quite complex with an economy of its own. (This will be discussed in my upcoming book “Politics of violence”)

Since violence has matured today, it has developed its own economics. In this context economics of violence its worth quoting former IPS officer and security expert, Ved Marwaha, who says; “… far economics of violence is concerned a study says that Pakistani Army and ISI are actively involved in massive funding of militancy and terrorism. Further, it is not that Pakistan has vested interest in keeping India disturbed but many factions and groups are funded and patronized by Pakistan to keep the pot boiling, particularly Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani funded ‘pro-azadi’ groups operate in India and block the process of normalization in the valley because if normal political process is not disturbed, these ‘pro-azadi’ mercenary leaders and groups lose their heavy pocket money from Pakistan. Further, it is not only the azadi group but political parties wielding power in the state also raise extremists demands and compel the nervous Union Government to extend extra favor and patronize such parties to use democratic forum to air their extremists demands. Let me tell you, why should ruling families work for the normalcy in the valley? Further Ved Marwah stated that democratically elected governments of the disturbed states or foreign funded insurgents are not interested in normalcy because it brings them out of business created by violence (militancy).Again, terrorism, insurgency, militancy and jihad had have all become profitable business of extortions, illegal cell of narcotics and arms. Not to be left behind, elected governments have also shared.”

Politics, as a system acts as a bridge between society and economy. And here again heedlessly we adopted the British Parliamentary Democracy after independence without giving any consideration to our own political tradition. Further, this system was totally against our traditional democratic values. As a result, people slowly started adopting undemocratic means. A testimony to this is that today, people with criminal background win elections and the Election Commission has to deploy security forces on a big scale to ensure smooth elections. Adoption of British model without deliberation also contributed a lot to mature violence in India. This is an entirely comprehensive subject that is the nexus between politics and violence which will be touched upon in my further writings.

Thus we cannot deal with violence without understanding its sociology and economics and its relation with the modern day politics. And as I mentioned earlier political will and grit is required to deal with violence which has become a universal problem.

Author : Sanjay Kumar, Follow the writer

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