Gopal Guru


The response of the central government and its supporters to the protests that were organised against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) has brought into focus the complex nature of violence. In the current context of the protests, there seems to be a few points that we need to take into consideration. The government, in its attempts to underscore the social importance of peace, seeks to condemn the act of violence.


Thus, it is its overdetermining concern for peace that results in the incorporation of illegitimacy in the meaning of violence. That is to say, violence is invariably undesirable and needs to be rejected in totality. One may find some merit in such desire for complete non-violent protest. But, it would be unfair to define violence in singular relation to the recent student protests, which were, by and large, non-violent in nature.


Arguably, the protest is based on certain guiding posts. For the protestors, the guiding post in the negative sense consists of both reality as well as promise. What does it promise? Anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity? What is real is the police brutality and police violence against the students. Guiding posts in the positive sense would include the question: What should the state promise? Plurality, stability and, confidence to the people? Arguably, guiding posts are aimed at legally assessing the constitutional validity of the act passed by Parliament. And the protests were also aimed at alerting the people about the possible consequences such an act has for diversity and perhaps secularism.


In the present context, where violence is being understood in a skewed fashion, it is all the more necessary to historicise violence, but also look at violence as a parenthesis. We need to historicise the act of violence by foregrounding its comprehensive meaning that extends to lynching, social boycott imposed against the Dalits, sexual assault against women, farmers’ suicide, development-induced displacement of Adivasis, and poor quality of life entangling a large population from rural, and particularly, urban sectors. Let us accept that self-inflicted violence ultimately is the result of the impossibility of people to enjoy conditions that will guarantee quality of life. Freedom from such multilayered forms of violence is the guiding force for the protestors.


In the recent years, the efforts to inject violence in social relationships have been on the increase. This is evident from the violent reactions that are being offered in order to condemn the protest, particularly by the students. It would again be unfair to not speak about violence in its entirety and accept just one meaning of it and assign it to protestors, particularly students. We need to know the slippage of violence; slippage that flows from multilayered entanglement of people into structures that produce civic insecurity, unemployment, inequality, and injustice.


In fact, the social forces (often with masks) that are supporting right-wing politics seem to be often in the lead, inserting violence not just in protests, but injecting it in the entire web of social relations. This is done by floating both fake news and conspiracy theories through either direct speech or communally mediated social media. Hatred acquires a high frequency in such social media circulations. Hate, which is injected from the outside, thus, is the manifestation of the parenthesis. Right-wing parties tend to construct such supporters by creating a cobweb of fake news. Those who are trapped in the cobweb consider it their ardent duty to spread hatred against the members of a particular community, and condemn those who stand by humanitarian principles. The entanglement into the cobweb of fake news takes place primarily because some sections of the population do not take moral/ethical bearing in their judgments that can strengthen social relations based on humanitarian principles. What are the consequences of a feeling of violence being injected from the outside? It will lead to the social production of mutual estrangement; a kind of social relationship in which people get surrounded by a deep sense of insecurity, surveillance, and vulnerability. The important question is: How to disentangle the people from such a cobweb of fake news? Disentanglement, perhaps, can take place by developing the ethical capacity to take a bearing in judgments that concerns the common good, such as peace and harmony in society.

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