SOCIAL VIOLENCE IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA: AN EXPLORATION OF AFTERMATHS


There are considerable evidence of differentials between socio-religious groups and disadvantaged positions of certain groups. Beyond the issue of group inequality and deprivation, there are also diverse episodes of gross human rights violations against certain groups in the form of inter-group violence. In recent times, this has taken different dimensions, and has been one of the major challenges to majority-minority community relationship in India. Although several groups face violence based on their group identities, the religious identity has been dominant one in the discourse of violence. In Indian mainstream social life, besides the caste system, religion constitutes a primary institution that governs social relationships in community life. Religious identity takes precedence over all other identities during the time of a riot, which unleashes violence.

It is recognized that the social violence is widely embedded in socio-cultural structure and relations. The interests of different religious groups are seen as mutually incompatible and antagonistic. That is why, in many cases, minor altercations are being transformed into issues of perpetual contention between communities. Many driving feelings like hate, fear and mistrust are further deliberately pushed in the cognitive structures by negative characterization of minority, as in case of Muslim minority. They often experience prejudiced biases and violence associated with their religious identity are ridiculed in many ways. There is persistent impunity for violence against them. This makes them more vulnerable to various forms of violent behaviors and exclusion in multiple realms of the society. It is argued that Muslims remain vulnerable to violence along three lines- structural, cultural and direct; and the interdependence between and function of them explains its systematic exclusion.

In recent past, the religious-based violence against Muslim minority has been endemic feature of Indian society. As per recent official data, the year 2014 witnesses close to six hundred incidents of communal violence across India. The periodic outbreak of the violence has strained the relationship of Muslim minority with others. Although there are various explanations for the violent expressions between religious groups, within the majority-minority relationship, the religious minorities are the eventual sufferers. But the matters that need special attention are "What are the reasons that socio-cultural 'differences' between religious groups form to a point of extreme intolerance of the 'other?" What happens to normal course of socio-economic life, importantly, to the 'psyche' of victims?" "What happens to the 'victims of violence' and their community at large in terms of equal opportunities, freedom of life, social participation, social privileges, deprivation and most importantly living with social security and dignity."

In the aftermath of violence, there are immediate impacts which are understandably more forceful to create a condition dominated by the feelings of threatening, insecurity and helplessness. But, the sufferings of the 'victims of violence' often continue to persist in anticipation of further 'violence-producing situations'. But the long term impact in terms of feeling of hopelessness remains more critical. The deterioration in inter-personal relationship in the community and loss of freedom is further likely to worsen the poor well-being. But the matter of serious concern is that these consequences of social violence are also exacerbated by indifferent attitude of local administration. The 'hate campaigns' resulting in 'insecurity feeling' is further reinforced by the biases of the state machinery. As a result, even a small incident sparks the process of violence. This has been highlighted in several inquiry commission reports in the aftermath of social violence. Because of this, they have not been able to fully exploit social and economic opportunities, resulting in even greater economic marginalization of Muslims. The social violence has also larger socio-psychological consequences in terms of psychological trauma and oxidization of existing community relations, resulting in worsening the social divide between religious communities. These also influence the development processes of victims and accentuate conditions for further deprivation and social exclusion. The expectation of recurring violence may play a very important role in fostering insecurity and increasing social and economic vulnerability. The matter of concern is therefore not to protect Muslim minority from any sort of violence only, but ensuring the access of victims to protection, justice and reparation in the aftermath of the violence. Social violence in India has drawn serious attention of the state than any other forms of violence because of its larger consequences on the life of the victims and their community. The concern is whether the outcome of violence has any further impact on the life of people, on quality of social and economic life of victims and their communities over a period of time. The National Human Rights Commission of India recognizes that because of human rights violations, the society at large suffers. In the context of aftermath of social violence, there is a need to provide comprehensive social protection to deal with stressful life.

The focus of this research study has been four folds- (i) Understanding the issue of social exclusion in the context of religious minority, (ii) Provide insights to the understanding of violence by embracing the different conceptual frameworks, (iii) Situating some of the recent incidences of social violence on these frameworks, and (iv) Exploring the adverse consequences of social violence, as an important source of social exclusion, to reflect on the overall economic, social and psychological well-being of Muslim minority.

The findings of the research study will be widely disseminated to sensitize state machinery about the adverse impact of violence on people of a particular community and society as a whole. The research outcome would help in planning the spheres for social interventions at community level going beyond legal measures.


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