Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What did they achieve???

Well. I have been debating with myself on the issue of violence ... let me rather be more specific on the issue of violence in politics. And this has been happening with me only in the past few years. Until say five years ago, I thought I was clear on this as much as I was on many other issues such as use of nuclear fission/fusion for generating power, the need for big dams and industries to take the nation forward and that such progress cannot and shall not be stalled!!! Yes. I was not bothered about the large-scale destruction that such a development process would cause. I thought I was a Marxist and hence I must condone such destruction for the sake of progress and also condone violence in a definite context. The Russian, Chinese and the Afghan revolutions were violent and bloody and that was inevitable even if it was undesirable.

The came the violent movements in the Punjab, Assam and in Jammu and Kashmir. I did take positions against each of them but was not perturbed by the violence as such. I was opposed to the idea of dividing India, once again because I thought I was a Marxist.

All this has changed. I don't think it is imperative for me to stand up and speak up for the Indian state and its machinery, repressive and barbaric most often, when it comes to dealing with anyone who challenges it. It is another matter that I am still not convinced about the core issues that were raised by the Khalistan movement, the AASU and the anti-state agitators in Kashmir. I am against both the Indian state and the groups that challenge its mite in Kashmir today.

And as for violence, I have turned 180 degrees. It's indeed an about turn. I am convinced that violence does not settle an issue. And when that happened in Bombay yesterday, I was pre-occupied with just one concern. And that was about the number of human beings I know and with whom I have got close over the years who happen to live there in that city. I was desperate to speak at least a word with each one of them. Well, this must have happened with several people when the Khalistani partisans set off explosives in Delhi during the Eighties... or when PWG men set off land mines somewhere in Andhra Pradesh or in Chattisgarh. And when the LTTE sends one of its cadres strapped with explosives to kill someone whom Prabhakaran does not like!

What did they achieve yesterday apart from killing 200 innocent people and sending many more into a state of panic and shock? I think they managed to terrorise ordinary citizens. Like those who brought down the WTC towers on September 11, the men who orchestrated the terror in Bombay killed ordinary citizens of this country. The powerful men, in any case, do not travel by trains in Bombay.

Well, I still consider myself a Marxist and am clear now that it is imperative for a Marxist to deny any place for violence in politics and fight for a world where human beings are not killed by fellow human beings...A world where there is no rancour, no ill-will and no space for revenge. bhass pyaaar pyaaar rahe....


Anonymous chotu said...


3:58 AM  
Anonymous Prasanth K said...

I do not know much about the philosophy or politics of Marxism,having said that,I feel you dont have to be a Marxist to condemn violence...a violence as ghastly as this one.Violence in any form resulting in death of innocent should be condemned irrespective of party/ideological affiliations.
I strongly agree with you violence is not a solution for issues.
And for what they have achieved or rather going to achieve from the blast is answered by Kasuri.How sickening to hear him in a tone with a tint of black mail in it when he was suggesting that the best way of dealing extremism is to tackle the real issue of Jammu and Kashmir.Is he suggesting that "Give us Kashmir.....we will give you peace of mind."

6:52 PM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Well Prasanth,
I don't feel like going upto Kasuri... The point is that the Indian state too has, over the years, conveyed a message and in a rather emphatic fashion that it will not heed to democratic protests... and let us not get into a framework where we begin to place responsibility to all violent incidents at Pakistan. Pakistan may be playing games and that is possible only because there is discontent here. Do you think Bangla Desh would have been possible if the Islamabad regime had not ignored the legitimate expectations/aspirations of the people in East Pakistan????

Well, this probably is the Marxist way of treating violence!!!!

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well... thought provinking and with some of it i agree but question...? what about the possibility of State's hand in such affairs especially since only the common citizens are harmed or terorized and as you said powerful people do not travel by the local trains...! so isn't there a larger design in this?! or is that too much of a conspiracy theory?
Some thoughts about our own "7/11"- any connection to last year's europe's 7/11?
the desire by authorities in power to enforce more stringent measures on travel etc?
the grants and international support we will get because now we are together in the 'war against teror'...?
(suppose too rambling, but wanted to comment:).

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it matters what the cause is or what the effects of such attacks are - if we believe in the sanctity of human life, we must affirm that killing of civilians in any circumstance is wrong. No collateral damage, no state sponsored war/battle where civilians are targeted and therefore a big NO to all modern weaponry which involve "collateral damage". I think a complete rethink of jus in bello (acceptable practices while engaged in war)rules are in order. How can killing millions of civilians (as is the case in Iraq)be ok under the pretext of "collateral damage"?
Outside this, shows of outrage against terrorism will not suffice. If terrorism is to be rooted out, I think a number of issues have to be addressed. For instance, what does globalisation do to an old-worldly sense of belonginess and identity? Does it uproot a sense of self and make men nomadic in some senses? Apart from these rather philosophical issues, I think it is also important to understand where the sense of grievance and hurt of the terrorist is coming from. (Although I admit that a terrorist is not always giving vent to feelings of hurt and grievance, it is without doubt quite often the case).
As is evident from this piece, a tendency to violence is not extraordinary to the human condition. (As you note, your views on violence have changed over a period of time - it shows that you were not immune from these ideas earlier). And I think noting this is important if we really are intent on waging a "war on terror."
- Abdus

8:15 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

I think we will be just fooling ourselves or look like suffering from a syndrome if we look for a Frederick Forsyth type of conspiracy here. Yes, the source of all terrorism is from the games played by the US and the USSR during the cold war... but we have to find a way out of this explanations.. well, i am not too obsesessed with explaining the blasts now... The effect of them on human lives... life is not the same for those 200 families that lost someone ... Remember what Gandhi had to say after Chauri Chaura.

Abdus, yes. War against terror. It leads me to my guru... Russel and his formulation of Good War and Bad War and the need for a War against War...

Well, who decides on what is good and what is bad???

And I am sure Vibha will join this debate ...

9:26 PM  
Blogger Vibha said...

am joining in...
and the point that brings me in is the whole "good war" "bad war" distinction.
i hitnk abdus makes a valid point when he says that we need to respect the sanctity of human life...which then illegitimises the use of violence in solving any issue.
the means to achiving an end should be as important as the end itself.
i remember this line from the film "hazaaron khwaishein aisi" where, the film's protagonist who later becomes a naxalite says, "violence of the opressors is wrong, but violence of the oppressed is right" to which his father replies, "who lets you decide that?"

but i think in order to set up this kind of a framework where violence is illegitmised, the state needs to take the initiative in recognising the legitimacy of non violent movements which in many a case have turned violent only because of state repression. i believe that it is an apathetic response to greivances that triggers off violent responses. in most of the cases violence is the last resort.

and to take it further...i see violence (even if it may not be explicitly seen as violent) even in the way we are developing as a nation. the technology we pursue results in large scale displacement and creates more disparities than opportunity for growth. and hence i see the relevance of gandhian economics even in this context.

2:34 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Think we are getting stuc somewhere.. about violence. Can we see a distinction in violence against the state (and its instruments) and such violence as it occured in Bombay then...
And as for Vibha's point about the apathetic state, I am reminded on Tilak's article in Kesri (in 1908) for which he was prosecuted and deported to Burma under Section 124-A of the IPC... and reember.. this is law even now. To say that the apathetic state provokes violent actions... And Abdus, can there be violence without colateral damage and can that be ok???

2:55 AM  
Anonymous Cheri said...

Agreed, violence in any form is heinous, and must be condemned as such. Nevertheless, an unqualified look at violence ends up in legitimising the monopoly of the state on violence, and looks at State violence upon its citizens, or citizens of other nations, as the State’s duty to maintain ‘law and order’, or ‘sovereignty.’

And therefore, tackling ‘terrorism’ alone is not enough – as Abdus rightly noted, unless we redefine the ‘rules’ of conflict, we cannot hope to see an end to violence by non-State actors. In Lebanon, can we condemn the Hizbullah, without condemning Israeli attacks on civilian Beirut? In Kashmir, can we condemn the mujahideen, without equally being critical of the army’s record?

It is a tough call, to distinguish between ‘good’ violence and ‘bad’ violence - who decides on the good and the bad? Nevertheless, in extreme situations, violence should be to guard the democratic movement against the state. It must not admit an exclusionist agenda, or one that defines the ‘nation’ in feudal terms.

The tragedy is that the challenge to the State comes from formations based on the ethene - communities imagined or real, which have existed 'forever.' And, the history of the ethene, constructed or real, is an elitist history - the history of the feudal lords and the priests, rather than the history of the people. The ordering of the present, which is the project of history, is to perpetuate feudal privileges, not to ensure the liberation of the people.

For the nationalist who is progressive, what are the options? The nation, in the elitist scheme of things, has been reduced to two options - a neglected/ravaged province, or a feudal/theocratic territory.

But if we agree that, given the repressive nature of the State, violence may be inevitable, we must also admit that violence is not enough. In Nepal, for instance, years of the Maoist movement achieved an entrenched status for the Maoists. Only when they joined forces with the parliamentary parties did they get a chance to transform the State.

11:33 PM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

I think Cheri has led Abdus into a position which I had taken until a few years ago. And that we cannot condemn violence as such, which is also the same as condoning violence in specific contexts. And let me qualify, condoning is different from celebrating violence. I suppose none of us here are celebrating violence.

Now, is this not a trap? That I will condone a set of violent acts while some others condone a different set of acts?

And let history to decide as to whose violence was good and whose was bad.

And Vibha, u think Gandhi can be reduced to some sterile non-violent gospel??? To me, Gandhi symbolises the inevitability of resistance and the idea that resistance is a moral duty...
Hmmmmmmmmmm... am getting lost

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a long piece and then deleted it worried that I was writing rubbish...It is obvious that a debate on violence/war is always going to wander down the line Cheri pointed out. While the question of what constitutes morally acceptable violent action is debatable, I personally believe that killing civilians (intentional/collateral/whatever/whenever) under any circumstance must be condemned. Its a simple step but if the world were to agree on this I really do think it would reduce terrorism in a big way.


6:23 AM  
Anonymous Cheri said...

None of us are celebrating violence, but as Vibha noted, not all forms of violence come armed with RDX. Cutting off a person’s right to livelihood is almost as cruel as ending his or her life. Without recognizing these silent acts of violence, we cannot develop a critique of violence at all.

Looking at it from this perspective, development is, at some level, violence; and all of us who benefit at the cost of someone else, not only support violence, but also are responsible for it.

Yes, in the final call, the justification (or its lack) of violence comes from one’s ideological convictions. It may be biased, but the alternative is a relativist position where all and none are equally (un)acceptable.

I agree completely that the killing of people, by state or non-state actors, is unpardonable. Nevertheless, as long as democratic protest remains muzzled or unheard, and so long as subtle forms of violence continue, we must walk the thin line, and bear the guilt of condoning murders.

7:42 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Well, we are back to where we began... and cheri, by not condemoning violence and condoning some of it as long as it represents an ideology that i think is right, are we not closing the scope for a debate based on a long view of history?

I mean, do you think violent means to resolve a conflict have led society into ending conflicts... i mean, is it not true that conflicts that were resolved by violent means have given rise to another set of conflicts???

I am not suggesting that conflicts have been resolved successfully by non-violent means either....

11:40 AM  

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