A THREE-ARTICLE SERIES ON VIOLENCE IN MANIPUR (Mid 2012)

The three articles have been sourced from the Imphal Free Press




Where the 
Mind is Afraid

By M C Arun, Published on 2 Aug

Manipur is full of tensions, uncertainty, meaningless engagements in social lives due to social pressures and news of violence. The violence ranges from rape and murder to hit and run road accidents. Even the poor newspaper hawkers are not spared in such violence. The State is experiencing various types of pains and sufferings due to conditions which are beyond one’s control, visible acts of corruption, relative poverty and unplanned planning processes of infrastructures that disturb public lives. The people of Manipur also suffer a collective trauma leading to a blind race for civil service examinations both at the state and national level. The choice is defined by the probable capacity of earnings (plus extra-money) of the service. Heavy investment on private tuitions sans motivation just for reaching the gateway to high earning jobs has become a fashion. Due to these investments, the new generation is full of tension. And there is a increase in tension between parental ‘aspirations’ and children’s achievements. The new generation is living with the fear of failure. They are taught that failure means death – no meaningful lives.

Another facet of Manipuri fear is the fear of being attacked. This fear is day by day becoming more complex. Certain professions are more vulnerable to such attacks for one reason or another. There is always a chance of being attacked if a family has a member holding a lucrative post (for example, an engineer or a top ranking official). They are known for their luxurious and comforting lives; yet as a professional hazard there is a high risk of being attacked. This fear spreads over the neighborhood and the leikais. This ‘neighborhood’ fear is, now and then, manifested on protest festoons reading: STOP GUN CULTURE, Don’t throw bombs amidst people, WE WANT PEACE. The fear is of a threat generated by living close to some ‘high risk’ persons. Yet, they are powerless. The mushroom growth of JACs for every event shows fragmentation of state level bodies or their helplessness or even their fear of moving forward. The JAC looks for the immediate solutions. These bodies do not look at the larger picture but are concerned with only the immediate events. Symptomatic treatment is considered as the best solution these days.

Such powerlessness is again seen when their live lines are blocked for certain political demands which is beyond their control. They even cannot utter a word for certain historical reasons or fear of being treated ill by the State forces. Where the mind is with a constant fear, the difficulty is that the object of fear is beyond one’s capacity or ability. The environment, out of which the fear arises, cannot be moved by the individuals themselves. This may be the reason why the people of Manipur nowadays look for an escape route instead of fighting the historical condition or social environments that keep them in such a constant fear. The pains and sufferings due to the great economic blockade that broke all the world records of siege was faced by the people without much complaint in the long queue in front of oil pumps or LGP (black market) shops. However, their fear was rationalized in the name of tolerance. They could not demand strongly the Highway Protection Force. Strong voice is not encouraged by the State, on the other hand. The people, thus, cannot move in any direction.

This state of affairs gives pressure on the mind – both at the individual and collective level. All sorts of mental disorders are therefore reported among the populations of this small State. The high rates of anxiety disorder, bipolar and post traumatic stress disorders are highly speculated. A large scale study is really needed to ascertain the dynamics and quantum of the problem. This is true that the need of larger mental health service is required to handle the growing pressures on the minds (individual and collective). On the other hand, the social environment which produces problems such as crimes, drug abuse, and domestic violence as well as mental health problems should be improved. However, another pressure on people’s mind is that who will initiate towards the solution of such environmental problems. They are far from the means of resolving the problems. The problem is that the people cannot identify the savior.

Can any section of the population in Manipur provide a hope or plant a dream to the people? Are any of the NGOs or government agencies or intellectuals or even the bodies outside the State system applying their mind on such a dream? Who will stop the blind race towards the ‘profit’-motivated professions? Who will ask the parents to examine their children’s aspirations before any investment? We are yet to see anyone on the horizon for such atask. This is the tragic part of Manipuri lives. Forget about the light, the people have lost the tunnel even to look through.


Understanding Violence 
Triangle and Structural Violence

By Rajkumar Bobichand, Published on 31 July

We understand that Violence is any physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural or spiritual behaviour, attitude, policy or condition that diminishes, dominates or destroys others and ourselves. Violence is one of the possible responses to specific conflict situations. This does not imply that violence is unavoidable. Violence is not inevitable and it must not be confused with conflict.

In other words, Violence consists of actions, words, attitudes, structures or systems that cause physical, psychological, social or environmental damage and/or prevent people from reaching their full human potential (Fisher et al. 2000). Violence can be deeply structured into the system of relationships, within socio-economic and political arrangements, and even in the culture of a society and of a global system. Therefore, systemic violence can in turn be a root causes of conflict, as well a behavioural response to a specific conflict situation.

Johan Galtung (1969), made a clear distinction between Structural Violence, Cultural Violence and Direct Violence. These ideas are connected to his distinction depending on how it operates between three inter-related forms of violence (Structural-Cultural-Direct) where Structural Violence is at the left end and Cultural Violence is at the right end of the base of a Triangle invisibly while Direct violence is on the vertex visibly.

According to Galtung’s Violence Triangle (1969), Cultural and Structural Violence cause Direct Violence. Direct Violence reinforces Structural and Cultural violence. Direct Violence, Physical and/or verbal, is visible as behaviour in the triangle. However, this action does not come out of nowhere; its roots are cultural and structural.

Direct violence can take many forms. In its classic form, it involves the use of physical force, like killing or torture, rape and sexual assault, and beatings. Further, we understand that verbal violence, like humiliation or put downs, is also becoming more widely recognised as violence. Johan Galtung, further, describes direct violence as the “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or life which makes it impossible or difficult for people to meet their needs or achieve their full potential. Threat to use force is also recognised as violence.”

Cultural violence is the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that we have been taught since childhood and that surround us in daily life about the power and necessity of violence. We can consider the example of telling of history which glorifies records and reports wars and military victories rather than people’s nonviolent agitation, movements, rebellions or the triumphs of connections and collaborations. Almost all cultures recognise that killing a person is murder, but killing tens, hundreds or thousands during a declared conflict is called ‘war’ or killing of innocent people by the security forces are often declared as caught in the crossfire.

Structural violence exists when some groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc are assumed to have, and in fact do have, more access to goods, resources, and opportunities than other groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc, and this unequal advantage is built into the very social, political and economic systems that govern societies, states and the world. These tendencies may be overt such as Aparthied or more subtle such as traditions or tendency to award some groups privileges over another. Constitutional privileges of Job reservations and financial supports in the name of the welfare of the “tribes or backwards” and non-uniform land law, which bans one group to own landed property in their own land while other groups are free to own landed property wherever they want are also examples of structural violence.

Theories of structural violence explore how political, economic and cultural structures result in the occurrence of avoidable violence, most commonly seen as the deprivation of basic human needs (will be discussed later). Structural theorists attempt to link personal suffering with political, social and cultural choices. Johan Galtung’s original definition included a lack of human agency; that is the violence is not a direct act of any decision or action made by a particular person but a result of an unequal distribution of resources.

Here, we must also understand “institutional violence”. “Institutional violence” is often mistaken for structural violence, but this is not the case. “Institutional violence” should be used to refer to violence perpetrated by institutions like companies, universities, corporations, organisations as opposed to individuals. The fact that women are paid less at an establishment than men is an act of direct violence by that specific establishment. It is true that there is a relationship with structural violence as there is between interpersonal violence and structural violence. And Structural violence is the most problematic area to be addressed for conflict transformation.

Understanding Conflict 
Dynamics and Violence

By Rajkumar Bobichand, Published on 24 July

We know that conflict is a relationship between two or more parties (individuals or groups) who have, or think they have, incompatible goals. Conflict is inevitable and part of life. It is fundamental to social change. Conflict must be constructively and creative used.

Accordingly, there is No Conflict in the relation of two or more parties of individuals or groups if their goals and behaviour are compatible. A common perception is that No Conflict is preferable. If this is the situation of a society, the society will not be lively and dynamic. Surely, the society must be a stagnant one, which no one wants. Without conflict, there cannot be change, development and progress in the society. Only when the conflicts of behaviour and goals are incorporated and creatively addressed, a group or society will endure.

When two or more parties of individuals or groups have compatible goals but incompatible behaviours, there is Surface Conflict. It has swallow or not roots and may be only a misunderstanding of goals. The misunderstanding of the goals can be addressed by means of improved communications and the conscious effort of opposing groups to understand each other’s needs and opinions.

Although the goals of two or more parties of individuals or groups are incompatible but they have the same compatible but non-violent behaviour, they have Latent Conflict. In this situation, the individuals or parties do not want to express their feelings outwardly due to some reasons. Most probably both the parties do not want confrontations or may not want to be enemies, or are too weak to express their feelings or rights or they may be subjugated by the power that rules over them or may be due to other reasons which cannot be easily identified. Latent Conflict is below the surface and it cannot be visible easily. The conflict may need to be brought into the open and intensified before it can be effectively addressed. If the conflict was not brought out into open and suppressed, it may wrongly be addressed and the conflict will recur more dangerously.

When the goals and behaviours of the two or more parties of individuals or groups are incompatible, there is an Open Conflict. It is both deep-rooted and very visible. It may be rooted over several generations. Open conflict can cause more physical, social, psychological and environmental damage than the other types. It affects people who are not directly involved in the conflict as well as those who are.

Each conflict is embedded in a wider system of relationships and structures – including those in the global system – that together form the wider context of the conflict. Sometimes the conditions that create conflict are directly linked to this wider context, yet the conflict is not openly expressed in conflict behaviour. All the parties either are not aware of them or are not pursuing an overt strategy to achieve their goals. Latent conflict typically exists when there is systematic inequality and injustice. A triggering event can occur that brings the conflict to the surface – sometimes through outbursts of violence.

We can take the analogy of an iceberg to have a better understanding of the structure of conflict dynamics. Only violent and open conflicts are visible as we can see just tip of the iceberg above the surface of the water. We cannot see the Latent Conflict beneath the surface as we cannot see the parts of the iceberg beneath the surface of the water.

Manifest Violent/Open conflicts are Warfare, Riots, Torture, Rape, Terror, Oppression, Abuse and Family violence etc. Examples of Latent Conflicts beneath the surface on one side – Attitude, Values and Feelings – are Hatred, Dehumanisation, Fear, Mistrust and Intolerance. Examples of Latent Conflicts beneath the surface of on another side – Context, Systems and Structures – are Systems of power based on Inequities (e.g., Racism, Sexism, Exclusionary nationalism; Denial of rights and liberties; Structural violence.

Conflict often emerges in situations where the power relationship between the main parties is unequal. Conflicts that occur both because of power imbalances are often called ‘Asymmetric’ Conflicts in contrast to a ‘symmetrical’ conflict situation where the parties are seen as roughly equal in their access to power and other resources, and attach similar levels of importance to the conflict situation.

Conflict is dynamic and it has its own life cycle, almost like something organic. It appears, reaches an emotional, even violent climax, then tapers off, disappears – and often reappears. Johan Galtung describes the life-cycle of a conflict into three phases, before violence, during violence and after violence, separated by outbreak and ceasefire.

The logic is that – individuals and groups (such as Nations and States) have goals. Goals may be incompatible, exclude each other, like two states wanting the same land, or tow nations wanting the same state. When goals are incompatible a Contradiction, an issue, is born. Any actor/party with unrealized goals feels frustrated and more so the more basic the goal, like basic needs and basic interests (which will be discussed later). Frustration may lead to aggression, turning inward as attitudes of hatred, or outward as behaviour of verbal or physical violence. Hatred and violence may be directed toward the holders of the goals standing in the way, but it is not always that “rational”. Violence is intended to harm and hurt (including oneself), and may breed a spiral of counter-violence as defense and /or revenge.

Violence consists of actions, words, attitudes, structures or systems that cause physical, psychological, social or environmental damage and/or prevent people from reaching their full human potential (Fisher et al. 2000). Violence can be deeply structured into the system of relationships, within socio-economic and political arrangements, and even in the culture of a society and of a global system. Therefore, systemic violence can in turn be a root causes of conflict, as well a behavioural response to a specific conflict situation.

Johan Galtung (1969), a former Norwegian mathematician and one of the founding figures in the academic discipline of peace studies, made a clear distinction between Direct Violence, Structural Violence and Cultural Violence. These ideas are connected to his distinction depending on how it operates between three inter-related forms of violence (Direct-Structural-Cultural).

Galtung established the relationship among these three inter-related forms of violence: direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence. Direct violence is due to the conditions created by structural and cultural violence. Direct violence is often used in order to maintain a system characterised by structural violence. Cultural violence legitimises both structural and direct violence. It is therefore a crucial factor in generating and reproducing both. This implies the need to end direct violence by changing conflict behaviours, to end structural violence by addressing systems of injustice, and to end cultural violence by changing attitudes and the institutions that reproduce them. Processes aimed at conflict transformation recognise the significance of these related forms of violence and seek to change all of them to generate positive peace (which will be discussed later).

Violence is misunderstood by many people including public leaders and opinion makers, as conflict. But Violence is one of the possible responses to specific conflict situations. This does not imply that violence is unavoidable. Violence is not inevitable and it must not be confused with conflict.



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