Not letting social differences be resolved through violence

How to differ without being disrespectful and violent in civic life?

There has been a great disquiet in the country because of increasing instances of violence against innocents just because one wants to express one’s dissatisfaction and disaffection towards certain viewpoints. In a democratic setup, difference of views is inevitable. In fact, democracy thrives on the diversity of viewpoints. However, these differences, have to be resolved in a peaceful, non-violent and mutually respectful manner. We should not forget the decision of Gandhiji to condemn the violence of Chauri chaura during the freedom struggle. Freedom tainted with blood wass not worth having. Can we say unequivocally that freedom and democracy with violence against the contrarian view will not be legitimize by the state, civil society and all other public and private institutions.

Among various pedagogies of protest, Gandhiji had given a wide variety of new pedagogies. While opposing the import of foreign made clothes jeopardizing the lives of weavers in India, he gave a call for ‘Buy and Burn’ the imported clothes to save the domestic industry. He did not say loot and burn. If somebody wants to protest and therefore, let him buy a bus and burn it (which is a tragic loss of property) but it is still it is his personal choice. Burning a public property, hurting children or other innocent bystandards cannot be justified by any standards of morality. The State has to play an unambiguous role in such matters. The police cannot be asked to let hooligans have a free run. In 1984, the state remained a mute spectator when thousands of people were burnt alive. And after that India has witnessed more and more violent expression of protest on various occasion- be it against Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits or in many cases women. A violent mindset always seeks a weak victim. It is not surprising that the primary nursery of this violent mindset is the home where many men use their might against the women disregarding any provocation. Now, the violence has begun to be exercised against children publically. This is the limit.

Silence by all right thinking people at this moment will only embolden the perpetrators of violence. But what can we all do to transform Indian mindset which to a very large extent is still very tolerant and appreciative of the right to differ without being disrespectful. Honourable President, Shri Ramnath Kovind ji, very appropriately advised the nation on the eve of Republic Day to not let differences dissolve the morale and civic boundaries of behavior. He reminded that Indian culture encourages bhaichara at all costs.

Perhaps, at the Republic Day honors next year, the driver of the bus who saved the innocent children will be honoured. May be many more such people at different levels of the society who have shown great courage and conviction in saving the innocents and thwarted the effort of hooligans to take law into their hand will also be honored. Violence in Kerala, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, or Maharashtra or any other state including Jammu and Kashmir cannot be tolerated. We cannot have two standards for condemning violence. I keep quiet when people who are opposed to my ideology get killed, and I protest when it suits me. We will all have to take a composite view and ensure that national idiom for resolving conflicts will have to be constructive and collaborative.

A valuable example of such an approach was recently showcased on the outskirts of Delhi. In a garbage dumping site where tons of waste decomposes and affects the health of the sanitation workers everyday became a site of constructive protest. These workers with the help of an NGO invited a senior engineer dealing with the subject from Delhi Govt to unfurl the national flag on 26th January, this year on the top of this dump. The senior engineer joined the function and promised all the help in improving working conditions. For every one example where India has witnessed violence against the weak and innocent, there are hundreds of more examples where people have maintained peace and allowed differences to be tolerated if not resolved. Media has to play very constructive role in highlighting the positive instances of differences not leading to disrespect or disharmony. The younger generation has to recognize that violence against weak or children is not divisible. Sooner or later, it will hurt us all.


professor, iim ahmedabad and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place ,

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