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Is violence ever justified.pdf

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  1 ISVIOLENCEEVERJUSTIFIED?  When I first became faced with the preposition: “Is violence ever justified?” it instinctively gave me the impression as if someonehad asked me, “Is the birth of a baby possible without the mothersuffering labour pains.” But in the present case, let us not takeanything for granted and look into the matter leaving allpossibilities open. Nature is too elusive for our puny minds to jump to any conclusions. Apparently it seems that seldom a big change or Revolutionhas ever taken place without first some kind of force or violencepreceding it. Not only that, the violence is often accompanied with large-scale murders and bloodshed.Change or flux, they say, is the rule of life, and whenever change becomes due either due to the rottenness of the existing order,or when the existing order has failed to respond to the aspirationsof the people then necessity to change the existing order starts brewing in the public minds. It gradually gathers momentumuntil the opposition grows stronger after initially meeting strongresistance from the state. Often a tug of war follows between thestate and the opposition for months and years until the opposingforces succeed in throwing away the yoke of the existing order.Over the course of civilization, there have been several incidents which have forever altered human history where ordinary peoplecame together to bring down oppressive regimes. This is thenormal complexion of revolutions everywhere, and is true aboutall the great revolutions. The American Revolution was againstthe British colonialism; the French Revolution replaced a corruptmonarchy by putting a democratic order; with the ChineseRevolution, People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong broughtan end to the decades old internal turmoil; the Iranian Revolutionoverthrew the US-backed Pahlavi dynasty and replaced it with anIslamic state led by Ayatollah Khomeini which in turn inspiredmany other similar movements including the anti-apartheidmovement in South Africa; and Revolutions of 1848 in Europeinvolved several countries causing an end of the feudal systemand installing democracy in their place etc.One way to look at all of this violence is to blame human nature.People are naturally violent, and it is the bare truth and that’s why we live in such a violent world.  2  Violence is always a means to some end, not an end unto itself. Toreally explain the violent nature of the world, we must understandthe conditions that produce violence, and the ends toward whichmuch of the violence in the world is consciously organized.Nearly always it is the state which is responsible for creatingconditions conducive to violence which has an invincible physicalforce in the form of army, Police and other para-military forcesto suppress or crush violence or opposition to its policies. Andinvariably wise governments which detect the real cause of thetrouble try to appease the opposition by changing its policies or by making concessions in their favour. In case it sees that thedemands of the opposition are flimsy and hold no ground or thatthat the opposition is not strong enough to muster enough publicsupport to prove a real threat, it successfully curbs it through itssheer physical force.But there have been occasions in history when movements forchange have approached the strategy and tactics of nonviolence.Beside many such small nonviolent movements, there are twoglaring examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr who successfully employed nonviolent means to attain their socialand political ends. Of the two, Martin Luther King had fought forthe Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation anddiscrimination in America during the 1950s and 1960s and wasfairly successful in his mission till he was shot dead in the primeof his life. Mr. Gandhi also met the same fate in his old age. Butinitially Gandhi supported armed struggle against the British army,then again called for suppression by force of the Kashmiri’s fightof self determination. It was only later in life that he resorted to Ahimsa, a movement for nonviolent civil disobedience when hefound no other way of fighting a constitutional battle against theBritish.Gandhi unfortunately became a target of criticism for the efficacy of his movement both by his contemporaries and later by otherthinkers. It was not primarily Gandhi’s movement which ultimately compelled the British to leave India, but it was due to thegeo-political realities emerging after WW2 that forced the Britishto leave India. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize winning author,has accused Mahatma Gandhi for basing his doctrine of nonviolence on the acceptance of a most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system. He is castigated for racialdiscrimination even by B.R. Ambedkar, the father of Indianconstitution.  3 The world has reached a stage when the small violators are only highlighted while the violators who perpetrate violence on a grandscale remain hidden. Martin Luther King Jr. described the U.S.government as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the worldtoday.” He was talking about war in Vietnam where Americanmilitary forces killed over 3 million Vietnamese people.Forty years later, tragically, the statement is still true. The U.S. war on Iraq in 2002 caused over 1 million more deathsin Iraqthan the casualties of the preceding decade. All this was done by the American leaders for the specific purpose of controlling thelargest supply of oil in the world. What of the violence that is not organized by the state? Whatabout domestic abuse? What about armed robbery? Surely thestate is not to blame for those? Actually, states have long been endorsers and promoters of  violence against women. Ancient Roman law held women andchildren to be a man’s property, holding the power of life anddeath over their heads. In the Middle Ages, men were encouragedto beat their wives to control them.It wasn’t until 1911 that mostU.S. states outlawed wife beating. Thus, the state for severalthousand years, has officially sanctioned, condoned and endorseddomestic violence.But can we truly condemn all violence? What about the right of self-defense? It was the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky whofor the first time raised the question: “Is the violence of the slavethe same as the violence of the slave-master?”:The ruling class would have us believe that the violence of the state through police,or the military is “heroic,” but that the violence of the poor or theoppressed is “terrorism.” Malcolm X( American Muslim ministerand human activist ) eloquently challenged this hypocrisy. “If  violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong everywhere inthe world.” In 1917, the workers of Russia would never have been able to take power if Russian soldiers had not refused theirorders to repress that revolution. The soldiers, in fact, joined therevolution.Actually, the First World War ended because of therevolutionary wave that swept Europe–soldiers from all sides who were sick of war rose up against their real enemies at home.Fifty  years later, the disintegration of the American armed forcesduring the Vietnam War also showed the same trend.
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