Conceptualizing Domestic Violence in the Context of Kashmir

Conceptualizing Domestic Violence in the Context of Kashmir

Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat

One of the colonial legacies of Kashmir is that social reality prevailing in society is conceptualized and explained through Western concepts, theories and methods without understanding the context. The wholesale academic borrowing rather copy paste not hampers the very conceptualization of social phenomenon but leads to distortion of social reality. Kashmir has its own history, culture and structure. The gender issues of Kashmir society are different than that of West and even dissimilar from the rest of India. The three decades long armed conflict has changed the nature of violence against women in Kashmir. Every new day news papers in Kashmir narrate fresh cases of violence against women”. Forget about the violence at work place, it was reported that the only Women’s police station of valley come across 50 to 60 complaints against domestic violence a day.
According to Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Women, during hartals (strikes/unrest) there is surge in domestic violence against women. The issue necessitates immediate administrative and academic attention and intervention. However, the adversity is that former is in slumber and the latter colour social reality with copy paste. The reasons identified by Western scholars and scholars from outside valley are applied in a context which is historically, culturally, politically and socially altogether. The economic independence and powerlessness of women as believed the root cause of violence against women are pasted to understand domestic violence here. However, a sociological examination in our context suggests there is something beyond powerlessness and economic dependence. In addition the empirical data reveals that even economically independent women are not secure from domestic violence. Women in developed countries like USA, UK, Japan, France, where women are “free”, “independent” and economically and materially invulnerable too experience domestic violence in addition to violence at work place.
It is argued that powerlessness of women make them prone to domestic violence; in other words, the possession of power by men is cause of violence. However, according, to German- born American political theorist Hannah” Arendt, power and violence are two different things where one is present other is absent. In our context, Arendt is handy to conceptualize and interpret violence against women. By applying Derridain methodology of deconstruction on the premises of Hannah Arendt, she seems prophetic. But there are certain complexities in understanding it especially when it appears that violence across the globe is perpetuated by powerful and violence is monopoly of powerful be it American aggression to Muslim countries, police atrocities to farmers and Dalits in India and brutalities of “security forces” on protesters in Kashmir.
Before explaining let us imagine a situation, you are all alone walking down to a street and you come across a dog sticking its tongue out, eyes wide open pointed at you. Without wasting a movement you pick stones and throw at it. The dog runs but still you don’t move and took a stick to pass the street. Do you know why you threw stones and picked stick? Is it only because you were scared i.e. powerlessness? Parents do not scold children unless they fail to convince them with love. Once parents become or feel powerless they resort to violence no matter it is physical, psychological, and emotional. In the same fashion, many a times, a husband (male) resorts to violence when he feels powerlessness. Once he feels that his wife, daughter violates or ignores his directions and dictation, he resorts to violence. A number of persons disclosed that they were annoyed and resorted to violence when they heard that someone in family or outside call them “Zanie Sues or Zanaan mohniv” (hen pecked husband).
Emile Durkheim, a noted sociologist in his classical work , “Suicide” reflected that suicide can be negative and positive as well determined by two ‘social facts’: integration and regulation. Integration is attachment of an individual with a social group and regulation means the degree to which an individual is regulated in society. The insufficient or excessive degree of integration or regulation is main cause of suicide, according to Durkheim. In our context sometimes insufficient or excessive intimacy leads to domestic violence especially during hartals. The family structure of our society is still dominated by joint family system where you reside with many family members and regulations are excessive that often leads to domestic violence. An individual especially women is supposed to remain present before elders. The closed door sitting with husband are discouraged and often resisted by employing different methods. During strikes the movement of people is confined to home, a husband’s romantic mood, desire to spend some movements alone and wife’s denial due to social values and norms breeds’ domestic violence.
The Hindu movie song “ Tumai koi aur dekhay to jalta hoon maen” ( I feel jealous when anyone even look at you) reflects extreme intimacy and sometimes leads to violence. Observations and interactions reveal that sometimes a woman is tortured for just talking to someone, and many times this is because of excessive intimacy. Moreover, in our context we have a different issue with unmarried, old, issue less women, widows and half widows but we paint everything with one brush and apply borrowed concepts theories and methods without understanding the context.

—The author is a faculty member at the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir. He can be reached at:


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