What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence

What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence Since times immemorial political violence has attracted our attention for more than one reason. Often it has multiple forms, perpetrators, victims and purposes. The category of political violence include state and non-state actors; it may originate from internal or external sponsors; take forms that range from terrorism and guerilla warfare to sectarian violence, police actions, riots and assassinations.

What is state violence ?

From Robespierre’s ‘reign of terror,’ to the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood’s motto of ‘revolution sooner or later,’ ‘violence has often been used to generate publicity for a cause, besides attempting to inform, educate and rally masses “behind revolution”. What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence The 1880s, 1890s, the 1900s till the First World War saw an outright call for ‘propaganda by deed’, as a legible weapon to topple an established disorder.

The 1930s, however, witnessed a phenomenal change in protracted terrorist campaigns against governments. It was now used less to refer to revolutionary movements and violence directed against governments and their leaders and more to describe the practices of mass repression employed by totalitarian states and their dictatorial leaders against their own citizens—Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, to name a few. While Europe wreathed under state-imposed violence against its own citizens, Asia experienced violent outcry for revolt, heralded by various indigenous/anti-colonist groups to oppose continued repression from colonial rule.

 The appellation of ‘freedom fighters’ instead of ‘terrorists’, came into fashion at this time. This position was best explained by PLO chairman, Yasir Arafat when he said: “The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorists lies in the reason for which each fights. For whoever stands by a just cause and fights for the freedom and liberation of his land from the invaders, the settlers and colonists, cannot possibly be called terrorists.” What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence.

What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence

What are the types and theories of state violence

Theory on Greed and Grievances: Though Aristotle once said, ‘poverty is the parent of revolution and crime,’ globalisation theorists of the present decade have underpinned personal greed and grievances as the major cause of armed conflict.

According to them, globalisation represents two processes in greed theories. It brings changes in the state— particularly the erosion of state authority and public goods—which can make societies vulnerable to conflict; the other fostered by increased opportunities from transborder trade, both legal and illegal. As a result, “many civil wars are caused and fuelled not by poverty but by ‘resource curse.’ Data from Southeast Asia, distinctly show that, even those conflicts that has been categorised as “separatist,” “communal”, “ethnic” or “ideological,” do have a clear element of ‘greed’ in them. The exploitation of mining opportunities in the Philippines has come into conflict with indigenous land rights and competition over resources, while ongoing violence in Papua, Sulawesi and Malaku in Indonesia, is not just religious or ethnic in character, but a tiff for land and resources exacerbated by environmental degradation. What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence.

At the same time the greed theories do not talk about the greed of multinational corporations and the greed of the global elite that basis its profits on the extraction of resources from already poor countries. Instead they focus on the ‘resource curse’ as if just having a resource in a poor country is a curse itself rather than systemic poverty, colonialism and its forms being the curse.

Grievance Theory : Besides, economic and greed factors, a competing set of theorists, see political grievances as one of the most important source of violent conflicts. According to them armed conflicts in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, among others, cannot be understood without reference to political grievances. Edward Azar, for instance, has argued that civil wars generally arise out of communal groups’ collective struggle “for such basic needs as security, recognition and acceptance, fair access to political institutions and economic participation.

Other analysts have found political factors arising from weak state capacity to the denial of human needs, as central to many contemporary conflicts, in conjunction with economic motives. What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence, Such theorists suggest that sustainable peace requires addressing underlying grievances through direct engagement with the state.

However rather than just grievances, the root cause of the grievance which is often the denial of human rights should be analysed as the reason for conflicts.



In South Asia, the post-colonial state appears to be especially vulnerable to crisis and internal conflicts often related to the vagaries of their colonial legacy; arbitrary territorial borders; insecure ethnic, religious or national minorities; and post-independence nationalist and sub nationalist movements that deepen rather than transcend divisions.

A unique argument here centres on the Weberian assumption that the state monopolises the legitimate use of violence- however such legitimacy maybe understood. Violence in other words becomes a form of politics by other means.

What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence

According to Varun Sahni and Tharu, in South Asia, no matter how we define or classify subversive or secessionist groups, the state responds in a similar manner to all of them; in most cases it calls in the military. Faced with a perceived threat to its sovereignty, the state knows only how to respond with force. Only when the military strength of the insurgent group is defeated or considerably weakened does the state begin to negotiate or consider non-violent approaches.

The small number of cases of armed insurgencies that ended with negotiated settlement before military defeat—the Mizos, Gorkhas, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, are testament to this argument. The authors weigh in the variation in the quantum of force used by the state and conclude that in dealing with violent insurgencies, while both democratic and non-democratic governments respond with force, and all cases of successful negotiated settlement have involved democratic governments. Democratic states are more likely to “end the cycle of violence,” Sahni and Tharu argue, but at the same time democratic states also use the force they posses.

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Pure ‘law and order’ solutions to ethnic and minority problems has gone hand-in-hand with ‘ large concessions’ in the form of liberal aids and quotas for the educated youths in North-East. Still, the Indian state seems to have found no ways of resolving these insurgencies or even withdrawing measures like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Unless and until it strives for holistic systemic change from the core, ‘the carrot and stick’ policy will just keep on adding to its already insurmountable problems. India’s other big ‘northern conundrum,’ the Kashmir conflict looks almost impossibly intractable.

To the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, whose fundamental allegiance lies with India, the only legitimate unit of governance is India—including Kashmir. To the citizens whose basic identity is with Pakistan, the only legitimate unit of governance is Pakistan—including Kashmir. To the citizens fundamentally committed to the achievement of an independent Kashmir, the only legitimate unit of governance is yet a phantom state of Jammu and Kashmir fully independent of both India and Pakistan.

India will have to work out a negotiated settlement for a resolution to the Kashmir problem within a creative framework of competing nationalist claims by looking at the past history and methods of its federal framework.

Got the answer What is state violence ? What are the types and theories of state violence

Q1. What do you understand by state violence? What are the types and theories of state violence?

Q2. Analyse the situation of state violence in South Asia.

Q3. Discuss the extent of state violence in India.


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