Children are innocent in the Blakean term. They know no differentiation of gender, have no idea of stereotypical roles that the society later on proposes them to take up in accordance with the prevailing patriarchal norms, understand only the nature of love but unconsciously grasp the shades of violence inherent in day to day behaviour and talk of their elders. When they grow up, with these subconscious pools of violence, the adolescents show traces and fierce outbursts of violence in their behaviour not knowing that these tendencies have been inculcated in them from the very bud. The present paper tries to explore how far have we succeeded in inoculating the germ of violence in innocent and succulent minds and will go on to the extent of exploring the works produced in literature to find out if these conceal such tendencies.
Let me narrate you all a story. Once upon time a time there lived a beautiful princess, delicate as a flower, sweet as honey, bright like moon light and tender as a butterfly. She loved dancing and enjoyed herself a lot. But a demon kidnapped her and kept her captive in a magical castle situated somewhere in a lonely island in the midst of a vast sea. She could not escape anyhow but waited regularly with tears in her eyes for the prince charming who would ultimately rescue her.
Childish and fairy like but very routine story it may seem but it hides the clues as to how children have been prepared for ages for domestic violence or violence against women. The preceding story clearly indicates that women are weak and fragile though exceedingly charming. They can be kept captive in boundary walls and are unable to rescue themselves. The story definitely has the undertone that the demon (of a different gender) must have captured her to enjoy her physical charm and only another male could save her honour.
Wikipedia defines that ‘Domestic violence or domestic abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse and intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of behaviour which involves the abuse by one partner against the other in an intimate relationship’. It may be in the form of physical aggression, controlling, stalking, passive abuse (neglect) or economic deprivation. It includes endangerment, kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment. It also includes false accusations, statements made to lower the self esteem of the other and use of expletives. The princess is in cohabitation with the demon for a long time and is repeatedly threatened for adverse effects if she refuses to marry him.
The protection of women from domestic violence act, 2005 in the gazette of India extraordinary states that the aggrieved person is a woman in a domestic relationship with the respondent. The conduct constitutes violence in case it harms/ injures / endangers the health, safety, well-being whether mental or physical through physical/sexual/verbal/emotional or economic abuse. These emotional and economic abuses are a part and parcel of Indian society and are often voiced in popular folk songs. We hear of such abusive language in boliyan – where a daughter in-law retaliates for abusive behaviour of elders through giddha and indirectly abuses them for maltreatment. To quote an instance:
ve main sas kutni, kutni sandookan ohle
(I want to beat my mother in-law behind the boxes.)
There are many other folk forms like sithniyan, bandd, tappe which indirectly recount for domestic relationships that turn bitter for violence at one stage or other. There is a Panjabi song by Preet Harpal 'mera balam, bada zalam, mainu mar da ae chamkan di maar' that relates the cruelty of the husband towards the wife in an ordinary household where a wife is whipped by her husband continuously, though she accepts it silently for the seldom show of love that she receives. she talks of ill-treatment if she is taken out for a tour or goes to her parents house and is much distressed over the daily abuse despite her faithful service in cleaning the house, preparing food and doing other chores. this is a sad depiction of the situation in most of the homes and passive acceptance by the wife rules out any possibility of legal recourse. Punjabi literature is resplendent with numerous examples where the women have been subjected to insults and ridicule for not having a child or a male child and also for not bringing sufficient dowry. A woman is also deprived of financial resources and is not even consulted during dispersal of property leading to economic abuse. The woman is at the mercy of husband or mother- in law to meet her petty economic needs and it leads to another kind of kitchen politics and false accusations within the domestic set-up. The discussion of dominating kitchen is beyond the scope of the present paper.
Literature is the mirror of the society. We are all well aware that this domestic abuse is there in different sections of society—urban, rural, educated or semi-literate. The law has been enacted to help the aggrieved people against domestic violence but it is ingrained in the social fabric in such a way that this violence has been taken for granted and if anybody opposes it , that leads to frustration, estrangement in relations, nervous breakdown or bodily ailments. The society only inflicts pain on the victims. It knows no cure. Often law is not enforced upon the offenders and even if it is, the life turns out to be a hell for the aggrieved people as they lack any material resources.
Taking two stories by Jasmit Kaur—Bhabho and Aparajita, an attempt has been made to show how this abuse is more of an emotional kind. Aparajita is in asylum for treatment of fear psychosis. She behaves violently with the hospital staff and reacts hysterically. The reason of this was that her father used to beat his mother and sisters severely and having grown in this atmosphere she started fearing shadows even. She later on reveals that she could not disclose these secrets to her in-laws as they were strict and her husband had no time to listen to her. She loses confidence in her abilities due to this constant torture and is thus advised, “others will accept you if only you accept yourself first” (32). She becomes a victim of false honour in her inability to share her sorrow and being unable to bear it all by herself turns out a mental patient.
The second story Bhabho narrates the pathetic tale of a woman whose daughter is got killed by her own mother in-law. “The girl died on the fourth day. The grandmother brought the local nurse in the morning telling her that she wants to check the umbilicus. But one could not tell how this incident took place within minutes” (42). The woman hands her second daughter to her sister to take care of her and forbids her to bring her before the demon—her father. She dies after a few years though she has given birth to a son afterwards as she had continuously bore with much insult. The only change in her life was that “she could eat better and wear fine dresses after the birth of Amar”.
Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish says that patriarch yields personal, visible and violent power in the name of disciplinary practices and these aim at a regulation of the body’s size and contour, its appetite, posture, gesture and general comportment in space. This space is reduced to the four walls of a household where the shrieks, sighs and cries are limited to some nook and corner and the victim has to maintain a smile most of the time before the strangers.
There is enough statistical data to substantiate the point that most of the cases of rape, dowry abuse, acid throwing, use of obscene language and physical abuse and maltreatment of children by parents at home and by guardians in shelter homes are reported in Southeast Asia and many Indian movies take up these themes only.
Violence against children involves physical and psychological abuse and injury or negligent treatment, exploitation and sexual abuse. Growing up in a violent home is also another mode of violence. We narrate stories of Snow White and Cinderella to our children who bore ill-treatment at the hands of their respective step-mothers passively because only some prince charming or heavenly fairy could be their saviour till they reach the glory of womanhood. As per Foucauldian paradigm, this is the patriarchal order that subdues women so that they don’t revolt against this domestic violence and bear it silently. This silencing is another mode of violence exercised with the use of power.
Gurdial singh talks of boys like Khema and Ghuddu that often run from school, keep themselves busy in pranks and in scaring others and are beaten. These frolicsome lads turn violent due to neglect by parents, violent family atmosphere or defective education system that advocates use of stick to convert mules into philosophers. Domestic violence exercised against the elderly and the domestic help is another emerging issue in society as well as literary writings that needs to be dealt with carefully.
We maintain our kingdoms and dominating behaviour patterns by limiting the growth of those around us—our own kith and kin or near and dear ones. This exercise of restricting others to the peripheries while one occupies the central stage results in violence and gets manifested in most of the habitations. The need is to channelize one’s creativity and productivity in such a way that one does not consider anyone else as a hindrance in some growth graph. The society should take up the responsibility of aiding the aggrieved people and reprimanding its offending members.