Wednesday, July 24, 2024

India is Dehumanized

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Dehumanization is not a sudden process, it is a painfully slow, the Manipur incident has dehumanized India

In an egregious incident, a two month video surfaced on social media showing two Kuki-Zumi tribal women being paraded naked.

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They were subjected to sexual assault and other dehumanizing treatment.

While the Union and state governments have assured strict action, the National Commission for Women have taken cognizance and have initiated investigation into this ghastly incident.

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But besides raising moral outrage among people of India, this raises deeper and critical cognitive and social questions.

Otherization-A Lethal Mental Problem

The incident and the broader ethnic clashes in Manipur have exposed the phenomenon of “otherization”.

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Robert Sapolsky in his book Behave-The Biology of Humans At Our Best and Worst defines “otherization” as deliberate mental followed by physical designation of certain groups or communities of people as “us” and “them”.

This otherization is not a sudden overnight process, but is a slow incremental process that takes years to build up.

Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature argues that otherization occurs due to the following reasons-

  1. Moralization of Disgust,
  2. Mental construction of “them” as similar to insects like cockroaches, termites who deserved to be squashed.

3. The urge to cleanse the land of “them” by justifying this abominable behaviour under the guise of ideology or some deity sanctioned sacred duty.

4. The master race theory which contributes to further sub-humanization.

This otherization problem has been occuring in Manipur for the past several decades and reached a fever pitch this year.

The causes of this conflict and this horrific incident were many- land, economic rights, representation etc. But the otherization is not an isolated incident.

It, therefore, has become necessary to compare this mental problem with some global examples.

Atrocities on German and Bosnian Women

Women, historically have been one of the primary victims of war either as direct civilian deaths or wartime rapes.

While the former has reduced dramatically, the latter, suprisingly continues to happen on a large scale.

It, therefore, has become a necessity to understand the Manipur horror by using this psychological lens.

People may not know this, but after the Soviet Red Army invaded Berlin in February 1945 and brought the Third Reich to its knees, the German women had to bear the brunt.

Historical records have shown that over 2 million German women were raped by Soviet and later by other Allied soldiers.

Another tragic example is the mass rape of Bosnian women at the height of the Yugoslavian civil war of 1994 by Serbian troops.

Such rapes are an outcome of the dehumanization of a section of humanity, just like the Nazis did in their years in power against the Jewish community.

Way Forward

In the context of Manipur, what is needed is reconciliation between the Meitei, Kuki and Naga communities. A healing hand is the need of the hour.

Law and order must be strictly enforced, culprits must not be allowed to go scot free and if necessary AFSPA must be brought back, albeit partially.

What happens in Manipur will decide the fate of the rest of the country in the years to come, otherwise India will be dehumanized.

 

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