Man’s inhumanity to man has long been a subject for moralization. We are all touched directly or indirectly by violent acts. Violence is the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse. Societies regulate the use of violence through socio-cultural customs and mores and through codified legal systems. Societies also have natural mechanisms for cooperation, to keep conflict in check, to channel aggression, and to overcome conflict.
A major cause of violence in society is violence in the media. Several studies have shown a link between exposure to television violence and its propensity toward violent crime.
If one defines security as not just external military threats but as a challenge to the effective functioning of society, the existence of violence in its various manifestations is one of the singular threats facing Indian society today. At the individual level, security is the provision of a relatively safe environment in which citizens do not fear violence or intimidation. If individual security is inversely related to the level of violence in society—the greater the violence, the less the security enjoyed by citizens. It is an inevitable by-product of societal conduct and is an implicit challenge to state authority and sovereignty. The threat is insidious rather than direct: it is not a threat to the military strength of the state, but is a challenge to the prerogatives that are an integral part of statehood.
Historically and culturally India has been known as a land of non-violence. This was strengthened by Gandhi’s teaching on ‘Ahimsa’ or ‘Non Violence’. In the past two decades or so however, the phenomenon of violence seems to have take root in our society and is gradually but surely changing our long cherished values of life. More and more people are resorting to violence all too readily to achieve their ends, howsoever misplaced these may be. Countermeasures by the state do not appear to curb the spirit of violence already unleashed.
As a secular state comprising people of different castes, creeds and religions bound together by a singular cultural heritage, we have now come to mistrust each other. It is only natural that this traumatic change in our society has an adverse impact on the psyche of our soldiery.
It is imperative that we ascertain the extent to which the soldiery is affected and measures that need to be adopted to neutralize or minimize the effects of violence in society. This is important in an environment where the Army cannot be expected to remain an insular organisation totally cut off from the mainstream of public life.
…we have now come to mistrust each other. It is only natural that this traumatic change in our society has an adverse impact on the psyche of our soldiery.
The values enshrined in our Constitution combine the concepts of democratic freedom with those of socialist humanism to form the basis of development, without exploitation and with justice. By adopting these values the Constitution sought to close the colonial chapter of our history. India is based on the modern ideas of nationalism, parliamentary democracy, secularism and socialism.
The task is undoubtedly difficult. Socialist development means proportionate opportunities for all and a certain amount of leveling of income disparities. A conflict situation, however, has risen in which the privileged classes who have the resources to pursue their democratic rights, which the underprivileged do not have, continue to be at an advantage. Socialist development has suffered in consequence. The democratic process has thrown up power brokers who take advantage of this process to acquire personal benefits of influence, power and wealth by appealing to the primordial instincts of a still insufficiently educated people who are subject to traditions hallowed by age, of caste consciousness, religious intolerance and aggressive linguistic and ethnic identity. Disruptive and chaotic trends have emerged as a result.
In the above socio-political background, the origin of the phenomenon of present day violence can be indirectly traced. The direct causes are many, some perceived and some real. Among them are widespread poverty, income disparities, unemployment, communalism and casteism, rampant corruption in Government departments, police atrocities and waywardness, judicial delays, spiraling population, and unequal economic development of all regions. They are threatening to submerge the developments made by the Nation since independence. While the aim of this paper is not to suggest remedies for the above problems yet, unless they are tackled squarely at the national level, the breeding ground for violence will not be neutralized. Military personnel must understand this socio-political background in order to confidently meet the challenges posed to the military establishment.
…unless they are tackled squarely at the national level, the breeding ground for violence will not be neutralized.
Patterns of Violence
Manifestations of violence in the country in the past decade or so have been in the form of communal violence which has affected nearly all the states. Naxalite violence which started in West Bengal due to economic causes is currently active in parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Politically-motivated terrorist violence is currently active in Assam and the adjoining Northeastern states. Militancy in J&K continues. Violence due to casteism is a perpetual phenomenon and common occurrence in several states. Incidents of State violence where the police exceed their bounds are also a common phenomenon.
Unfortunately what is alarming is that the incidents of violence are on the increase, which indicates ineffectiveness of the law and order machinery, increasing sense of frustration of sections of the society who see no other option but to resort to violence as they lack faith in the administrative and judicial processes. The patterns of violence can be summarized and classified into socio-economic conflicts, religious and communal violence, politically-motivated power struggles and state violence where the law keepers themselves exceed their charter. All the above types of violence apart from their destructive nature have an adversely pervasive effect on society resulting in dulled sensibilities and changed perceptions. Self interest gains over societal or national interest affecting the very fabric of the ideal of Nationhood.
Violence in the Media
Violence usually refers to physical aggression, which is defined as any behaviour involving intent to harm another person. Killing is the extreme form of violence. There are many causes for violence and there are also many reasons for people to behave aggressively. A major cause of violence in society is violence in the media. Several studies have shown a link between exposure to television violence and its propensity toward violent crime. This is because television can teach skills that may be useful for committing acts of violence, and can direct the viewer’s attention to behaviour that they may not have considered.
…a soldier is trained and motivated to fight for the integrity of the Nation and is taught to believe that there is no higher ideal in life than being a martyr for the National cause.
Children learn aggression most pervasively from violence in entertainment such as television and movies. Anything we notice and process gets put into the information programmes in our minds and memories. When the input consists of violent or sexually shocking acts, two lessons are learned at once. One is the behavioral sequence, or the how. The second is that this kind of behaviour exists, or that it can actually happen.
Exposure to violence in the media leads to aggression in following ways:
- Imitating what is seen on the television or in movies. Viewers are most likely to imitate it if it is rewarded or goes unpunished.
- Exposure to violence in the media. It stimulates aggression by desensitizing people to the effects of violence. It also increases fearfulness about becoming a victim of violence, callousness toward violence among others, and self-directed behaviour that exposes one to further risk of violence.
- Cognitive priming or cueing in the media causes violence in society. Cognitive priming is the activation of existing aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. Several studies have shown that violent videos primed aggressive thoughts in the viewers, leading to acts of violence.
- Psychological arousal and desensitization. This happens because when violence is first seen it creates an unpleasant feeling, but as it is seen more and more that feeling decreases until the point where it almost no longer exists. Television violence destroys your violence immune system and conditions you to derive pleasure from violence.
Censoring of movies and other media outlets would not work because producers of movies claim that their efforts are works of art.
Censoring of movies and other media outlets would not work because producers of movies claim that their efforts are works of art. With all the problems that government has in attempting to decrease violence in the media it is up to the producers of television and other forms of media to control the violence in what they make, but the likelihood that, that will happen is very slim because they make money and violence gets ratings and sells.
Impact of Violence on the Psyche of a Soldier
A soldier belongs to the society and even though he may remain relatively sheltered in the cocoon of the military establishment while in service, he is to a large extent moulded by the prevailing social environment. It is, therefore, not surprising that the malaise of the society affects the soldiery in equal measure.
While in service, the identifiable primary spheres of influence which affect the soldier’s behavioural pattern are: his immediate military superiors, his family and close relations, his community, elders of his village/locality, religious teachers, friends and colleagues, the media and finally the prevalent socio-economic and political atmosphere. All of them, except for one, lie outside the jurisdiction of the armed forces.
Within the armed forces, a soldier is trained and motivated to fight for the integrity of the Nation and is taught to believe that there is no higher ideal in life than being a martyr for the National cause. Such references also find mention in the scriptures and religious books. The soldier gradually comes to believe that he is a valued member of the society on whose shoulder rests a greater responsibility than on other citizens. He is inspired by the fact that he is the ultimate weapon in the Government’s arsenal for internal and external security.
By profession, a soldier is as skillful a tradesman as any other, except that his skill lies in the field of weaponry, field craft, and military tactics besides a host of other trades similar to civil trades. The difference being that in the armed forces, these skills are acquired with the overall aim of destroying the enemy in the battlefield. The soldiers are, therefore, specialists in the application of violence, though this violence is applied in the interest of the society and the State and not in self-interest.
Officers with direct command responsibility have to keep a close watch on their commands, the social strain affecting their men, their family compulsions, their economic conditions”¦
These factors combine to bestow on the soldiery, prestige and honour which are the society’s rewards, apart from money income, for looking after its interests. Consequently, a break in the harmonious relationship between the soldier and the society spells mutual disadvantages, for it implies alienation of the soldiery from society resulting in insecurity of the latter.
The experiences of a soldier in the civvy street are disheartening, especially as compared to the sheltered life that he leads in the armed forces. Rampant corruption and poor work ethics make a visit to any Government office a traumatic experience. Bribery has to be resorted to in some form or the other to get even the most trivial work done such as obtaining or renewal of licences, school and college admissions etc. Issues such as a pending land case become an anathema, while any complaints lodged with the civil district administration or local police authorities generally go unheard. They neither have the time nor perhaps the inclination to help soldiers. In fact, by and large, soldiers are apprehensive of lodging complaints with the local police because their bullying attitude towards the public at large hardly inspires confidence.
In the above experiences lies the psychological foundation of alienation of the soldier from society. All it needs is a tragic personal experience to cement the alienation. Thus, even though the soldier may not lose faith in his own military leaders, this faith would generally be confined to his military activities, for sooner or later he perceives that even they are not in a position to influence anything outside the bounds of the military establishment. To this, if bad training and indifferent leadership in the armed forces are also added, the results would spell disaster both for the armed forces and the Nation in the long run.
Distorting religious sentiments to achieve communal ends and exploitation of this aspect in politics can ultimately tear the fabric of carefully nurtured organizations like the armed forces.
Effects on the Soldiery
Some of the discernible effects of violence on the psyche of soldier are:
- Sense of insecurity: This is especially in relation to the security of family members and relations residing in far flung rural areas. In the case of communal violence it can also generate a sense of personal insecurity where a soldier may feel persecuted.
- Demoralisation by Distorting Religious Sentiments: Distorting religious sentiments to achieve communal ends and exploitation of this aspect in politics can ultimately tear the fabric of carefully nurtured organizations like the armed forces. In its less extreme manifestation it can demoralize the affected category of persons who feel isolated and alienated from the mainstream.
- Urge to Adopt the Violence Option: An alienated soldier has basically two options. If he retains confidence in his military leaders, he will readily confide in them and seek redress or assistance. If this chain too breaks down, he is likely to adopt the second option of resorting to violence Stray incidents of soldiers running amok in certain units stand testimony to this phenomenon. Similar acts of violence cannot be ruled out against civilians where the soldiers feel gravely wronged or where his family members incite and encourage the soldier to adopt the violent option.
- Involvement with Communal and Undesirable Elements: In communal violence there is always a danger of the soldier being adversely influenced by his community to serve selfish communal interests. Instances have come to light, in formations and units, where soldiers have been threatened, coerced and blackmailed into assisting communal militant elements. A similar approach by criminal gangs cannot be ruled out. If a soldier does get subverted, he can influence some of his friends and colleagues leading to a serious disciplinary problem in a unit unless the leaders are alert.
- Lack of Faith and Demotivation: A tragic experience together with an indifferent approach by the authorities can result in lack of faith in the system and this becomes a major demotivating factor. There have been innumerable cases where the complaints of soldiers regarding high-handedness of the police or tragic outcomes of communal riots have evoked no response from the civil authorities. Neglect or insensitivity in this regard will ultimately undermine military leadership and lead to a lack of faith in the system itself.
The focus of education of soldier must be to develop him into a good citizen and not merely a soldier, with a narrow insular outlook and loyalties.
- Trust among Soldiers: Among units with mixed classes of troops, one of the effects of communal violence can be a gradual erosion of mutual trust among comrades which can seriously affect the harmonious functioning of a unit in peace time and would be disastrous in war. A sum total result of the above manifestations is indiscipline in the ranks, collective insubordination and even mutiny.
- Drying up of Recruitment Avenues: Indian soldiers constitute a volunteer force. The incentives for joining the armed forces, besides pay and pensionary benefits, are community and family traditions. The latter includes emotional identification with the martial traditions of the family and the community. Violence especially of the communal type can dry up traditional recruitment areas and zones, which would be detrimental to the Army in the long run.
Challenges Posed To Military Leadership
The phenomenon of violence in society, apart from posing a challenge to National polity, is also a major challenge to military leaders who must not only be aware of the dangers which lie ahead but must sincerely endeavour to combat the ill effects on the psyche of the soldiery.
With a vitiated socio-political atmosphere, the military leader has to be the anchor of stability for his soldiers. He has to answer for the well being of his command, under all circumstances, and to that extent he must be aware of the problem, recognize the dangers and come up with suitable solutions. Officers with direct command responsibility have to keep a close watch on their commands, the social strain affecting their men, their family compulsions, their economic conditions, and virtually everything which affects them. This places an additional burden on military leadership which must be faced squarely and resolutely.
With increasing emphasis on regionalism and communalism in politics, motivation in the Army needs a fresh approach. This focus needs to shift to loyalty to the State.
The challenges posed to military leadership, as a result of the phenomenon of violence in the society, are many and awareness of these forewarns us of the potential dangers which lie ahead. Some of the more obvious challenges and the manner in which they are likely to manifest themselves are:-
- A credibility gap between the leaders and the led.
- Deterioration in the state of training, equipment management and in other aspects of unit security and administration.
- Deterioration in standards of discipline.
- Distribution of subversive literature and a deliberate spread of false and malicious rumours.
- Subversion on the basis of religious or regional loyalties by coercion or guile.
- Terrorist blackmail.
- Suspicion and mistrust.
- Lack of faith in the Government, civil administration and military leadership.
- Breaches of security.
- Theft or damage of arms, ammunition, explosive and other warlike stores and equipment.
- Increased incidents of violence by soldiers against, civilians, colleagues and superiors.
Measures To Overcome and Minimize Adverse Effects on Soldiery
Education of Troops: Troops must be educated about the facts of various problems prevalent in the society and in the country. They must be made aware of national policies, compulsions and the rationale behind the steps taken by the Government. The aim must be to tell them the truth and the fact that national policies also back-fire at times. The overall effect of the guidance must be to make the troops take pride in themselves, in their traditions and culture and in the democratic and secular nature of our society and the State.Thus far, the causes of violence, analysis of its impact, its potential manifestations on the psyche of soldiery and the challenges posed to military leadership have been examined. This analysis now logically leads us to the remedial measure to be adopted to minimize the adverse effects on the soldiery.
A concerted effort must be made by leaders, at all echelons of command, to build a congenial atmosphere for a two-way dialogue without prejudice to discipline.
Traditional ills of the society can be explained similarly. Newspaper and magazines with balanced views must be available for self education of troops and to preclude rumours and idle gossip. The focus of education of soldier must be to develop him into a good citizen and not merely a soldier, with a narrow insular outlook and loyalties.
Motivation: The approach to motivation for war in the Army has so far been based on factors of religion, martial superiority and regimental or class loyalties etc. With increasing emphasis on regionalism and communalism in politics, motivation in the Army needs a fresh approach. This focus needs to shift to loyalty to the State. In this a distinction must be made between the ‘State’ and the ‘Regime’ (Government). The imperfections of the regime in power should not be attributable to the State and to that extent the democratic process must be explained to the rank and file in considerable detail. The glorious traditions of a Regiment, the heterogeneous national culture and the values as enshrined in the Constitution must become the anchor pins of motivation. Special care should be taken to see that religious discourses are used as forums for highlighting the rich religious and cultural heritage with ultimate focus on nationalism and the duties of soldiery in this regard.
Close interaction with Troops: Officers, especially junior leaders, must interact more closely with the rank and file, the soldiers must feel free to walk up to his officers to discuss and seek advice for his personal problems. A concerted effort must be made by leaders, at all echelons of command, to build a congenial atmosphere for a two-way dialogue without prejudice to discipline. This will foster confidence and go a long way in ensuring cohesiveness and mutual respect.
Liaison at the district level by the formation headquarters can greatly assist in ameliorating many difficulties experienced by the men such as high-handed behaviour of erring police personnel…
Religion: Religion must be used to provide moral strength to a soldier. Religious sentiments must be channelized to the path of truthfulness, attainment of moral courage and strong character qualities. The focus on religion must be on the magnanimous and tolerant nature of a good human being and on the secular character of a truly religious person.
Training of Troops: A high standard of training is important to sustain a soldier’s confidence and interest in the profession. A soldier must be confident and capable of carrying out any task that he may be called upon to undertake. They must be kept busy with realistic and purposeful training to improve their skills as also to make them good citizens of the country. A soldier confident in his trade is usually highly motivated and has the moral strength to face the trials and tribulations of life.
Unit Administration and Man Management: This has to be of the highest order. Aspects such as documentation, pay and allowances, good quality of ration, timely issue of clothing, well-cooked meals, proper management of leave, health and hygiene, unit security and all aspects of unit administration which have received close attention in units heretofore, now require still greater emphasis to ensure good morale. Extra care in this regard would go a long way in winning the confidence of the men in the armed forces especially when they see the other Government institutions and establishments ‘collapsing’ around them. Proper man management can by itself be a major motivational factor.
Personal Integrity of Leaders: The personal integrity of the leader must be above reproach. Many officers are careless about their personal habits while many others resort to petty infractions. Such a leader loses the right to advise or guide his men, who see through his double standards soon enough, whereas an honest and straight-forward officer earns the respect and regard of men.
Religion must be used to provide moral strength to a soldier. Religious sentiments must be channelized to the path of truthfulness, attainment of moral courage and strong character…
Security Measures: Security problems may manifest themselves in many ways in units. This includes theft of classified documents, arms, ammunition, explosives and other controlled stores. This is likely to happen in units where the leadership is lacking or the leaders are not alert or vigilant. Laying down of fool-proof and detailed security procedure to prevent breaches of security is essential. Intelligently evolved, practical procedures must be adopted to prevent breaches of security and loss of arms, ammunition and explosives.
Ideological Training and Patriotism: With regional pressures, there is perhaps is a need for all ranks in the armed forces to be given ideological training in which the concept of Nation building should be taught. The Constitution of the country needs to be explained, especially the values enshrined in the Constitution and our Constitutional obligations. Appropriate questions should be included in the promotion examinations of all ranks.
Family Welfare: Officer’s wives can be a great asset to gauge the pulse and reaction of troops, through their women folk, at regular family welfare meets. If the wives and family members of troops are handled with care and maturity, they could be a very important element in influencing their husbands.
Briefing and Debriefing of Troops Based on Case Studies: Besides the normal interviews in a unit, the time has now come when special and detailed briefing and debriefing to troops should be carried out by a trained cell in a unit, particularly for personnel proceeding on leave or temporary duty to violence prone areas, thereby preparing them psychologically for the type of situations they are likely to face.
Till the political, social and economic issues at National level are tackled squarely and remedial plans instituted and implemented with vigour, the phenomenon of violence in one form on the other with varying intensity is likely to continue…
Civil Military Liaison: There are no formal channels of communication with civil functionaries, except for the yearly Army – Civil Liaison conference in each Army Command Headquarters. In the current environment it is necessary to establish liaison at the District level for exchanging information and for timely mutual aid and assistance. Liaison at the district level by the formation headquarters can greatly assist in ameliorating many difficulties experienced by the men such as high-handed behaviour of erring police personnel, harassment of the families of jawans in their villages and many other administrative and security problems related to cantonments. It is obligatory on part of the concerned formation headquarters to establish and maintain this liaison in their respective states and Districts.
The perspective of the soldier as a manager of violence has been part of professional development in the combat arms. Military forces are effective at guaranteeing military security against organized military opposition. They are much less effective against riots and civilian disturbances. They are impotent in the face of bricks through windows or threatening telephone calls in the night.
Till the political, social and economic issues at National level are tackled squarely and remedial plans instituted and implemented with vigour, the phenomenon of violence in one form on the other with varying intensity is likely to continue and hence the armed forces must also gear themselves to manage the effects of the fallout on the psyche of our soldiery.The military role is control and prevention of violence. It requires all the tools of a modern combat force to perform that role. Security policies must be integrated with strategies for promoting human rights, democracy and good governance. Human Security means safety for people from both violent and non-violent threats. It is freedom from pervasive threats to people’s basic rights, safety, and lives.
…dictates that we do something to reduce the violence in the media before it further damages society. Violence is the scourge of our society, but we can make a difference.
There are no shortcuts and easy solutions. Good training, motivation, and efficient administration of the soldiery alone can fortify them against the ills of the society. This requires alertness, dedication, hard work and an innovative approach by military leaders at all levels of command. Passivity and a pedestrian approach to the current situation would be as disastrous for the soldiery as it is for the society.
It’s a scary world today! The daily news is rife with reports of child molestations and abductions. War in foreign lands along with daily reports of murder, rape, and robberies also heighten our perception of potential violence. Television in the home is the greatest source of visual violence. Movie violence these days is louder, bloodier, and more anatomically precise than ever before. When a bad guy was shot in early black-and-white films, the most we saw was a puff of smoke and a few drops of fake blood. Now the sights, sounds, and special effects often jar us more than the real thing. Slow motion, pyrotechnics, and a penchant for leaving nothing to the imagination all conspire to make movies and TV shows more gruesome. Violent images on television and in the movies do contribute to greater violence in society. Common sense dictates that we do something to reduce the violence in the media before it further damages society. Violence is the scourge of our society, but we can make a difference. We must educate ourselves about its influence and impact on our lives.
The reality is that violence has no notion of boundaries. Like every other drug – especially power, to which it seems inextricably linked – violence is possessed with the ability to generate an ever-increasing and effectively insatiable appetite for itself. When this voraciousness crosses the ambiguous line that we have constructed between acceptable and unacceptable violence, it is disingenuous of us to insist that we are shocked and appalled.
Unless and until we are willing to commit to the levels of personal and societal non-violence that will permeate to the core of our cultural establishments, we must be prepared to accept the reality that the role models we glorify on the basis of their participation in fundamentally violent endeavours will continue to act in the ways that such rewards reinforce: they will continue to be violent.