Dear friends, if I were to show you some newspaper clippings regarding cases of violence against women in different forms, you would in all probability remind me that piling up evidence for something everyone accepts was totally unnecessary and uncalled for. As a matter of fact, such news till recently evoked little emotional or intellectual response, since these incidents, which I choose to describe as violent manifestations of gender discrimination, were hardly ever considered to be shocking, but (and also, maybe, because) they form an enormously sizeable component of the total crimes committed. Undoubtedly, representing such acts as contemptible and shameful in literary writings as well as in social circles and from political podia is the need of the hour. However, one notices that many times the spirit of these representations is more of ascribing the violent manifestations to some quasi-mystical psycho-sexual forces than of identifying the specific ideational patterns having a common source in the problem of inequality and imbalance in man-woman relationship in a socio-historical context.
One form of oppression can be traced back to the irrational notions and discriminatory attitudes obtaining in tribal and feudal-patriarchal societies, where the very consciousness of inequality as something unjust is largely erased. Inequality may also be disguised or legitimised or even sublimated, as in the case of sati, or as shown in Satyajit Ray's Devi. Even the seemingly refined and sophisticated code of chivalry, focussing on women's 'vulnerability' is not an antithesis to the feudal code.
The second pattern of violence emerges from the extended application of the ethos of the market-place to man-woman relationship. Bride-burning, dowry deaths, female foeticide and wife-beating gain social legitimacy under the perverse logic of consumerism. Even women, as mothers-in-law, for example, may become instruments of betrayal, having interiorised the distortions of the consumerist ethos.
The third pattern of brutalities against women can be understood in terms of 'ideological' displacement or transposition operating behind gangrapes, custodial rapes, sexual crimes during communal and other kinds of riots and atrocities committed for ethnic vendetta. Scores are settled in such cases by heaping indignities upon women, who are regarded as no better than 'trophies', and by making them scapegoats in combats in which they are not directly involved.
It may be pointed out here that very often the vestigial presence of an old pattern causes overlapping and compounding of patterns, which may then reinforce one another. The three patterns identified here are, in my view, more commonly operative in incidents of reported and unreported violence against women than other possible ideational patterns one might locate.