ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Is at Stake When I Love You?

Love as an Act of Violence

On 31 July 2013 when a student brutally hacked a female fellowstudent and then killed himself in a classroom of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, it was not a "heat-of-the-moment" act but a cold-blooded planned move to punish her. Despite carrying a pistol he did not shoot her but grievously wounded her in front of teachers and students because such "punishment" needs an audience. Also, it is not surprising that it occurred on the campus of a progressive university because the tension between liberal values at the formal level and our feudal moorings in patriarchal structures gets stretched the most in spaces such as that.

Articles and commentaries from various quarters have already appeared in newspapers, blogs and journals about the tragic incident on 31 July 2013, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus. A consensus has emerged, particularly in the writings of faculties and students from JNU, to not view this parti cular incident of violence as an aberration or an exception. The complex aspects of the man/woman relationship and love relations in a society that is deeply patriarchal have been pointed out along with how and why JNU should not be exempted under the infl uence of a vague idealism (Arunima 2013; Baxi 2013; Chirmuley 2013; Kannan 2013; Nag 2013). The underlying thrust of all these articles is to demonstrate how patriarchy is so deep-rooted that it can turn such an event on its head and come back to haunt women. While there can be no disagreement on the b asic political argument of recognising a woman’s “No” as no and respecting her choice (or right) to reject or say no, this commentary seeks to push the point a little further by highlighting a neglected aspect of the incident.

The performative aspect of the act of violence has already been observed (Baxi 2013). It has also been observed that this act of violence is often read in parallel to sacrifi cial, self-destructive v iolence and thereby valorises the act (ibid). In other words, in spite of the performative aspect of it, this violence by a JNU boy perpetrated on his classmate is part of the violence which is being normalised beyond the boundaries of JNU (Arunima 2013). However, what has been glossed over is an account of the violence per se.

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