Bodies Breach Borders

SAMHITA BAROOAH

Bodies of human beings are just tools of repression, resistance and reform. Body politics in India has multi-dimensional prisms which define and dictate both public and private spaces. Some bodies are projected as pure forms of existence while some are disposable bodies. Our bodies are layered into name, fame, shame, vanity and vigour. These layers position us in the social spectrum of relationships and power driven paradigms. Bodies are meant to be fulfilling a purpose in their lifetime without which their existence gets futile. All bodies are numbered with their age, sex, actions and reactions. Every ‘body’ performs a particular task which helps or harms their social functioning. Some bodies act, some react, some judge, some punish, some remain silent while other bodies simply stay within themselves. In this relation a body is powerful when it signifies the other. Apparently such bodies are invisible but when they turn into settling grounds, scapegoats and victims they become trailblazers. In recent years, a vulnerable body is the most powerful space to exert control, abuse and manipulate existing norms for both cheap thrills and balancing power.

Body and power are intricate partners in both crime and punishment. Bodies in power exercise their might through a cracked mirror of right and wrong. They begin to control their own actions and words in such a way that all other bodies seem obsolete and degraded. When power is attached to a body, it tends to dominate all other less powerful bodies around them. The powerful body distinguishes other bodies from each other and captures the most vulnerable conditions of other bodies to ensure the reinstatement of their power. It is the power relation of the powerful and the powerless bodies which defines the hegemony of the powerful. Bodies somehow perform gender distinct functions in society to maintain a status quo and remain invisible in the society. The moment some of the bodies deviate from any of the set norms and distinct gender functions, they become visible through their actions, words and identities.

Bodies of resistance emanate much more power than bodies of domination. In fact those bodies which suffer in silence find their destinies within the bodies of resistance. Bodies of resistance perform some of the most exemplary social functions which create milestones in social structures and social norms. In recent months, rapes of bodies in India have become visible in public media and social spaces. Rape is a crime within the Indian legal system which is heinous in its own right and is used strategically across societies to immobilise diverse issues. No other criminal act except murder of bodies finds so much attention in our society except rape of bodies of women and girls as young as 5 years of age. Exceptional rapes are conducted or sometimes they happen in isolated and also in secured private spaces where bodies of power dominate those bodies without such power. Most male bodies have to prove their maleness, masculinity and pride through rape of bodies of women and girls. Sometimes frustrations of workplace, families, stress and desperation overpowers a male body to commit some horrendous crimes against female bodies. The body is the most intimate part of a human being, so anything which is attached to the body reaches public space, it becomes international headlines.

Women’s bodies are political battlefields of community identity when such bodies are associated, protected or promoted for any gainful purpose. Women’s bodies are custodians of cultural realms and identities. Bodies of women within settled communities have found their safety in upholding the community mores, strictures and restrictions. Their servitude and stability is defined by their male counterparts and hence they are protected. While in nomadic communities, bodies of women are boundless, free and blend with the surrounding environments. They are equal to their male bodies in their struggle for survival in tandem with nature and its trials. Such bodies of women and girls negotiate for safe passage, clean water, few forest twigs and some grazing space for their animals unaware of political, religious, caste and class boundaries. While so called settled societies define their norms for bodies of domination and bodies which need to be dominated to manage within limited resources. Thus when such bodies of power encounter bodies with freedom, power and control over free bodies takes precedence. Rest is already related through the rape narratives. Rape is now becoming another tool for controlling border populations, nomadic communities and stateless communities affected by war, diseases, deprivation and dehumanisation. Human bodies have stooped to great depths of doom and destruction where they cannot tolerate their own kind wrapped within the powerful prisms of superiority. Unfortunately most of such perpetrators of power induced political rapes are male bodies across communities. Bodies of resistance within female, male and other bodies are the need of the hour.

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah is a Researcher and Travel Writer.

  • Chitralekha Baruah

    Samhita’s article is throwing light on the crude reality that was not much discussed so far.