The idea of torture knows no limits. Its limit depends upon the mindset and thinking of the one holding the reins of power. It is not even a concept which is limited to any age group.
Torture is not just a physical expression but it has various forms such as, mental, sexual, etc. one can never fully understand the pain of the one who has borne the torture.
If we are to date back to the history of torture, we will realize that it has existed from the times of slavery, rather from before that. The idea of torturing the other person must have come to someone’s mind for them to initiate the practice of slavery.
Man is a social being. True. But man is also a very selfish being and this selfishness can stoop down to levels still unknown to humankind. We call ourselves very civilized and sensible beings but internally we are very crude. For fulfilling our personal needs and motives we can even harm the innocent.
What we need to understand is how this concept came into being and for that we need to define this concept first. Different people understand this concept in different light. It is a subjective concept which changes shades of darkness from one mindset to another.
Torture is basically the act of inflicting pain or severe punishment on someone, forcing them to do a particular act or simply abusing them with harsh words. All these are various forms of torture. This word has its origin in Latin, where ‘torquere’ meant ‘to twist’.
Torture can be inflicted by various tasks. Some consider slavery torturous, whereas others find the labour class to be working under torturous conditions. On a light note, those of you who are not enjoying this article, may find it torturous. If this is the case then you have understood the concept near perfect.
On a serious note, talking historically, slavery is the one of the worst forms of torture that human beings have practiced and seen. It reduced the under privileged or rather unprivileged masses into mere servants of the upper classes, just cause the latter belonged to a presumed privileged race.
Racism ruled the society back in those times and logic had no place in terms of social customs and practices. Humans did not consider the humane needs of those whom they took as their slaves. This was torture.
This sort of torture is not only limited to humans. Even animals are not spared from this. We do testing of chemicals and products on animals just to see the side effects. This act of keeping animals in cages and experimenting on them is really just a way of torturing them.
Animal testing has been banned by many brands and they work for the protection of animal rights. Nowadays it is in fashion to stand up for the rights of those who cannot stand for themselves, like the animals.
Torture does not limit itself to this. One of the goriest instances of torture have been historically witnessed in the Nazi camp of Adolf Hitler. He hated Jews so much that he constructed concentration camps at various places in Germany, then called Deutschland.
These camps contained Jews in large numbers and they were either shot head faced or killed in gas chambers. These chambers were a specialty of Hitler’s genocide practices.
These were air tight places which would be packed with people. Release of ‘Zyklon B’ would then lead to extermination of the Jews in those gas chambers. Torture is of different degrees but stripping humans of their dignity is the most severe form of torture.
When we look at the earlier essay on sexual harassment, we do realize that sexual harassment is also a form of torture. One act of torture can and often does lead to another agony. This leads to building up of either depression or revenge in the tortured person.
Most often it is the former but in some cases, it has been the latter too. Taking an instance from mythology, when Duryodhan stripped Panchaali in the courtroom full of people, she faced humiliation cause of the torture that was laid upon her. This created bitter feelings in her for the Kauravs and she pledged not to brush her hair until she washed them with Duryodhan’s blood.
So, we see how torture can lead to bitter moments and given an opportunity can change power dynamics too. It has been proven from mythological times to the second world war to current days, where the meaning of torture has changed altogether.
When we talk of torture, we really put focus on and pity the sufferers but we never look as to why does someone torture others? Is it to obtain sadistic pleasure out of it? Or some other reason? There has not been any specific research on this but the reasons to torture masses or even specific people are always contextual.
We cannot ignore the context in which the incident took place. Context always justifies the situation or action as wrong or right. We cannot afford to understand any action in its absolute terms, irrespective of the context.
Talking of torture, police custody in India is another sphere where torture is practised, at times to gather the truth of the situation and mostly to gather false testimony from innocents. Corruption has risen to such levels, as shown in Jolly LLB 2 (Bollywood Movie) where, an innocent person is tortured and made to confess that he is a terrorist. This further has an effect on the rest of his life.
One of the rare spheres where torture yields good results is the military sphere. Terrorists like Ajmal Kasab, are kept under strict vigilance and often it has been the tool of torture which has yielded important information from these terrorists.
Torturing someone is an act which feeds off the fear of the tortured. They are made into believing that they will be harmed if they do not give the required information or confess certain things. Torture also brainwashes people and makes them numb to the feelings of joy or sadness.
This example is often found in war prisoners. Talking of war prisoners, I get reminded of one of the deadliest crises of the world; the Korean crisis of 1951.
North Korea as a nation is practicing modern day torture on its citizens. It does not provide them any right to revolt or even voice their opinions. Citizens of North Korea do not have right to freedom of speech or right to freedom of expression.
They live under a very authoritarian regime, which grants them no rights but expects them to perform all their duties on time. There are severe punishments for those who disobey the state laws or even try to voice an opinion contrary to that of the state.
If we really believe that hitting someone or abusing them physically or by words, alone consists of torture; then you were wrong. Refusing to provide people something that they deserve and on top of that, to subject them to inhumane conditions is torture.
Taking a slight variation here, I would like to take an example of India. Considering the recent chain of events in India, there have been legislation’s which are anything but progressive.
We have BJP led government, which is superseded by the Hindutva ideology. We are not disregarding the work done by this government in foreign relations and other spheres but we need to look at its role critically and not blindly follow any party or government.
Developments like demonetization, banning beef in India, Dadri lynching are examples of various types of torture that the government is inflicting upon its citizens. Demonetization was an economic torture since the policy claimed at removing black money but did not succeed in its aim.
Beef ban is a cultural torture, especially for communities which consume beef as a staple diet. This ban disallows them from practicing their food practices and cultural rituals. It is termed as torture because it is against the values of constitution, since latter is supposed to live up to the spirit of a “secular” nation.
Torture in today’s world is present at different levels, in different forms. Need is just to identify and remove it from our societal structure. And mind you, this can’t be done single handed. It requires collective effort.