Book Review: Bashir Ahmad Dabla. Domestic Violence Against Women in Kashmir Valley. Srinagar: Jay Kay Book Shop, 2009. XIII+ 115 PP. Rs. 495 (INR). ISBN 81-87221-23-2
Professor Bashir Ahmad Dabla, was a prominent Sociologist the soil of Kashmir has ever produced. He was the founder of the Department of Sociology and Social Work at University of Kashmir. Dabla , has produced more than twenty books and more than sixty articles on various sociological themes most of them related to society of Kashmir.
Domestic violence against women in Kashmir valleyis the contribution of mature Dabla, published just few years before his death. The theme of the bookis relevant, interesting and catchy. The book is based on empirical data collected from the field by employing quantitative methods. The book has been divided into four chapters. The author deserves appreciation and acknowledgement for carrying out such study in conflict torn Kashmir as research in conflict zone is not difficult but dangerous.
In chapter one author doesn’t confine himself to domestic violence but defines term violence and argues “the term violence against women has not set definition”. Besides presenting few definitions of violence he presents an operational definition of violence: “force whether covert or overt, used to wrest from an individual [awoman] something she doesn’t want to give her own free will and which causes her either physical injury or emotional trauma or both” (p2).
Dabla, states that existence and continuity of domestic violence against women “has been found irrespective of their difference in cultural, regional, religious, political, economic, social, educational, demographic and other fields. In context of Kashmir militancy has intensified the practice.
The author remarks that practices directly related to domestic violence against women are in vogue in Indian society and presents reports of International Clinical Epidemiologists Network and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai to back his argument. He maintains that “the practice directly and indirectly related to domestic violence against women also prevail in the Kashmir valley, though not in high degree/ intensity” (p7).
Chapter two of the book deals with the methodology in which author justifies the title by writing “domestic violence against women in the Kashmir valley have emerged significantly in the recent past. It has also been observed that these problems are fast increasing qualitatively as well as quantitatively” (p 10). The method of data collection has been justified with the argument “since all these problems are primarily empirical in nature, this research is fully based on detailed field investigation”.
Findings of the study have been demonstrated in chapter third, of the book. Dabla, maintains that women are conscious that they are discriminated when it about education, employment, gifts, clothes, diet, decision making, social treatment and property. It has been concluded that both male and female have “general belief” that women face discrimination in society.
The worth of the book lies that it doesn’t confine itself to a particular area it examines women’s working role, discrimination, violence, health etc.
In sum up the book is interesting to flip. However, there are serious concerns and issues. The book hardly appears a sociological monograph. It is a mixture of technical, grammatical, empirical, methodological and theoretical ambiguities.
The ambiguities begin from the beginning of the book. There is no philosophical debate and presentation of sociological theories on the selected theme. The two definitions of violence presented are of unpopularnames which just give literal meaning of the term and there is no reference aslo. The operational definition of domestic violence presented is ambiguous and delimits domestic violence only to physical and emotional violence ignoring structural, cultural, sexual, psychological, economic and other common forms of domestic violence. Moreover, the cause of domestic violence is not that women do not want to give up the things which she posses.It is surprising to observe that reports presented to back the argument on domestic violence are not consulted by the author but quoted from a news paper.
The author remarks that domestic violence against women in Kashmir is “not in high degree/ intensity” (p7). However, contradicts himself by writing that domestic violence in Kashmir valley has “increased qualitatively as well as quantitatively” and is “increasing day by day” (p8, 10).Furthermore, there is no mention of what author meant by quality of violence? Can there be quality of violence?
Dabla, rightly remarks that domestic violence is found everywhere in the globe irrespective of social, economic, economic, political and religious set up and practice has intensified with militancy in context of Kashmir. However, it seems author has given no consideration to social and political set up Kashmir society. It is a reality that domestic violence is found in all known societies but it is a fact that nature and form of domestic violence vary considerably across the societies. Married, unmarried, newly married, old, widows, differently able, issue less women everyone experience domestic violence but in different forms with varying degree. An issue less women experience it in a different form while as a women with only female children has an altogether different experience. The victims of armed conflict which include those molested by men in uniform, widows, half widows have altogether a different experience and impact of domestic violence but author have no where discussed about them.
The study has confined itself to quantitative method and it is very difficult to a carry out a scientific study on the selected theme by employing only quantitative method. Moreover, it is very difficult to understand that how only 200 respondents were selected as sample from a huge population of six districts. There is no mention of the technique of sample selection, margin of error and confidence level.Data “collected” has been simply tabulated and presented in percentile bases without sociological explanation. No statistical test has been carried out on data to see significance, variance and impact of different variables. Durkhiem, remarked that the ‘data must be collected not just any how, but keeping certain rules in mind’, which author seems have ignored.
It has been mentioned that technique used for the study are questionnaire and interview comprising 14 sets of open ended and fixed question. However, there is no break up given of questionnaire and interviews. Surprisingly, author received same responses from all respondents even in case of open ended questions.
Studies conducted across the globe have revealed that carrying out research is not an easy walk. Moreover, researchers from conflict zones have revealed that research is not only difficult but dangerous. Researcher must be careful, avoid suspicious and sensitive activities and questions (Cilford Greetz, Bhat 2014, 2017, Shah, 2015, 2017). However, it is difficult to understand how author have managed to interview women especially in rural areas and ask sensitive question like, “ Do you get beating by your husband?” , “ Do you face torture/ harassment at the hands of in-laws?” “Do you face any kind of discrimination at home?” Moreover questions related to “suspicion of the husband about extra marital relations” molestation and so on put question marks on the study and upheld the premises of a well known scholar Adfar Shah (2017), that data from conflict zones are mostly manufactured and manipulated in offices and air conditioned rooms.
Author has used different socio-economic variables to examine domestic violence against women in Kashmir. However, variables taken either does not reveal domestic violence, or interpreted out of context and wrongly or both, take the example of money (salary) spend or handed over by women. Spending money by women or not handing over to someone else or keeping it doesn’t show prevalence or absence of domestic violence. In traditional families it is not uncommon that salaries or earnings are handed over to the head of family no matter the earner is male or female. Furthermore, spending money by women or keeping it doesn’t connote that she is independent, free,and boss and doesn’t experience domestic violence. Domestic violence is prevalent almost all over the globe including in the countries where women are salaried, doing business etc and spend it on their own. It is common that women as a sole bread earner not spend and keep salaries or earning but take care of education, health, food, clothing etc of family members. In case of ailing parents or due to other reasons (migration of male members) women take care of household and manage affairs. In addition in matrilocal families women has command and upper hand than her husband but it too does not ensure absence of domestic violence. The authorhas not taken these factors into account.
Descartes in his book, Meditations on First Philosophy (1991), pointed out that the basis of the scientific method is doubt. The things, events and phenomenon need to be doubted in order to reach understand social reality. It is beyond comprehension how author accepted everything he listened from the respondents and concluded things on the bases whatever came to his way. The responses are presented as it were stated by respondents without substantiated with observations, explanations and questions.
The book misses sociological terminology, concepts and theories and used things very loosely, for instance author writes , ‘the practice of wife beating, harassment of women, grabbing of working women’s money, threat of divorce to wives, eve- teasing of girls, denial of property rights (p3). There are specific terminologies and concepts in sociology for these practices and scholars have categorized these practicesunder different forms of violence like, sexual, physical, structural, cultural etc but the author hasused journalistic lexicon.
These are few observations needless to say that book is full of ambiguities, contradictions, misinterpretations and what not. The end of the book is more disappointing as there is no reference, bibliography or notes. However, the book is a good read for trivial understanding of domestic violence against women in Kashmir. It is affordable with nice, paper, print and design.
Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, is a student of Sociology, social activist, and a faculty member at the Department of Sociology University of Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir, India. He is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.Dr Fayaz, is working on new concepts and terms like mal-education, Hidden steering, self syndrome, Multi grade holding, Islamic lag, , Educational Shephered and Disappearance of Daughters