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Peace refractions

What is peace to the refugee living in a camp, to the person who comes home to domestic violence, to those living in want, to those who cannot speak their mind, who are denied equity because of their caste, class or religion? Is the end of war or civil strife peace if justice is not done to the victims, and to the perpetrators of violence? And finally, can there be peace in any sphere without inner transformation? Swarna Rajagopalan assesses

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The everydayness of conflict, and of peace-building

In the 21st century, conflict is everywhere, no longer playing out on battlefields alone, but in forests and mohallas, over control of water, food and livelihoods. As a result, writes Sumona DasGupta, the way we respond to conflict has also changed: it requires not just ending violence, but also changing unjust structures of society. Building a positive peace requires state diplomacy as well as engagements by individuals and communities at all levels

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Manufacturing conflict

It is a short step from something as simple as colouring the old city green and the outer city saffron on a VHP map of Ahmedabad in 1991 to the violence Gujarat witnessed in 2002, explains Teesta Setalvad. And a short step from carrying the coffin of Swami Lakshmanananda around Kandhamal to the gutting of 100 villages. Communalism is not about religion but the manipulation of religion and religious symbols for political mobilisation; it is not about history but the construction, reconstruction and deconstruction of history

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A people-centred peace

Why have all peace-building measures failed in Kashmir? In this article, Dileep Padgaonkar, one of the government interlocutors appointed to study the Kashmir conflict, discusses the importance of going beyond positing the crisis as a Hindu-Muslim one, or one of competing nationalisms, to seeing the plurality of concerns, interests and aspirations in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and putting the people at the centre of a settlement, not nations, ideologies and faiths

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The folly of using violence to quell violence

As early as 1986, the government was warned of the “backlash of modernisation” in the central tribal belt. But the colonial precedent of using violence to quell violence has been government’s only response to Maoist extremism to date, writes K S Subramanian .Why are there no peace efforts? When and why did the Union home ministry, once tasked with the delivery of social justice, especially for adivasis and dalits, become just a law and order ministry?

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Constitutionalism and the possibilities of peace

How is law and order to be maintained in times of conflict even while ensuring that the exercise of state power is kept within constitutional boundaries, asks Siddharth Narrain. More importantly, should not the state ensure a lasting peace by promoting social, economic and political justice? It is the manner in which the state behaves in times of conflict that determines the nature of the state in times of peace, the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Salwa Judum reminds us

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'Listen to your mother before you kill your brother'

The women of the Northeast have halted violence between warring villages and tribes, campaigned against AFSPA by stripping naked, as the Meira Paibis did, or by fasting for 11 years as Irom Sharmila has done. But though women have been at the forefront of peace-building, writes Rita Manchanda, there is not a single woman in the state assemblies of Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur: clearly, women can be relied on to stop the violence, but not to shape the peace

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The violence within

Legal and constitutional safeguards, education and economic progress will not by themselves suffice to resolve caste conflicts in India. If we want a social order free of exclusion and dominance, explains Edward A Rodrigues, we need to reinvent the victim-victimiser relationship, with the victimiser not only giving up the process of victimisation but directly and overtly standing up for the victim, as the grassroots movements of the ’60s and ’70s did

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The Indian family: A peace not worth protecting?

Justice and peace do not always coincide, writes Nivedita Menon. The heterosexual patriarchal family, for instance, contributes to the dominant social order in India, but it is not a just or equal space for women. Is this then a peace that should be protected? Sometimes, this author suggests, conflicts should not be resolved; sometimes disorder can be the beginning of justice

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Secular rethink

Is it time to accept that secularism as we have known it has failed India in many ways? Should we begin to redefine ‘secularism’ with the aim of embracing, rather than obliterating, multiple identities based on religion, region, caste, language, etc? Members of Citizens for Peace, a Mumbai CSO, reflect on their 20-year journey from an unquestioning faith in secularism to a more nuanced questioning

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The space where either/or co-exist

It is literature and the arts -- more than politics or religion -- that hold the possibility of peace, because they allow open spaces for imagination, dialogue, dissent, and plurality. Even for questioning the Truth. This is why we must guard against the enclosure of these spaces, says Ashok Vajpeyi

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Between 'Yes' and 'No'

In letting go of the anchors of identity -- Hindu or Muslim, feminism or patriarchy, secular or sacred, folk or classical, dalit or upper caste -- do we walk into a more fluid space, a place without walls or doors that allows for the possibility of others entering? And is it poetry and song that best carries us to such a place? Shabnam Virmani explains

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Teaching peace: Civil society peace education programmes in South Asia

Several peace education programmes across South Asia, from the Peace Museum in Karachi to the Sita School near Bangalore, are initiating processes that incorporate ideas of peace and non-violence. But they are fighting for space within the mainstream education system and tend to be confined to private schools, writes Anupama Srinivasan

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Beginning with children

Preventing conflict is the work of politics, establishing peace is the work of education, said Maria Montessori. NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework 2005 proposes the integration of peace education and the building of peace-seeking mindsets across the entire curriculum, not just in a weekly ‘moral science’ class. It emphasises the interdependence of living beings and the creation of an environment that builds sensitivity to others’ cultures, perspectives and rights. Priyadarshini Rajagopalan explains

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Cultivating compassion

Universities offer many courses on war, genocide, justice and injustice. But can we teach students how to become more compassionate and ethically driven, asks Linda Hess. An experimental course at Stanford University seeks to help students understand the roots of violence within themselves as well as in the world around them. It is a course that attempts to put the ‘heart’ back into higher education which tends to focus only on intellectual learning

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Beyond social and economic justice

‘Social + economic justice = Peace’ is now an established universal principle. But it banishes the quest for a deeper, more fundamental peace to the personal realm. It’s true that there may not be peace without justice, says Rajni Bakshi, but justice by itself will not ensure peace. Better laws and better social and economic structures can only work if there is a ceaseless personal renewal of the underlying values in everyday life

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Re-dedicating ourselves to the priority of means over ends

Moral idealism is dangerous because it is inevitably accompanied by the belief that the end justifies the means, that violence in service of justice is justified. Gandhiji was aware that this would open the floodgates to brutality, and therefore he insisted on the priority of means over ends. We need a blanket rejection of violence, no matter what the cause, writes Sudhir Kakar. Justice is important, but compassion is equally important

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