New Book Review – Whose Country is it anyway? by Gladson Dungdung and reviewed by Felix Padel

whose country is it anyway GD.Gladson Dungdung - Whose Country is it anyway?

Review by Felix Padel

This collection of activist essays is out just when it is needed most: a book touching on every aspect of the Adivasi situation by an Adivasi activist prepared to take on the big questions and the key perpetrators of violence, from the big companies staging takeovers, headed by Tata, to the police increasingly serving these companies rather than India’s citizens, and the politicians facilitating the takeovers.

The book’s starting point is a recent Supreme Court Judgement that validates Adivasis’ identity as India’s original inhabitants. Significantly, this case involved an Adivasi woman stripped naked and shoved around a village in Maharashtra. Another piece focuses on the plight of Anna, a domestic servant, whose unheard plea for justice is symptomatic of mass exploitation and oppression of Adivasi women in domestic service. As for exposure to rape – what about rapists in uniform? Hasn’t rape been used against tribal people as a weapon of subjugation for decades? When tribal women are gang-raped by police or army personnel, are perpetrators ever punished? “Are these women too?” is one of the book’s strongest essays, covering the sexual abuse in a school in Chhattisgarh and other episodes that bring national shame.

The first essay starts at the beginning with the inspiring, yet harrowing story of the first Adivasi to oppose East India Company invasions, in 1779, with the words “Earth is our Mother”. Baba Tilika Manjhi paid for opposing the British with a gruesome death, giving the lie to the mastermind of this Paharia campaign, Augustus Cleveland, whose memorial in Bhagalpore claimed that he brought this tribal people under British rule “without terrors of authority”!

The book’s documentation of the many forms of violence and prejudice ranged against Adivasis fills a vital gap in literature. The detail is often sickening and will make any sane person extremely angry. It is shown how Adivasis are being displaced by dams, by industrial/mining projects, by continuing tricks of non-Adivasis, and – perhaps most outrageously of all – by the new University for the Study and Research of Law at Nagri. As Dungdung points out, the head of this university is also Jharkhand’s Chief Justice. If this isn’t a blatant conflict of interest, what is? This university’s takeover of land lays down a pattern of trampling on the Law that does not bode well for its future!

The book documents the situation in other states besides Jharkhand, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Assam, where the Forest Department’s use of Boro tribal people to evict Adivasis from their forest land shows a typical colonial technique of turning one tribe against another. As the author asks, if Rahul Gandhi says he is Adivasis’sipahi in Delhi, he needs to speak up a lot louder and more often on Adivasi issues!

Dungdung rightly points out that in many ways Nehru is the ‘Architect of Adivasis’ misery’, through his ideology of dams as ‘temples of modern India’. The experience of tens of thousands of Adivasis whose lives have been ruined by dams forms a blatant contradiction to Nehru’s stated principle that tribal people should always be allowed to develop according to their own genius. However well-meaning Nehru was in his words, his violent actions towards tribal communities at certain times have yet to be recognised: apart from the horror of his big dams, he also sent in the troops against tribal communities in Telengana in 1948, destroying the achievements of 3,000 villages who had effected a democratic redistribution of land, and similarly in Nagaland and Manipur during the 1950s, where troops used extreme levels of violence to force submission. In each case, ‘security forces’ established a level of habitual violence, including use of ‘rape as a weapon of war’, for which thousands of perpetrators went unpunished. Operation Greenhunt is just the latest manifestation of the recurring patterns of state violence that these two operations initiated. Offering just military action and ‘development’ to counteract today’s Maoist insurgency is no solution at all ‘precisely because the injustice, discrimination and denial are the foundation of the violence’.

Gladson Dungdung records the starvation levels of hunger still faced by large numbers of Adivasis. As Binayak Sen has pointed out using medical and nutrition statistics, over 50% of Adivasis and Dalits are presently living under famine conditions of malnourishment. This being so, how can India’s rulers claim they have brought ‘development’ at all to these sections of society? To be real, development needs to be under local democratic control, not dictated by corporations and opaque government hierarchies.

As the two most discriminated-against groups in India, Dalits and Adivasis share many experiences. Yet the difference between the two groups is also important to be aware of: Dalits were more or less enslaved by mainstream society, while Adivasis maintained a high level of independence up to British times. As such, they developed their own diverse cultures and languages to a high level. Adivasi cultures are still too often perceived through stereotypes as ‘primitive’ and ‘backward’, when the reality is that they are extremely civilised and highly developed in areas of life where mainstream society is weak or degenerate. Centuries of development is often destroyed when Adivasi communities are thrown off their land by projects usurping the name ‘development’.

Adivasi society needs to be recognised for its formidable achievements, including an economic system that is based on and in accordance with the principles of ecology, and therefore sustainable in the true sense and the long term. Cultural Genocide is the term for what Adivasis are facing now all over India, and this book is a landmark in spelling out the injustice. By bringing out the truth, and documenting the situation from an authentic Adivasi perspective, it gives hope for a turning of the tide that will counteract the genocidal invasions and takeovers of Adivasi land.

Dr Felix Padel is an anthropologist who has lived in India for 30 years. His latest book ‘Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel’ by Felix Padel and Samarendra Das is published by Orient Black Swan. ISBN: 9788125038672

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

Conflict Resolution: From Gandhi to Galtung By Anupma Kaushik

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Peace can be defined as a two sided concept. On the one hand it implies absence of violence and on the other the presence of positive, harmonious, cooperative relationships. These two aspects are referred to as negative and positive peace. Johan Galtung clarifies that peace research is based on the assumption that peace is as consensual a value as health. He further states that interdisciplinary and multilevel approaches are needed for peace research besides adoption of symmetry. Peace research needs to draw from all corners of the world and in order to understand an issue the researcher needs to see it from either side but the solution should not be based on the assumptions of one party alone. No party should be allowed to prevail over the other. Solutions should be found from which both parties might benefit. Findings should be symmetrically available. Peace research should be open in all its phases, never clandestine, never classified. Galtung also opines that for peace research most modern techniques of empirical study should be used. Data should be collected, processed, analysed and systematised into theories so as to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of conflict and that of peace. Last but not the least is the relevance of research. Research should help in the realization of peace. A researcher should not stop by ending a research project with policy implication but should get involved in concrete action by making propaganda among intellectuals and the public; persuading the establishment into action and challenging the monopoly of decision makers.1 Thus the scope of peace research is very wide. It covers the efforts for understanding of conditions that may prevent violence and also steps necessary for creation of conditions for furtherance of harmonious relations.2

Peace research recognizes that people as people are not always peace loving. Often governments are prodded on by an angry nation but more commonly governments share their nation’s  idiosyncrasies and they even find it useful to play them up in order to have backing for their rule and policies. In other words irrational nationalism is deeply enshrined in people’s feelings about themselves and other people.3 In order to eliminate conflicts ways are to be devised to prevent misconceptions.4

Conflict consists of three components: incompatibility, action and actors. It is a situation in which a minimum of two actors strive to acquire at the same moment in time an available set of scarce resources. Examples of extreme conflicts are war, systematic repression, sexual and domestic violence, totalitarianism and genocide. In conflict both the parties want to win but that often is not possible or does not resolve the conflict completely and permanently.

Conflict Resolution is a social situation where the armed conflicting parties in a voluntary agreement resolve to peacefully live with and/or dissolve their basic incompatibilities and henceforth cease to use arms against one another. Thus conflict is transformed from violent to non-violent behaviour by the parties. In theory there are seven distinct ways in which the parties can live with or dissolve their incompatibility. First, a party may change its goal i.e. its priorities. The second way is when parties stick to their goals but find a point at which resources can be divided. The third way is horse trading in which one side has all of its demands met on one issue while the other has all of its goals met on another issue. The fourth way is shared control. The fifth way is to leave control to somebody else and the sixth way is resorting to arbitration or other legal procedures that the parties can accept. The seventh way is that the issue can be left till later or even to oblivion.5

There are certain conflict catalysts which can be divided into positive and negative. Positive catalysts are creative. They promote but streamline the conflict and create a healthy atmosphere for communication, understanding and cooperation for reconciliation whereas negative catalysts activate the conflict, format it, bring a bad taste to it. They substantiate the conflict and escalate it to an irrepressible stage, to the point of liquidating the parties. Negative catalysts are fear, force, bad language, exaggeration, secrecy, distrust, prejudice and adding new conflict issues. Positive catalysts are fearlessness, faith, love of opponent, empathy, morality, openness, introspection, confining to conflict points, readiness to compromise, voluntary initiation of dialogue.6

In analyses of conflicts, an analysis of incompatibility is necessary i.e. identification of conflicting interests, positions and needs of the parties. Then conflict strategies are to be analysed through which parties aim at reducing the influence of the other side and enhancing the influence of its own side. The behaviour of the other side is watched carefully. A positive announcement must be followed by positive steps otherwise the former is regarded as propaganda and the later as the reality. Once there is shift in behaviour a dynamic development may follow and build momentum. The parties may search for compatible positions and finding them will attempt to create new structures via which these can be expressed. Spoilers may be dealt with carefully for they will attempt to shift the conflict back to upper level.7

In civil wars and intra-state conflicts concerned parties will have a longer shared history of conflict and cooperation. The dividing lines can be ideological, economic, social, ethnic or racial. Here the most important issues are: first, to construct a social and political system that gives reasonable social and political space to all groups. The second is the issue of security as the one party that wins acts against the other. Thus it is important to end violence in a way that it removes this security dilemma. Without the parties being secure, subjectively and objectively, peace is unlikely to be sustainable. Democracy can be a solution here as it gives a way to handle the participation of parties in a society after a violent conflict and to give space to a host of actors who have previously been suppressed or excluded from having influence. Democracy also gives choices apart from winning and perishing such as winning but not gaining complete dominance; being strong enough to play a role; having some strength which can be enough to prevent undesirable developments or losing but still keeping a position in society. But for this to be a reality three conditions are important. First, the winner must be committed to respecting the rights of the loser and make a come back. In other words defeat with security. Secondly, the state should not be seen to belong to any of the parties, and thirdly, a neutral peace keeping force. Reconstruction of society on principles of inclusion is also necessary for example to solve the problem of refugees. This signifies that the extreme condition that gave rise to the flight has been removed. Human rights’ provisions and international connections are also important.8

There can be territorial solutions within a state in the form of self determination, autonomy and federalism. In self-administration devolution of power takes place from the centre to local level. Autonomy is given by the centre and is subject to policy changes by the centre. It can be of weaker or stronger type. Autonomy can also be guaranteed by outside actors not just subject to policy of the centre. Federalism is created for many units with uniform constitution and the central government is composed of constituent units.9 These are useful especially in cases where minority groups are regionally clustered. Self-control of regional groups over their internal affairs allows the protection of dignity, identity and cultures by placing minority groups on an equal footing with the rest of the national security.10 These go a long way in building positive peace where exploitation is minimized or eliminated and there is neither overt violence nor structural violence. For structural violence is built into the very structure of social, cultural and economic institutions and is more indirect and insidious than observable physical violence. It denies people important rights such as economic well being; social, political and sexual inequality; a sense of personal fulfilment and self worth. Thus positive peace-building implies establishment of non-exploitative social structure i.e. something that does not currently exist.11 This also implies that structures and institutions need to be created that are capable of ensuring human rights and managing the effects of democratization and liberalization.12 In other words positive peace cannot exist without human rights.

Gandhian Approach to Conflict Resolution

The people who established peace studies in the west – Johan Galtung and Kenneth Boulding were admirers of Gandhi.13 However in the west peace studies have taken a very different path to that of Gandhi. Probably the reason was that Gandhian peace demands a great deal of sacrifice from the practitioner. He calls it satyagraha i.e. ‘adherence to truth’ and truth and non-violence are the main planks of satyagraha. A person who resolves to adhere to truth cannot remain silent at the sight of violence which is negative of truth. Truth functions in the form of nonviolence or love. While the lover of truth ought to oppose violence such an opposition would mean ‘fight the evil’ while ‘love the evil doer’. It is a dynamic soul force based on the concept of self-suffering. As there are many forms of injustices there are many forms of satyagraha too such as non-cooperation, civil disobedience, fasting, hijrat, hartal, picketing, boycott, and renunciation of titles, honours and positions.14

Dr Anupma Kaushik is Associate Professor in Political Science, Banasthali University

Rajasthan kaushikanupma@yahoo.co.in


References

1- J. Galtung, ‘Peace Research: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives’ in Radhakrishna (ed), Peace Research for Peace Action, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Indian Council of Peace Research, Sahitya Kendra Printers, New Delhi, 1972, pp- 13- 31.

2- Mahendra Kumar, Current Peace Research and India, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, 1968, p- 9.

3- Gunnar Myrdal, ‘Peace Research and Peace Movement’, Ghanshyam Pardesai (ed), Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 30.

4- Ghanshyam Pardesai, Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 4.

5- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 3- 51.

6- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

7- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 54- 56.

8- Ibid, pp- 121- 152.

9- Ibid, pp- 171- 172.

10- Ho- Won Jeong, Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction, Ashgate, USA, 2006, p- 235.

11- David P. Barsh and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, Sage Publication, New Delhi, 2002, pp- 6- 8.

12- Roland Paris, At War’s End, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004, p- ix.

13- Negeen Zinovieff, ‘Ancient Wisdom’, The Gandhi Way, No 96, Summer 2008, Glasgow.

14- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

 

NTV Interview on Women in India with Shaheen Westcombe

Shaheen Westcombe with Talking Point presenter Neaz Ahmad

Shaheen Westcombe with Talking Point presenter Neaz Ahmad

Recently on NTV’s Talking Point programme on SKY channel 852, one of our Executive members and Kingsley Hall Trustee, Shaheen Westcombe, gave an interview about women in India in light of the recent incident in Delhi.

It can be viewed on demand at: http://www.ntvplayer.com/

Shaheen Westcombe is a member of the Gandhi Foundation Executive. Her heritage country is Bangladesh where she trained as an architect. After working as an architect in the UK for about 10 years she moved to community development and worked in management positions in local government in London for 25 years. She was awarded the MBE in 2001 for contributions to community relations.

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