The Centre for Development and Peace Studies organised
a two-day national workshop on the subject “Can
Political Science Be a Tool To Understand and Resolve
Conflicts? The Case of India’s Northeast”
at Guwahati on March 16 and 17, 2009. The Workshop was
supported by the British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata.
Here is a report of the Workshop inaugurated by the
Governor of Arunachal Pradesh Gen. (retd.) J. J. Singh,
and attended by political scientists from around Northeast
India and outside, peace and security experts, journalists
DAY-I: MARCH 16
Welcome Address: WASBIR HUSSAIN,
In his welcome address, Mr. Wasbir Hussain, Director,
CDPS said that the theme for the workshop was selected
with the premise that political scientists, in view
of their training, seem better placed to understand
and absorb issues relating to peace and security. In
view of their academic expertise, they are supposed
to understand conflict dynamics and approaches to peace
building and therefore can be expected to make their
own contribution in conflict transformation or peace-making
processes around them. Moreover, if the resources at
their command can be channelized and if their expertise
can be developed into classroom peace building modules,
it can impact directly on the most important segment
of our society, the youth, Mr. Hussain said.
Peace making efforts are going on at various levels
in the Northeast. The Government itself has been pursuing
a political and economic approach to deal with some
of the conflicts. But, the results have not always been
encouraging. Civil society initiatives to keep peace
processes on track have succeeded in states like Nagaland.
But, in states like Assam, the civil society has not
been able to broker peace, say between insurgent groups
like the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom
(ULFA) and the government. To break such a stalemate,
an active segment of people like the political scientists
can contribute their bit in sensitizing the youth or
even lending their expertise in keeping civil society
initiatives on track.
Mr. Hussain said that today a global demand for academic
and professional training has been felt in view of the
overlap between development and coexistence work in
societies in conflict. Such training, he said needs
to cover some of the following: (a) understanding of
the theory and practice of conflict and development
work, (b) knowledge and skills necessary to undertake
and engage in development and aid work under conditions
involving violent conflict, (c) familiarity with the
theory, policy and practice debates taking place among
development, aid and coexistence institutions, (d) understanding
of best practices in developmental, conflict-ridden
and disaster-affected societies through case studies
and lessons learned analyses, and (e) analytical tools
used in determining the effectiveness of aid and development
programs while simultaneously attempting to contribute
to the coexistence needs of divided societies.
The broad themes identified for the workshop are Understanding
Conflict Theory and Dynamics, Role of Media and Civil
Society, State Response to conflicts, the Constitution
and Judiciary etc, he said.
Key Note Address: Dr. AJAI SAHNI, Executive
Director, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi
In his keynote address, Dr. Ajai Sahni, executive
director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict
Management spoke on the theme “Conflict Resolution:
The Social Sciences as Force Multipliers”. He
said in what has been widely described as the information
age, in which knowledge is increasingly regarded as
the principal source of wealth and power, it is indeed
astonishing that we should ask such a question: ‘Can
Political Science be used as a tool to understand and
resolve conflicts?’ The answer is simple and inescapable:
not only can political science be used towards that
end (resolving conflict), the costs of not employing
this discipline are unacceptable. The critical question,
indeed, is why political science in particular, and
the social sciences in general, have not been applied
to secure a better understanding and more efficient
resolution of contemporary conflicts, and how can this
Dr. Sahni said that a historical amnesia, the near
complete absence of institutional memory, continues
to afflict much of the Indian security establishment
and its perspectives and understanding of the country’s
overwhelming wealth of experience – both of success
and failure – in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist
campaigns. Since the commencement of India’s first
insurgency soon after independence – in Nagaland
in 1952— there has been a continuous succession
of ‘wars within borders’, culminating in
the multiplicity of contemporary irregular conflicts
and movements that have come to afflict, in various
degrees, an estimated 271 of India’s 630 districts.
Astonishingly, the literature on these many internal
wars is minuscule; and strategic and tactical assessments
of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaigns,
There has been no systematic effort to document and
analyse the enormous cumulative experience of campaigns
since Independence. Despite the fact that a long history
of both successes and failures across theatres, as well
as in the specific theatre of their current deployment,
could yield a wealth of wisdom, of strategic and tactical
best practices, there has been no attempt in this regard.
These problems are further aggravated by policies of
task allocation and transfer that do not value continuity
of experience. As a result, there is little opportunity
for the development of long-term perspectives and a
knowledge base that may help in an authoritative and
informed assessment of emerging or ongoing emergencies.
Speaking on the reluctance of the intellectual class
to conduct research on conflict related issues, Dr.
Sahni maintained that academicians have been reluctant
to ‘soil their hands’ with research in troubling
subjects, and the limited efforts in this direction
have been deeply flawed. By and large, academics have
not committed themselves in sufficient measure to the
documentation and study of issues relating to terrorism
and insurgency. To the extent that there has been some
academic writing, it has chosen ‘safe areas’
– such as discourses on the definition of terrorism,
the ‘root causes’ of terrorism, and the
distinctions between terrorism and ‘liberation
struggles’; or politically correct ‘meta-issues’
– such as human rights and political violence
– that do not demand engagement on the ground
or unpleasant field research in the affected areas,
or fractious interactions with uncooperative civil and
police bureaucrats. Current scholarship appears to be
insulated from the more demanding and crucial aspects
of the conflicts, and from the areas of risk. There
has been little effort or courage to challenge received
wisdom or settled orthodoxies – except in the
language or idiom of another such orthodoxy.
Governments and their various agencies, on the other
hand, Dr Sahni maintained, have failed to establish
internal mechanisms and institutions to carry out these
necessary tasks of documentation, analysis, assimilation
and dissemination of counter-insurgency and conflict
resolution experience in various theatres. While several
institutions with the requisite mandate do exist within
Government, their state of health and the availability
or profile of human and material resources for mandated
tasks remains poor. More significantly, they enjoy little
prestige within the official hierarchy, particularly
in comparison with ‘executive’ posts and
departments, and have generally had no more than marginal
impact on official policy or practice.
Dr Sahni added that in the absence of a coherent body
of official or open source documentation and analysis,
the national discourse on terrorism, insurgency and
other patterns of major political conflict, has remained
polarized and overwhelmingly moulded by political and
partisan sympathies, rather than any information or
understanding that reflects the realities of the ground.
It has been muddied, moreover, by a polemical, rather
than practical, obsession with the most extraordinarily
obtuse dichotomies that have dominated the largely incestuous
debate on conflict: ‘law and order approaches’
vs. ‘addressing root causes’; ‘military
solution’ vs. ‘developmental solution’;
‘criminals, extortionists and brigands’
vs. ‘our children’ or ‘our brothers
and sisters’; ‘terrorists’ vs. ‘freedom
fighters’. These conceptual opposites have done
little to inform or shape policy, but have imposed a
measure of paralysis on the state’s institutions,
constraining the evolution of effective strategies to
confront and neutralize India’s multiple insurgencies.
Dr Sahni maintained that the success or failure of
any enterprise depends substantially on the measure
of clarity that attends its conceptualization and execution.
The responses to major contemporary conflicts, including
terrorism and insurgency, have been greatly inhibited
by an absence of clarity, enormous confusion over the
concept, a partisan debate, and deliberate obfuscation
by at least certain entities.
He further said that no real scientific progress can
rely purely on conceptual paradigms or theoretical science.
This is as much the case with the hard as with the social
sciences. In the hard sciences, real progress depends
as much on developments in pure theory as it does on
the material and applied sciences, on engineering and
technological advances, and on applications, right down
to the levels of technicians who assist in the transfer
and dissemination of technologies to the end user. Each
link in this chain, from the conceptually highest to
the lowest levels of application, is integral to the
outreach of the benefits of science to mankind. To the
extent that the social sciences have distanced themselves
from this model, focusing overwhelmingly on the meta-theoretical
levels, and on secondary analysis, rather than on the
primary datum of experience and on the imperatives of
policy and practice, they have marginalized their relevance
and are, as a result, themselves poorer, even as society
and governance has been deprived of informed and objective
feedback that is integral to efficient and, crucially,
He called for a re-dedication to reality, to the study
of the specific circumstances in which movements of
political violence emerge, and in which they end; to
the creation of vast and over-lapping data-bases on
conflicts; and on the documentation of specific strategic
and tactical initiatives that have succeeded or failed,
and the circumstances within which they have secured
Inaugural Address: Gen J J SINGH (retd) ,
Governor, Arunachal Pradesh
Gen J J Singh (retd), Governor of Arunachal Pradesh,
in his inaugural address said that the academics are
in a better position to appreciate conflicts and work
towards their resolution. What is, however, necessary,
is to channelize the resources and experiences they
have in the right direction, he said.
The Governor appreciated the fact that a group of
intellectuals and journalists in Assam have called for
an end of the independent Assam theory. He said that
progress and prosperity cannot be achieved without peace
and the people must join together both in thought process
and action, to promote peace, progress and prosperity.
He further said that India would be a central actor
in the new world order, which has been underlined by
intellectuals of the western world. India’s economic
progress is an indication of the important role it would
assume in the international scene. India is a beacon
of hope for the rest of the world, he said. It has shown
the world the lessons of democracy. The elected representatives
while laying down the policy in this country, provide
space to the stakeholders—the scientists, the
practitioners, thereby not just enriching the policy
making exercise, but also inculcating the minds of the
young, who are our future leaders.
The Governor emphasised that terrorism must be fought
decisively, as nothing can justify violence. However,
he said that the army functions with the principle of
‘iron fist with velvet glove’ to carry the
civilian population along with its efforts. The terrorists,
however, will have to be neutralised and eliminated.
There can be no soft corner or kid glove approach towards
He further said that the Army’s counter-insurgency
doctrine, developed during his tenure as the Army Chief
, does not speak of a military solution to insurgency.
The problem needs to be tackled in a four-prong manner:
while the military can bring the condition of violence
under control, the political, social and economic prongs
must play their role in resolving the conflicts. The
forces must try to win the hearts and minds of the people.
The political science teachers in this region must
take a lead role in formulating theories that not just
explain the situation and can be applied to the regional
problems, but must also be understood by the students.
The Governor said that the government and security
establishments have been adopting different approaches
to bring terrorism under control with the overall objective
of achieving peace. At the same time, we must provide
opportunity for the rehabilitation of the terrorists
and give them a chance to restart their lives. At the
same time, those who have been involved in heinous crimes
must face the due process of law. He appreciated the
fact that some people are working towards bringing the
terrorists to the path of dialogue. He said that an
entire generation has lost its youth in the Northeast
due to insurgency. This trend must be stopped. Such
Workshops will help us sensitize various segments of
Gen. Singh further said that we have the potential
to make the Northeast an economic powerhouse of the
country through capacity building. While nature has
been generous to the region, we must try and end the
regime of ignorance and isolation in this part of the
country. People of the region can engage in the production
of organic food, orchids, bamboo based products and
tourism. All these can generate jobs for the young people.
We must provide them financial empowerment and avenues
to make money. We also have a responsibility to make
the local youth get employment- not by creating them
in the government sector in the private sector as well.
The Governor added that the Vision 2020 document of
the North Eastern Council (NEC) has specified goals
for the region. However, the document will not achieve
its objective unless we make an attempt to implement
the provisions. He ended his speech by saying that there
is a greater need for an interface between the academic
and intelligentsia with the government. Such collaboration
can provide the government the early warning system
that can be used to control the spread of chaos in the
The inaugural address was followed by an address by
the guest of honour, Mr Simon Wilson, British Deputy
High Commissioner to Eastern India.
Address by Mr SIMON WILSON, British Deputy
High Commissioner to Eastern India
In his address, Mr Simon Wilson said that the United
Kingdom (UK) works for a safe, just and prosperous world,
and, in this context, conflict is certainly a threat
to all development activities and needs to be addressed
urgently. Conflict is not just a bane for India’s
Northeast but a problem of gargantuan proportions around
Mr. Wilson said that according to estimates, more
than one billion people, including about 340 million
of the world's extreme poor, are estimated to live in
fragile states, with extreme poverty, and without reliable
and stable basic governance and security. By 2010, it
is estimated that half of the world's poorest people
could be living in states that are experiencing or are
at risk of violent conflict. But conflict has a darker
shade than mere instability, he added. Around half of
all child and maternal deaths occur in fragile countries
and people in these countries are three times more likely
to be affected by HIV/AIDs. In 2007 alone, the number
of people displaced by conflict was estimated at 26
million globally, the highest number since 1990.
As in any conflict, it is the innocent who suffer
the most, Mr. Wilson said. Rape, sex slavery and trafficking
of women and girls are too often the weapons of war.
Millions of children are left hungry without access
to any basic amenities. According to estimates, more
than 300,000 children in more than 20 countries are
today being forced to take up weapons and fight wars
- subjecting them to horrific violence and lifelong
According to Mr. Wilson, these statistics, and the
human suffering behind them, suggest that conflict resolution
and building sustainable peace are the toughest development
challenges of our time. And these challenges have become
even harder because of the global economic downturn.
While the only resolution to conflict is perhaps economic
growth and stability, the role of the political science
teachers is crucial in achieving this objective, he
added. The gathering would find solutions to the problems
and shape opinions and policy in the days to come, he
He, however, cautioned that the challenge to the world
is not to focus solely on those failing states that
are seen to be of strategic importance. It is also important
to help them build a lasting peace and promote development.
This means an integrated, international approach to
conflict prevention and resolution, bringing together
the military, diplomats and development agencies. Thus,
tackling conflict and building strong states requires
reform of international institutions, such as the United
Nations, which means bringing in new players in various
ways in our attempts to prevent and address conflicts.
As the world attempts to design a new economic model,
it means finding ways to rebalance future growth, so
that no country is left behind. And, for sustainable
conflict resolution, it means breaking down the old
barriers between different agencies to work more seamlessly
from military peace-keeping to successful peace-building.
Mr. Wilson maintained that the United Kingdom has
a close relationship with India on counter-terrorism
and both countries are working to draw practical lessons
from the UK’s experience of terrorist attacks
on mass transit systems. He said that both countries
preserve their values and ambitions and prevent conflict
and wherever conflict exists, attempt to resolve it.
He expressed his pleasure of being able to support this
initiative by the CDPS to engage academics from the
political science stream to look at conflict and debate
resolutions relevant to this part of India. His congratulated
the CDPS for working towards the challenging task of
formulating a peace curriculum for schools, colleges
and universities in the Northeast. “This is a
difficult but noble challenge – it is only through
awareness of the futility of conflict that mass opinion
can be mobilised to stub out this menace”, he
added. He hoped that the Workshop will share knowledge,
experience and ideas and hopefully identify concrete
steps to a peaceful future.
Mr Prasanta J. Baruah , Joint Secretary
(Hony.), CDPS, delivered the vote of thanks.
In the second session, chaired by Prof. Apurba K.
Baruah of the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU),
Shillong, three presentations were made.
Presentation I: Dr. Swaran Singh: “Can
Political Science be a Tool to Understand and Resolve
Dr. Swaran Singh, Associate Professor at the Jawaharlal
Nehru University, New Delhi, who also represented the
WISCOMP (Women in Security, Conflict Management and
Peace), New Delhi, made a presentation on the theme,
“Can Political Science be a Tool to Understand
and Resolve Conflicts?” He started his presentation
with a definition of ‘conflict’ which in
its broadest sense involves “collusion of interests,
understandings, values and behaviours, which can be
expressed in a range of violent and non-violent ways.”
Even when expressed through violence, it can be both
physical as well as latent or invisible.
He said it is generally believed that conflict is
natural, inevitable, necessary and normal. Dealing with
the question whether all conflicts is political in nature,
Dr. Singh said that though not all conflicts fall in
the domain of political science or politics, an unresolved
protracted conflict can become the subject for political
institutions like courts or the legislatures. However,
the efficiency of these channels and theoretical paradigms
depends on actual experience and learning from their
interface with real conflicts.
Dr. Singh said that like all other disciplines, political
science seeks to empower students to develop conceptual
understanding and skills in defining and understanding
all political phenomenon, including political ideas,
institutions and process of political participation,
decision-making and so on. Ideas like justice, equality,
liberty remain the medium of articulation of conflict
while institutions like political parties and parliament
provide platforms to express those conflicting formulations
in order to evolve their more refined and effective
versions. However, this often leads to processes of
participation and decision-making becoming clogged with
deadlocks, thereby becoming inefficient and turning
several latent conflicts into manifest and violent ones.
While prima facie, Political Science mainly involves
study of theory and practice of politics, the focus
on conflict studies, and more specifically the discipline
of conflict resolution, mainly wishes to highlight the
irrational aspects of conflict and underline positive
conditions necessary for resolving conflict projects.
Dr. Singh said through his presentation he is seeking
an answer to the question whether Political Science
can be a tool to understand human conflicts and whether
Political Science should be privileged as a tool for
understanding conflicts and probably resolving conflicts.
Dr. Singh said that contributions of conflict resolution
to the study of Political Science also need to be underlined.
Especially, sub-fields like political theory, international
relations, public administration, governance have all
been enriched by the inter-disciplinary approach and
innovative approaches of conflict resolution studies.
The political conditions have transformed following
the end of cold war and 21 st century has witnessed
the rise of new political actors—civil society,
policy networks, NGOs and so on—as also new issues
and challenges few of which can be either understood
or resolved within political boundaries of Westphalian
model of state. This is where conflict resolution lends
hope in enabling political science in creating space
for new forces.
He concluded by saying while political science can
be privileged as being a tool for both understanding
conflict, yet, given the evolutionary nature of conflict,
political science needs to constantly evolve to remain
an effective tool for understanding conflict. At the
same time, political science must also remain open to
co-option by and ideas from other disciplines, especially
conflict resolution to ensure its efficacy and efficiency
in understanding and resolving conflicts.
Presentation II: Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta, Department
of Political Science, Gauhati University: Understanding
Conflict Theories And Dynamics with reference to India’s
In the second presentation of the session, Dr Nani
Gopal Mahanta, Reader in Political Science, Gauhati
University, and Coordinator, Peace and Conflict Studies
Centre of the University, spoke on the relevance of
conflict theories in the conflict theatres in Northeast
India. In this context, he spoke at length on the communal
clashes that took place between the Muslim settlers
and the Bodo and non-Bodo population in the Udalguri
and Darrang districts in western Assam in 2008 and examined
critically the conflict transformation model that was
put in place in those districts during and immediately
after the riots.
Dr. Mahanta presented the findings of the team he
had led to the conflict theatre. The team found that
both Muslims and non-Muslims had suffered during the
riots. Rumours played a catalytic role in both the districts
and also in the southern Karbi Anglong district in similar
clashes earlier, adding to the sense of fear and revenge
among the population. While, both the Bodo and non-Bodos
population heard about the arrival of 40,000 Muslims
from other areas and incidents like the alleged hosting
of Pakistani flags in the area, the Muslims had heard
of the killings of Muslim population. The Bodos appeared
to be politically more organised and mobilised than
the Biharis, Adivasis and other groups. The team also
found that unlike the politicians and the leadership,
among the common people there is a wish for reconciliation
among the different communities. The role of the government,
however, has not been found to be consistent, Dr Mahanta
asserted. Similarly, the operation of relief camps has
not been satisfactory. He said that while dialogue between
communities is important, it must involve all stake
holders including mass-based organisations like the
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). In addition,
there has to be a process of training in human rights,
conflict transformation for the administrators and peace
Dr Mahanta said that while all conflicts are not terrorism,
it needs to be remembered that suppression of conflicts
is indeed a compromise of dignity. Procrastination and
bureaucratic machinations is the latest approach of
the Indian state he said and added that the Indian state
has decided that suppression is the best method of conflict
resolution. He cited the worthlessness of the extension
of ceasefire agreements with different outfits. The
state appears to have decided to manage conflicts rather
than resolving them.
He further complained that the state does not give
space to civil society and essentially believes in a
top down approach of conflict resolution. The Indian
government invests heavily in the region without working
towards human development. Effective conflict transformation
can work only with mutual understanding, he suggested.
It may not be wise to end conflict if the element of
justice has not been considered, he concluded.
Presentation III: Dolly Phukan, Dibrugarh
University. An Alternate View To The Earlier Two Presentations
Ms Dolly Phukan, Lecturer in Political Science at
the Dibrugarh University, Assam, made the last presentation
of the session, giving ‘An Alternate View’
to the earlier two presentations. She presented a feminist
perspective of the conflict in the Northeast by detailing
the impact of violence on women and children.
She said that because of the armed conflicts, women,
children, elderly persons and the disabled have been
worst effected. Besides, the fact that in the societies
in Northeast India gender inequalities are deeply inherent,
women’s condition becomes more vulnerable during
these conflicts. The ongoing armed conflict prevalent
in Assam has intensified the violence faced by women,
which takes the form of sexual, mental or physical abuse,
killings and clashes. Although all the members of communities
are affected, the impact on women and girls is far greater
because of their status in society.
Dividing her presentation in three segments: pre-conflict,
conflict and post-conflict, Ms. Phukan said that during
the pre-conflict situation, there are increased mobilization
of soldiers or army which leads to increase sexual harassment
and loss of privacy even within the four walls of the
house (which is considered so-called safe zone) due
to frequent checks and sexual abuse. During conflict
situation, women face psychological trauma, physical
violence, causalities and death. Forced displacement
from the homesteads due to ethnic clashes is also a
gendered experience where women find the process of
displacement itself more traumatic than men. Moreover
women have special medical needs in war and conflict
situations such as extra nutritional requirements and
food during pregnancy and breast feeding. Besides that,
women victims of sexual violence naturally increase
the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and also face
the risk of unwanted pregnancies. After the conflict
situation, in the reconstruction and rehabilitation
policies of government, women are often excluded from
formal discussions. Moreover women’s unequal access
to media also leads to under -recognition of women’s
Ms. Phukan emphasised that women’s participation
in the peace process should not be seen only in the
context of women as victims of war and conflict, but
as women playing a proactive role in the process of
peace negotiations, peace building and post conflict
activities following any peace agreement.
Conceptualising peace, gender and conflict in the
context of Assam, she said that the conflict situation
has led to atrocities like sexual abuse of women both
by the insurgents and state actors, immoral trafficking,
missing women and girls, forced prostitutions etc. Cases
of girls missing from various places in Assam like Dhubri,
Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Kamrup and
Guwahati are being reported.
She concluded by underlying the need to conduct research
with a gender perspective. It is important to understand
the difference between women’s and men’s
perspective of peace. The role of women in peace building
needs to be investigated and highlighted as a part of
gender analysis of peace support operations in order
to develop effective strategies for incorporating gender
perspectives in peace initiatives, she said.
The three presentations were followed by discussion
involving questions from the floor and responses from
the presenters. The main points highlighted during the
discussions were the following.
- There is need to clearly differentiate conflict
management from conflict resolution.
- The analysis of conflict presented by the speakers
looks simple, but it has to take into account factors
like religion, especially in cases like Nagaland,
where religion has been used in the conflict situation.
Even though the Church participated in influencing
the outfits to come forward for peace talks with the
government, it has gone back to a shell after the
conflict has eased with several rebel groups entering
into a ceasefire with the government. It is found
to be reluctant to intervene to end the fratricidal
clashes between the factions.
- The goal of conflict analysis should be to understand
the intra-community conflict.
- The feminist perspective must be broadened to include
the role played by the Naga Mothers’ Association
in Nagaland which also was invited to Sri Lanka and
Jammu & Kashmir to share its experience.
- The papers must narrate how teachers can play a
role in training the students and imparting a culture
of peace in the minds of students. There is a need
to take up empirical research on violence. The role
played by political parties also needs scrutiny.
- Land remains central to the conflicts in the Northeast.
It is a symbol of collective and not just a resource.
Any understanding of conflict has to take into consideration
the centrality of land.
- Jihadi activity in Assam is over-emphasised. There
is a need to have more objective analysis of the conflict
The third session of the day was chaired by Dr. Rajesh
Dev, Lecturer in Political Science at the Women’s
College in Shillong. Three papers were presented in
Presentation I: Ms SHWETA SINGH, Lady Sri
Ram College and WISCOMP, Delhi: Peace building:
The Strategic “Why, What, When and How”
of Theory and Praxis
The first presentation of the session was made by
Ms Shweta Singh who teaches in the department of Political
Science and Centre for Conflict Transformation and Peace
Building at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. Ms Singh
also represented WISCOMP at the Workshop.
Ms Singh said that today’s conflicts represent
a divorce from ‘Clausewitzean’ image of
War and the new pattern of conflict in the 1990’s
has been its journey from inter-state to intra-state.
As a result, according to estimates, in 2005, all armed
conflicts were being fought within states, not between
them, the primary issue of contention being autonomy/self
government for certain regions or groups. At least half
of the current wars have to do with redefinition of
territory, state formation, or control of the state.
Thus, “Ethnicity” or “Religion”
have become the buzzwords. The majority of wars and
protracted conflicts are still located in the South
(South Asia and Africa). While there is a decline in
inter-state conflicts and use of armed forces, still
there is increased feeling of fear and insecurity, she
She set out to answer two fundamental questions in
her presentation. Most wars since 1945 are within states
of what intellectual and policy relevance are concepts
and practices derived from Cold War experiences. Therefore,
is there a need for a new/complementary approach to
address Conflict, Security and Peace given the analytic
frameworks that have traditionally explained wars between
states - and prescribed policies to prevent it are largely
irrelevant to violent conflict within state?
Defining conflict as a state of relationship between
parties, who have real or perceived, incompatible goals,
needs, values or aspirations, she said ‘Overt’
conflict happens when the parties use words or actions
(violent or non-violent) to express their incompatibility
and ‘Latent’ conflict happens when the incompatibilities
are not expressed openly. She outlined Conflict Management,
Conflict Prevention, Conflict Resolution, Conflict Transformation
and Peace building as the key tools for engaging with
conflict. She emphasised on peace building that seeks
to prevent, reduce, transform and help people recover
from violence in all forms, even structural violence
that has not yet led to massive civil unrest. At the
same time, it empowers people to foster relationships
at all levels that sustain them and their environment.
She further said that peace building needs to occur
before, during and after violence and there is a need
for variety of actions in each of the time frames. During
the pre-violence period, when the structural forms of
violence often exist, early warning response projects,
advocacy and other forms of strategic action can be
undertaken. During times of direct violence, programmes
to address the needs of both victims and offenders,
building relationships, role of peacekeepers, and long
term capacity building programmes assume significance.
In the post-violence period, societies need to disarm
and reintegrate armed people, address traumas and rebuild
infrastructure. Capacity building programmes can help
develop ongoing peace and human rights education, create
opportunities for social and economic development and
channel research funds into creating democratic structures
that are culturally based. She concluded by saying that
peace building is a dynamic social construct and peace
can not be merely seen as a stage in time or condition.
Presentation II: Dr. A K Baruah, NEHU University,
Shillong: “Political Science Research capacity
in Northeast India”
The second presentation of the session was made by
Dr. Apurba K. Baruah, a professor at the NEHU, Shillong.
Elaborating on the capacity for research on Political
Science in the Northeast, Dr. Baruah said Political
Science research in the region never really took off.
The students of Political Science have been mute witnesses
to the political developments of the region. Except
a few scholars trained largely outside the region, the
quality of research carried out by political scientists
in Northeast India are of such quality that although
these enabled people to get degrees from universities,
they have neither generated international or national
debates nor have influenced decisions of important political
forces be that governments, political parties or mass
Dr. Baruah presented the findings of a Social Science
research capacity report that was prepared in 2001.
He lamented that in spite of the fact that over the
years a large number of Ph.D. dissertations have been
produced, methodologically most of those are so weak
that even the empirical information generated by these
studies become unreliable. A neglect of theoretical
and conceptual issues restricts the research findings
to a journalistic level. Research at this level has
also been repetitive.
Moreover, most of the Universities of the region have
been dominated by particular ethnic communities in the
sense that the aspirations of the communities and the
most influential opinions in such communities determined
the agenda of teaching and research not through articulation
of social values but through pressures exerted by ethnic
movements. The most glaring example of this is to be
seen in the case of Nagaland.
Dr. Baruah further said that Political Science undoubtedly
is the most popular social science discipline in the
region. It has the largest number of students at Post-graduate
and Ph.D. level. But quality wise, it is one of the
poorest. One notices that the mainstream Political Science
in Northeast India seems to follow the tradition of
historical research in the region with of course much
less accuracy of facts.
He further said that there is a need for a different
index for evaluating the Social Science research in
the Northeast. There are a large number of edited volumes
but only rarely are they the results of collaborative
research. Very often seminar papers are put together
without much editing to bring out such volumes. Social
science research, in this region, has suffered as a
result of lack of accountability, lack of collaboration,
lack of funding and also due to lack of interface between
the NGOs and the academic. There is no evidence of NGOs
drawing young researchers from academic institutions
because such NGOs do not have strong presence in the
He concluded by saying that there seems to be no interference
from the state either at institutional or individual
level so far as research is concerned. But ethnic assertion
and communal feelings seem to pose threats to independent
Presentation III: Dr. John Sema, Nagaland
University: “Peace Processes: Study of Best
Practices in India’s Northeast”
The third presentation of the session was made by
Dr. John Sema, Professor in Political Science at Nagaland
University. Underlining the need to have peace in the
region, Dr Sema said that peace is the only way for
the region to develop. This can be achieved in three
ways, he explained. First is by reducing conflict, second
by deriving maximum advantage of such a situation and
third, by working on the state of latent peace.
He said that the peace process in Mizoram succeeded
because the state had only one militant outfit. After
the outfit decided to come overground, the problem of
insurgency got over. However, the Nagaland situation
is different. Even after the launching of a peace process,
rivalry between the two rebel outfits is creating problems
within the state. It is also possible that any accord
signed by the Government of India will not be acceptable
to the other faction. He questioned the rationale of
the government to continue the peace process with both
the outfits, without working towards establishing peace
between the two factions. He lamented that the outcome
of such a policy is only negative and it will not contribute
to the prospects of peace in Nagaland.
Emphasising the role of the civil society, Dr Sema
said that the intervention made by the civil society
organisations predates the official efforts at establishing
peace. However, the government does neither recognise
their contribution, nor wants to involve them in the
peace process. Without the participation of all the
stakeholders, the peace process is bound to fail. Curiously,
the Government of India will be the biggest gainer in
case of such a failure. Thus, the stakeholders must
unite and take a decisive course of action.
He concluded by saying that the civil society organisations
can bring about an end to the present stalemate in Nagaland.
The three presentations were followed by discussion
involving questions from the floor and responses from
the presenters. The main points highlighted during the
discussions were the following.
- Perspectives of conflict are always different.
For example, land cultivation rights of an Assamese
and that of a Bangladeshi immigrant are different.
- There is a need to analyse the role of the state
in perpetrating conflict.
- Conflict theories do not always explain the ground
situations. Ethnic conflict has broken out in Assam’s
Karbi Anglong district thrice since 2003. The lack
of communication between the various communities is
a factor behind the violence.
- The teaching models are restricted to class room
context. For practitioners it would be different.
To integrate justice into such a curriculum would
be a challenge as justice in conflict situations would
be dependent on the ‘entry point’.
- Peace building paradigm is not antagonistic to
state structure. The dispelling of the state is not
- Peace building is not about theorizing, it is a
strategic special network, in terms of actors, paradigms.
It has a multiplier effect and has relations to the
goals that one is trying to achieve.
- Right moment for intervention is very important
for conflict resolution.
- The Nagas lost their golden chance to gain the
maximum in the 1960s, when the movement was the strongest.
- Our university system does not encourage research
at the under-graduate level. It is especially poor
as there is no effort to teach research methodology
to the students.
- Intolerance for dissent is a critical factor behind
the lack of quality research work in the Northeast.
None of the communities are open to new ideas. A number
of Naga scholars have been silenced by the civil society
groups in that state. The word tribal has become political.
The day ended with the screening of a documentary
‘Aathwas’, produced by WISCOMP, New Delhi,
on the state of conflict and peace building in Jammu
DAY-II: MARCH 17
The first session of the second day of the Workshop
was chaired by Mr. Wasbir Hussain, Director, CDPS. Two
papers were presented during the session.
Presentation I: Mr G M Srivastava, IPS, Director
General of Police, Assam:
The Security Perspective in Tackling Insurgency
The first presentation of the day was made by Mr.
G M Srivastava, Director General of Police, Assam, on
the broad theme of state response to insurgency in the
Northeast. Outlining the dangers to security in the
Northeast, Mr. Srivastava said that neighbouring foreign
countries have always had a negative role to play in
the insurgency situation in the region. The narrow Siliguri
corridor which connects the region with the Indian mainland
provides a point of attack.
India had responded to the need of the hour and had
created Bangladesh and by doing so it had challenged
Pakistan as well as the CIA, which was against the creation
of the new nation. With the assassination of Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman, India lost all the goodwill in that
country and that particular development began a new
chapter in insurgency in the Northeast, which had seen
somewhat limited insurgency movements in Nagaland, Mizoram
Describing the current state of insurgency in the
Northeast, Mr. Srivastava said that temporary relief
has been achieved in some of the states, but causes
that promote insurgency still exist. Factors like multiplicity
of ethnicity, alienation, long and porous border, illegal
migration, under development and unemployment continue
to be factors behind the insurgency movements. He termed
the ‘alienation’ factor in the Northeast
as ‘perceived deprivation’ as other states
of the country too suffer from this.
Mr. Srivastava termed insurgency, porous border, illegal
migration, Muslim fundamentalism, possibility of the
revival of left-wing extremism, trans-border crime involving
cattle, arms, drugs, fake currency as the areas of concern
for the security forces. The insurgents continue to
engage in large-scale violence and extortion. They demand
sovereignty and right to self-determination by simply
ignoring the history of the country.
Speaking about the insurgency movement in Tripura,
he said that the marginalisation of the tribals as a
result of migration from Bangladesh is the main factor.
It changed the demography of that state. In 16 of Assam’s
districts, illegal migrants have significant presence
and they dominate the electoral constituencies. Insurgents
continue to receive assistance from the foreign countries
and Bangladesh has emerged as the hub for all the anti-India
activities. He termed Bangladesh as “worse than
Speaking on special laws like the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act (AFSPA) and their impact on the state of
insurgency in Manipur, Mr Srivastava said these sustain
militancy. Their long enforcement has been used by the
militants to elicit popular support. He said that government
can consider removing the act temporarily for a period
of six months to judge its impact.
He also said that the role of Christianity also needs
to be probed. Clarifying that the religion is not at
fault, he said that some churches in the region have
sheltered militants. A number of insurgent outfits are
‘Christian in their outlook’, the DGP said.
He added that the NLFT in Tripura converted many of
its cadres. Some of the surrendered militants have even
gone to countries like Australia and are working as
pastors. The DGP said that the “religion has been
In Nagaland, in spite of the peace talks there is
a parallel government. Militants are collecting taxes,
putting people to enormous inconvenience. Blaming the
ISI of Pakistan as facilitating the insurgents, he said
that the organisation has provided hi-tech explosive
training to the militant cadres in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The state response to the prevailing insurgency has
been a combination of peace talks, suspension of operation
agreements, imposition of special laws and surrender
and rehabilitation policy of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
His recommendations for improving the state of affairs
included intensified counter-insurgency operations,
intelligence sharing and a primacy to the state police
force in the operations. Diplomatic pressure on the
neighbouring countries must be maintained. The media
which glorifies the militants needs to be ‘managed’.
There has to be continued peace initiatives. To prevent
the movement of militants, border needs to be fenced
on a priority basis. He said that coordination between
4Ps (Police, Press, Public and Politicians) is a pre-requisite
for improving the situation. Violence needs to be stopped
at any cost and the militants need to know that the
guns of the government are stronger, he concluded.
Presentation II: Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta, gauhati
University: Why Does The State fail to Tackle Terror
And Insurgency? Perspective from India’s Northeast
The second presentation of the session was made by
Dr. Akhil Ranjan Dutta, who teaches Political Science
at the Gauhati University, Assam. Speaking on the failure
of the state to tackle insurgency in the region, Dr.
Dutta said that the post-colonial discourse on terror
monopolized by the Indian state is parochial and regimented.
As a result, it fails to understand the complex and
diverse roots of ‘terror’ in a region like
Northeast India. He observed that the mechanism that
fails to understand the roots of terror cannot explore
appropriate devices to fight terror. In contrast, the
‘regimented’ devices have become the rallying
points of new terror—both from the end of the
state and also from the end of those forces engaged
in fighting the state.
He identified geo-political setting of the region
and the Indian state’s obsession with ‘territorial
integrity’ in the region, the nation-building
paradigm of the Indian state, development paradigm of
the Indian state and its growing non-convergence with
the land-people relationship in the region; the economic
nationalism, which had emerged as the tool for sustaining
political independence; abundance of natural resources
and contestation for appropriation and exploitation
by state and private forces; mal-governance—failure
in delivering the basic needs by the government and
growing corruption; proliferation of drugs and arms
through the porous boarders, growing fragmentation of
the ethnic/identity movements and increasing tendencies
of self-obsession among different ethnic groups; insurgency
and fake insurgency; myth and reality of illegal migration
and emerging patent regime and its negative fallout
for the resourceful region as the roots of India’s
Northeast ‘terror’, which has resulted in
gross human insecurity.
Dr. Dutta said that the long trajectory of nation-building
process in the region has witnessed coercion by the
Indian state and consequent retaliation from the region
through insurgency. In spite of the promulgation of
coercive laws and presence of the military, the Indian
state has failed to eliminate insurgency in the region.
Rather, the insurgent groups have sustained and strengthened
their bases and operations resulting in intensification
of insecurity of the common people in the region. Terror
and counter-terror have emerged as the order of the
day and human security has been the casualty.
Questioning the level and capacity of policing in
the region, Dr. Dutta questioned the type of ‘policing’
and calls for the type of policing to be investigated.
In Northeast India, military and para-military forces
have reduced police forces into insignificant element
even in day-to-day law and order situation. He added
that non-recognition of land-people relationship in
the dominant paradigm of nation-building and development
in this pre-dominantly tribal region has caused gross
insecurity among the people. The abundance of resources
in the region, in fact, has become a source of conflict
and insecurity in the region.
He concluded by saying that the state refuses to recognize
this multi-dimensional character of insecurity in the
region that act as the breeding ground of new and new
forms of insurgency in the region. Therefore, it fails
to tackle insurgency despite adding new and new forms
of coercive laws adding to the existing ones.
The two presentations were followed by discussion
involving questions from the floor and responses from
the presenters. The main points highlighted during the
discussions were the following.
- Ceasefire in the region has been used merely as
an instrument of postponing peace, which has resulted
in a ‘permanence of the temporary’ syndrome.
- Laws like the AFSPA are providing a platform to
the militants to rally against the state.
- Coordinated effort between the security forces
in the Northeast needs to be established.
- People’s participation in providing security
is an important part. After the recent bomb explosions
in Assam, people have cooperated with the police in
- Development cannot work alone without security.
There is a need for an integrated approach.
The second session of the day was chaired by Mr. Samudra
Gupta Kashyap, Bureau Chief (Northeast) of the Indian
Express. Three papers were presented during the session
on the role of the media and civil society organisations
in conflict situations.
Presentation I: Mr Subir Bhaumik, BBC, Eastern
India: Journalism in a Conflict Zone: Impact of
media coverage in reduction or escalation of conflict
Mr Subir Bhaumik of the BBC ( Eastern India) made
the first presentation of the session. He spoke at length
on the perils of journalism in conflict zones.
He said that for a journalist based in India’s
Northeast, life has not been only following the conflicts
within one’s own borders but also those beyond
them. Besides keeping a watch on the complex developments
in India’s troubled border regions, the media
personnel have been compelled to look beyond the immediate
borders and link it to the changing geopolitics of Asia.
Mr Bhaumik said that this has often meant “operating
like a guerrilla” – illegal border crossings,
dealing with intelligence agents, drug lords, smugglers
and ruthless rebels, snooping on corrupt politicians
and government officials with illicit links to the rebels
and drug lords. In the end, physical and professional
survival has not been easy.
Providing personal anecdotes, Mr Bhaumik raised the
following questions, relevant to conflict situations-
(a) How far can a journalist in a delicate conflict
situation trust his source, however well-placed he or
she may be (b) how will he or she handle an obviously
“biased” source but one who is important
(c) how will the journalist maintain balance and fairness
in such a surcharged atmosphere. For most journalists
with no real-life experience or training to handle conflict
situations, this experience is baptism by fire. In the
end, the four professional lessons derived are: (a)
to rise above the “identity barrier” and
recognise that all involved in the conflict have a point
of view that deserve media attention (b) to develop
a wide a range of acquaintances and sources in all communities
in the shortest possible time (c) draw on a wide range
of sources and report with appropriate attribution,
so that the reader could get a balanced version of events
(d) wherever and whenever possible, avoid second-hand
sourcing and report from the spot , since presence and
access is key to insight into such events.
Speaking from his wide experience, Mr Bhaumik said
that for a journalist reporting a region like the Northeast
(or any other similar conflict zone of comparable diversity),
it is important to have a wide range of sources in the
various communities. It is important to know the community
leaders, young and old, traditional and modern, interact
with them and also reach out to the grassroots to get
a varied perspective.
He, however, cautioned that in an era when governments
and rebels – almost everyone with an interest
– develop media management capabilities, it is
for the journalist to be ever more watchful. His/her
power or influence lies in his/her credibility and credibility
is built up over years of unbiased, accurate reporting
and a demonstrated evidence of integrity. It is also
important that the journalist impresses on his or her
source (a) the sincerity of purpose and (b) the unacceptability
of favours of a material kind.
Militants do use the media for their own purposes.
Mr Bhaumik cited the example of an interview he had
with ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua in December
2003 where the rebel leader informed him of the fall
of the outfit’s bases in Bhutan. Although the
real intention of Barua was to disseminate his views
to his commanders, Mr Bhaumik said he had to do the
story for the sake of the larger audience. Similarly,
media forms a critical part of the “Psyops”
of the security forces. Security planners carefully
take into account the capabilities of their “media
assets” and the reach of the media they work for
and whether the “plant” would hit the target
area and create the necessary impact, Mr Bhaumik said.
“It is war through the media – whoever said
pen is mightier than sword is vindicated, but at the
cost of professional journalism”, he rued.
Elaborating further on the challenges journalists
face in the Northeast, he said the media is often polarised,
its loyalties divided between the Indian security forces
and the establishment or the rebels challenging it.
It has become really difficult to tread the “middle
ground”, to stick to objective professional journalism.
The moment a journalist reports the truth, be it the
rebels or the state actors, enemies are instantly made,
some rather dangerous ones. “Reporting the region
has become a very dangerous proposition, much more dangerous
since I first started reporting there 28 years ago”,
Presentation II: Ms Patricia Mukhim, Social
Activist: Role of Civil Society: Can it still help
resolve conflict in Northeast India?
Ms Patricia Mukhim, Editor of The Shillong Times
dealt with the role of the civil society organisations
in the Northeast and their contributions to conflict
resolution and peace building in the region. Challenging
the conventional wisdom that civil society groups have
been critical to the peace processes in the region,
Ms. Mukhim said that people of the Northeast have been
found to be less engaged in social networking compared
to other parts of the country. Radical ethno-centrism
found among the people has been a factor behind such
a phenomenon and thus, there is less bonding of like
Terming this as a serious trend, she said that uninvolved
people can be very dangerous. “If you are not
a part of the solution, you can be a part of the problem”,
she said. Thus, the Northeast, where ethno-centrism
is very sharp cannot claim to have a vibrant civil society.
It is simply not possible. Decision-making in the Northeast
has not been very democratic, she lamented. “Here
one group takes the decision and others simply follow.”
She questioned the standing of the civil society groups
in the region as democratic agents. “Is the civil
society in Assam inclusive and democratic? Are they
spontaneous or manipulated?” she asked. Citing
the case of Nagaland, where fratricidal clashes continue
to add to the level of violence, in spite of the ceasefire
agreements with both the principal insurgent formations,
she said that there seems to be unanimity among the
community based organisations in the state. However,
such unanimity does not exist between the Naga population
of Nagaland and Naga population of Manipur. “The
Nagas of Manipur are not integrated”, she said.
She said that the lack of unity and very undemocratic
character of the civil society organisations tend to
limit their relevance in conflict situations. As a result,
apart from very small exceptions, their role gets limited
to appealing for peace and nothing else. In real terms,
they do not make much difference to the levels of violence.
As a result, conflicts in this region do not have any
chance of ending without the militant outfits themselves
giving up violence, or reaching a state of fatigue in
which they simply develop a disinterest in continuing
Presentation III: Ms Rosemary Dzuvichu, Nagaland
University: Alternate View To The Earlier Presentation
on Role of Civil Society
Ms Rosemary Dzuvichu, who teaches English literature
at the Nagaland University, made a presentation on the
Naga experience of the civil society and conflict resolution.
She said that the Northeast has suffered the toll of
violence in the different kinds of conflict that has
plagued the region for decades. To that extent, it is
important to have mass mobilisation for resolving these
political conflicts through peaceful negotiations and
civil society must become stakeholders and own the peace
process. The inclusion of the people and their active
participation, thus, are the key to any lasting solution
of the conflicts. The problem, however, arises from
the fact that in the Northeast, in most cases, the parties
in conflict have kept the doors shut thereby excluding
the civil society, thus, prolonging the conflict.
Ms Dzuvichu maintained that lack of transparency and
secrecy in peace negotiations has added to the suspicions
and misunderstandings. It is the responsibility of the
civil society to participate in the peace process and
make its voice heard which will enable the public to
participate as stakeholders during any peace negotiations.
In this context, the role of women assumes significance
due to the historically important role played by organisations
like the Meira Paibis in Manipur and the Naga Mothers’
Association (NMA). The gender perspective and initiatives
taken by women in helping to resolve the Northern Ireland
conflict is an example for the region for inclusion
of women in peace negotiations. Detailing the role played
by the NMA in the peace process, Ms Dzuvichu said that
the NMA remains a strong force as peace builders, peace
makers and peace keepers in the Naga conflict. It has
even guided and inspired the Sri Lankan Mothers and
the Kashmiri Women for peace.
She said that the Shillong Accord brought more conflict
to Nagaland and the Naga peace talks too have not progressed
much over the past ten years. This, she said, is because
of the non-inclusion of the other factions and failure
to carry people along. The Government’s policy
of secrecy and lack of transparency in the negotiations
has created suspicion and misunderstanding among people.
Ms Dzuvichu spoke at length about the role played
by the Forum of the Naga Reconciliation (FNR). Supported
by the Naga civil society and the active support of
other organisations, the FNR has managed to mediate
and facilitate the meeting of leaders from different
warring factions more than ten times in the last one
year. The sustained dialogue and working on common grounds
has brought together 37 Naga tribes and civil societies
to take the Naga Peace efforts further. Lessons to be
learnt in conflict resolution through the role played
by the FNR is that from the first to the tenth meeting,
misunderstandings, perceptions, hate, exclusiveness,
threats, killings to political issues were addressed,
It is expected that this inclusion of broad participation
of all sections of Nagas may change the tone for the
peace talks. Inclusiveness and consensus of all stakeholders
in peace processes along with a sustained dialogue has
been made possible through the continued efforts of
the civil society groups till today, she concluded.
The three presentations were followed by discussion
involving questions from the floor and responses from
the presenters. The main points highlighted during the
discussions were the following.
- Civil society organisations and their functioning
represent the emergence of a pluralist base of Indian
- Ceasefires and dialogue processes represent important
opening points for a political process.
- Lack of training remains a problem area for the
Indian media. Whereas the business houses which run
the newspapers have no dearth of funds, they are not
willing to spend it on the training of their reporters.
The foreign media like the BBC are a different breed,
which organises hostile environment training for its
- Lack of training affects the level of professionalism
among the journalists.
- Women and children are the biggest victims of violence
in the conflict situations and no civil society organisation
has focussed on this trend.
The third session of the day was chaired by social
activist and editor of The Shillong Times,
Ms Patricia Mukhim. Three papers were presented during
the session on the constitutional provisions and conflict
situation in the Northeast and the state of civil liberty
in the region.
Presentation I: Mr Justice I. A. Ansari, Gauhati
High Court: Constitutional Schemes of Governance
in Northeast India
Mr Justice I A Ansari of the Gauhati High Court made
the first presentation of the session on the constitutional
provisions and their ability to prevent or resolve conflict
situations in the Northeast. He began his presentation
by invoking some poignant questions. Why is that every
ethnic group in Assam has a student group claiming to
represent its interest? Is it because the groups feel
their interests are not being protected? Do they want
to hog the limelight or is it a fight for space or sharing
power? Is the Constitution of India failing us or are
we failing the Constitution? To these questions, unfortunately,
there are no fixed answers, he noted.
He said that there is a constitutional scheme of governance
for Northeast India, which is different from the arrangement
for the other states in the country. He observed that
during the British rule, there were ‘excluded’
or ‘partially excluded’ areas governed by
the governor general or the viceroy. The system of governance
was different for the rest of the country. The Northeast
enjoyed limited autonomy with some restrictions. It
is said that the British policy was calculated and this
was intended at preventing the wave of freedom movement
from reaching the region.
Such an arrangement gradually found its way into the
administrative scheme for the region in independent
India. The Constituent Assembly deliberated on the question
of administering the excluded areas left open by the
British. By that time a committee headed by Gopinath
Bordoloi had been set up to look into the matter. One
group of the committee felt that since the Northeast
is surrounded by a number of foreign countries, it should
be directly administered by the president. Taking into
account factors like the conflict between the Ahoms
and the Muslims and developments like infiltration,
another group felt that politicians should not be allowed
to do anything with the administration of the country,
lest it will give rise to demand for self-determination.
The group felt that unless the area is integrated into
India, isolationist forces would continue to exist and
we would not have a strong and united India.
The Bordoloi committee recommended that the tribal
population of the region should have self-government
with limited autonomy. Given such facilities they would
come back to the mainstream after sometime. Towards
this direction, the Constituent Assembly enacted the
fifth and the sixth schedule, which enlist several provisions
of autonomy for the tribal population of the region.
The sixth schedule has been described as a constitution
within a constitution. It has provisions for autonomous
districts as well as autonomous regions.
Once the provisions were put to use, problem started
in Nagaland. However, the Constituent Assembly could
not understand the peculiarity of the problem. Such
peculiar problem has also come to exist in case of the
BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District) area
created for the Bodo population. The BTAD executive
council has 40 members out of which 30 belong to the
scheduled tribes, five non-tribals and rest five are
unreserved. Due to the sheer fact that there is no homogenous
Bodo population anywhere in the BTAD area, it should
not have come under the sixth schedule.
The constitutional provisions are also facing a challenge
in Nagaland. The problem remains that the Naga peace
accord cannot remain limited to Nagaland, as there are
Tangkhul Nagas in Manipur as well. Thus, the question
remains whether the ceasefire with the NSCN-IM would
apply to Manipur and Assam? The Central Government is
yet to clarify its position on this. As a result, the
Tirap and Changlang areas of Arunachal Pradesh are infested
with extremists and very little are being done about
Justice Ansari concluded by saying that we must start
a round table of dialogue with the dissatisfied groups
in Nagaland. Talking to individual groups would not
lead us anywhere.
Presentation II: Dr K. Debbarma, NEHU University,
Shillong: Civil Liberty: A Victim of actions by
the State and non-state armed groups in Northeast India
The second presentation of the session was made by
Dr. K Debbarma, a teacher in Political Science at the
NEHU, Shillong. In his presentation Dr Debbarma narrated
the challenges posed to civil liberty in the Northeast.
Dr. Debbarma began by asking the question: How the
state has not been able to contain the shifting nature
and character of the non-state groups? He said that
the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations have
become counter-productive and has largely resulted in
the suffering of the common people. Whereas there is
a constitutional guarantee to provide civil liberty
to common people, the fact remains that it has been
almost impossible for the common man to protect his
liberty and exist as a human being with dignity.
He further said that there is a limit to the state’s
role in providing security to the common people. However,
at the same time, the state cannot become the aggressor
and violator of such rights. This has been a common
phenomenon in the Northeast. Starting from the 1960s
and the 70s, army operations have victimised the common
Commenting on the shifting strategies of the insurgent
groups, Dr. Debbarma said that the insurgents have shifted
their area of operation from the rural to the urban
areas. The 2004 explosions in Dimapur (Nagaland) and
the 2008 serial explosions in Agartala (Tripura) and
Assam are examples of this trend. At the same time,
extortion and kidnappings have become more regular.
Dr. Debbarma concluded by saying that irrespective
of whether the state or the non-state groups are violating
the civil liberty of the common man, people on the street
is the worst sufferer of the state of insurgency in
the region. Only a networking of civil society groups
will go a long way in protecting the civil liberty.
Presentation III: Ms Sakira Shahin, Gauhati
University: Alternate View: Constitution, Judiciary
& People’s Aspirations
The third presentation of the session and the last
one of the Workshop was made by Ms. Shakira Shahin,
lecturer at the Women’s Studies Research Centre
in Gauhati University. She said that
being a region of great differences culturally, ethnically
and politically, it is not always helpful to encompass
all its diversity under the term “North East”
as it masks the diversities from the average Indian
psyche which is anyway far removed from the trails and
trepidations plaguing this region for centuries. Multiple
truths, conflicting realities and perceptional gaps
between the various stakeholders in the region and most
of all the absence of a common thread, imagined or otherwise,
cutting across the region has driven the region into
a worse kind of conflict situation.
Ms Shahin said that the measures at bringing some
order into the chaos in the Northeast taken by India’s
leaders from Independence up until now cannot be washed
away as total failure but they have at best been only
partial successes. Much of the human tragedy that has
occurred in the region may be said to have stemmed from
the centre’s initial inability to comprehend the
complex relationships and equations which mark the different
nationalities filling up the north eastern mosaic, she
She further maintained that the sheer magnitude of
ethnic diversity of the Northeast, the colonial legacy
of exclusion and seclusion in certain areas the misperceptions
and the problems of unequal and unbalanced economic
development during the post-independence period created
conditions for ethnic conflicts of various kinds to
emerge and sustain themselves over a period of time.
The crises in the region are therefore of identity,
security and underdevelopment, all interlinked and one
feeding on the other.
Dealing with the demand for sovereignty by the Nagas,
Ms Shahin said that the Naga problem and its (mis)handling
by the Government of India also had its repercussions
among insurgent groups in other parts of the region.
On the one hand the Naga problem was not confined to
the state of Nagaland alone as the demand for Greater
Nagaland or Nagalim also entailed curving out territories
from adjoining states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal
The movement for autonomy in Assam, on the other hand,
seemed much more serious when it began because it was
driven by a groundswell of grassroots opinion rather
than individual charisma, like that of Phizo in Nagaland.
Rejecting the demand for sovereignty for Assam, Ms Shahin
said that the secession demand seems absurd as it is
difficult to understand what purpose it would serve
under the circumstances. However, given the fact that
no one issue or factor exists in isolation from the
other, such a demand has to be seen in the context of
growing unrest among the people due to failure of a
State to deliver the basic requirements of a society.
She further said that governance in the Northeast has
been compromised at three levels- (a) virtual suspension
of the rule of law (b) siphoning off developmental resources
and disparate allocation of resources and funds within
the states of the region (c) doing away with grassroots
representative democracy in the name of protecting and
preserving tribal identity.
Ms Shahin concluded by saying that there has to be
a restoration of governance in India’s Northeast
at its most fundamental and basic level. The aspirations
for development, basic amenities, security, employment,
productive engagement etc. cannot be ignored for the
sake of political aspirations and preserving identities.
In the name of fulfilling the political aspirations
of a people, economic progress has been held to ransom.
This process needs to be reversed.
The presentations were followed by discussion involving
questions from the floor and responses from the presenters.
The following points were highlighted during the discussions.
- Naga insurgency is not the first insurgency in
the Northeast. Mush before insurgency started in Nagaland,
in Tripura the tribals had risen in revolt that had
been suppressed by force.
- The observation by a participant that Naga insurgency
was not the first insurgency in the Northeast was
contested by others present.
- The interpretation that the nature of insurgency
has changed from rural to urban in recent times is
not correct. Many outfits like the ULFA had operated
in the urban areas since beginning.
- Legislations have been made to protect the interest
of the law makers. As a result their contribution
to governance or conflict prevention has been minimal.
- Indian Constitution is an extra-ordinary document.
The problem is that we are not running the country
as per the true spirits of the document.
Discussion on a Peace & Conflict Curriculum
After the end of the presentations, the participants
sat down to discuss a draft curriculum for peace and
conflict education in the school, college and university
level. The curriculum is being prepared after taking
the views of the participants into consideration. It
will be shared with academics and others, including
university authorities, before given a definite shape
in the coming days. Each of the participants had filled
up a set of questionnaire prepared by CDPS to comment
on the existing scope of peace and conflict studies,
decide on the content of the curriculum and deliberate
on the reactions such a change might invite from the
teachers, students, parents of students and parties
in conflict. This session of discussions with participants
was coordinated by Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray, Research
Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.
The key points that emerged out of the deliberations
were the following.
- Whether the new curriculum would be examination
oriented or would be taught as a foundation course
needs to be decided. If it is a foundation course,
there is a possibility that it would not be taken
seriously by the students.
- There should be a programme for in-service teacher
training programme for the new course. To that extent,
peace cells or peace boards may be constituted.
- Class 9 and 10 may be too late for introducing
the subject to the students. It needs to begin much
earlier. The target audience should be of the age
of 12 to 15 years. Thus, class 6 and 7 can be targeted.
- It can begin at the primary level itself. At the
level of class 9 and 10, social studies and audio-visual
methods can be used to impart such education. In class
11 and 12 human rights and peace making approaches
can be introduced, in the graduation level, the students
can be taught conflict management.
- Special packages may be worked out for conflict
affected children through regular sensitisation.
- It should be decided whether this curriculum would
be a completely new subject, or a part of an existing
subject. Introducing a new subject would require establishment
of a new department, which would complicate the matter.
- The subject should not be made compulsory.
- The peace syllabus should identify its target groups.
It should be taught differently to urban students
and differently to the students in rural areas.
- The peace curriculum or peace studies programme
should also be introduced in the Madrassas.