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Brief Report On Conference Held On 2nd October, 2012 On “Gandhi And Conflict Resolution: India’s Leverages And Lessons

Brief Report

The Association of Asian Scholars and Gandhi & Peace Resource Centre, Vardhman Mahavir Open University, Kota organized a conference

At Gandhi Bhawan, VMOU, Kota on:

 “Gandhi and Conflict Resolution: India’s Leverages and Lessons”

 2nd October, 2012

AAS acknowledges the support for the seminar received from the Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

The Academic Director of the University welcomed the participants and requested Prof. Dhadich to inaugurate the conference.

Prof Ramesh Dadich, VC, Kota University in his inaugural address stated that Gandhi ji reflects us in many ways; it depends on how we want to interpret his ideals and teachings and what he stood for. He reiterated that Gandhi’s techniques of defeating violence around the world and establishing peace through non violence had become increasingly relevant today. He added that conflict both within and without had become a part of our lives, but its resolution was not possible. However, Gandhi taught us that non violence should be applied in such a manner that it would become a tool for conflict resolution.

He congratulated the members of AAS for disseminating the vision of Gandhi for peace and harmony in India and in the region.

Dr. Satyabrat Sinha from CRRID, Chandigarh spoke of the various dimensions of conflict. He stated that conflict could be both positive and negative. He also described the characteristics of conflict and its implications for humankind, whilst highlighting that resources, governance, ideology and religion had all become sources of conflict.

Dr. Sanjay Bhardwaj, JNU, spoke of the nature of conflicts in South Asia. Terrorism, in his opinion was a major issue which had resulted in conflicts in the region. He also highlighted that there were both inter-State and intra-State conflicts and in this context, there was an important role being played by the extra regional powers including USA, UK and China. While speaking about the Gandhian way, he described Gandhi’s contribution to the formation of nation state in the context of India and Pakistan. Values of secularism, democracy and social justice were advocated by Gandhi in India but this was not seen in the case of Pakistan and so the idea of India and that of Pakistan, was contested. Dr. Bhardwaj also analysed the concepts of mobilisation, internalisation and democratisation in the Gandhian perspective.

The next speaker, Dr. Preeti Singh from Delhi University focused on Gandhi’s teachings for peace and development. She highlighted the relevance of Gandhi’s teachings for sustainable development through resource conservation and also brought out the pertinence of the Gandhian way for agricultural development, employment generation and energy efficiency.

On the topic of “Gandhi’s understanding of Structural Violence”, Prof. Swaran Singh, JNU spoke about certain apposite ideas forwarded by Gandhi, laying special emphasis on morality and non-violence. He elaborated on how Gandhi preached about the immense importance of moral possession as opposed to material possession. He also discussed the concept of ‘Aparigraha’, that is, keeping violence at bay. Gandhi believed that the State is anti-thesis to individualism and thus, the opinion of there being a need for minimum state and maximum individual came about within the scope of his speech as well. The Gandhian principle of ‘Ahimsa’ was also deliberated over, with Prof. Singh stating that the outcome of non-violence is guaranteed, but not of violence. He concluded his speech by re-iterating the victory of Gandhi’s ideologies, by stating that even his assassinator said that it was because of the love for Gandhi that he had killed him.

Following from the previous speaker, Dr. Arun Kumar, VMOU, zeroed in on the lessons from Gandhi’s Protest of Structural Violence. He began by elaborating on Gandhi’s message via Satyagraha, especially mentioning that he had tried to challenge the existing ideas in the prevalent society. Gandhi gave a revolutionary interpretation to the fact that the concept of relative truth was essential to realize abstract truth. Dr. Kumar outlined specific ideals of Gandhi, ranging from purity of means and ends, to the emphasis of change of heart, right up to the significance of constitutionalism. He noted that Satyagraha was not the inspiration for the notion of negotiations and compromises, because it never preached bargaining principles for personal benefit. While vengeance and arrogance should be kept at far, it is fundamental to understand that Satyagraha, is a comprehensive philosophy of protest that needs several basic principles and roots.

The next speaker, Dr. Rajesh Lidiya, RTU, spoke about “Structural Violence in Techno-Economy and Gandhi”. He said that Gandhi has been misinterpreted for his idea on machinery. Dr. Lidiya stated that it was due to the prevailing conditions that there was a pressing need for a strong word against machines. Gandhi was essentially opposing the greed for machinery, not machinery as such and this was basically because he believed that such craze would kill the capacity of human ability. He also was of the view that few capitalists were using machines to exploit others, which is why he was against the idea of take-over by machines. Dr. Lidiya furthered his argument by stating that sensibility towards nature would be harmed by modern techniques. He concluded by adding that Gandhi eventually always focused on science to be constructive, both spiritually and materially, thus, balancing science and religion.

Dr. Bhanu Naraina, Jammu University, gave a speech on “Gandhi’s Economic Models and their Relevance to India”, where he began by saying that Gandhian concepts and their significance are realized by us all today. Certain concepts that he discussed were as diverse as being associated with ‘limitation of wants’ to the concept of trusteeship. He also emphasized on the idea of production by the masses and for the masses, along with the concept of sustainability and the significance of villages, as Gandhi wanted to develop India as a Republic of Villages. Connecting Gandhi’s ideals then, to current times, he gave the example of CSR as having Gandhi’s principle of sustainability and trusteeship as a base.

Dr. Anish Gupta, DU. while speaking about, “Gandhian Philosophy: Relevance for Contemporary Economic Crisis” highlighted certain misconceptions about Gandhi and his principles. First, Gandhi was against mechanism; although he was against the craze for machines, he admitted that we were surrounded by machines. Second, that Gandhi was against mass production and industrialization, not in itself, but more to do with the greed associated with the same. Third, that Gandhi was against labour saving devices. In India, unemployment has been on the rise alongside an increment in savings as well. If a few people save, inequality within the economy is also increasing. Besides this, if current consumption patterns are observed in India, there is greater consumption of luxury products, which is against Gandhian philosophy.

Ms. Pallavi Deka, JNU spoke of the recent violence in Kokrajhar between Bodos and Muslims and the Gandhian principle of non-violence.  She re-explored the ideas of Gandhi in the event of such crisis, focussing on emancipation from conflict. Ms. Deka focussed on the lack of an institutionalized mechanism for confidence and trust building among various communities living within the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts coupled with the lack of vision for alternate governance by the authorities. The Gandhian idea of non-violence has been neglected, since the State institutions also follow the application of force to control the vulnerable situation there. Thus, a total miscarriage of the Gandhian ideals has been presented in the management of the recent happenings at Kokrajhar.

Mr. Abhinav Mishra, JNU gave his speech on “Vartman Vaishwik Chunautiyon ke Sandarbh mein Gandhivaadki Prasangikta” where he focussed on how globalization has led to inequality. He also elaborated on how Gandhi was against the exploitative use of machinery while simultaneously covering a gamut of topics, from human rights to untouchability, to women and the environment as well as from morality to mass language.

Dr. Umesh Rai, Govt College, Alwar, spoke about, “Hindi Sahityeka Pariveshaur Gandhi”. His presentation in Hindi elaborated on the ways in which Gandhian teachings could be disseminated through changes in pedagogy and curriculum development for ensuring mutual co-existence and tolerance in society.

The Conference participants engaged in discussions after the presentations. The Conference concluded with a vote of thanks to the Chair.