Manipur with 36 distinctive identities is no exception. After Kuki-Naga bloody conflicts in the early part of 1990s we have Kuki-Meetei presently. This is not the end, many more to come in near future unless concerted efforts are made to change the method of engaging with conflicts in line with the discovery of new knowledge for peace.
By Deben Bachaspatimayum
Peace is possible at all time. There is no right time for peace. Now, the present, is the right time for peace. Violence must be curtailed and stopped to start with, outrightly, by all means available to create space for peace-building processes. Peace is fought only by peaceful means. Wars are fought because of our past history and because that is the only way we learnt as cultural tradition from our past and present how to engage with adversaries or enemies from within and without. We believe that war is unavoidable and right thing to do not because it results into peace but this is how it has been from the past. Beliefs are changeable with new information, knowledge and practices to discover altogether a new world within human capacities. Unless we begin to see wars and violence as problems in human society and learn problem-solving knowledge and skills peace cannot come at any time. Just a shift in our mind can open ways to peaceful society.
Wars are fought only by using all kinds of violence affecting physical and mental health of persons deeply. Our minds are wired and cultured to see peace only at the end of the war that may not ever be there. This is the story of Manipur since 1891. Problems are piling up in layers without any solution. We have become masters in crisis management like Ostrich. Our history and culture of wars keep peace far away in future from our future generations also. Ashok, the great emperor, learnt this lesson long many years ago from ruins of Kalinga and tried to change the course of history by promoting Buddhism – addressing the very root cause of wars in our minds from within one self. But we continue to commemorate victory days and war heroes even those who did not win the wars.
Wars leave behind painful memories and deeply held grieves to motivate the younger generations – a history of fighting wars for peace. War is part of our culture. Since we inherited both the history and culture of wars, we draw inspirations from our war heroes to continue fighting wars through generations without any sign of peace we seek in our own motherland. The wars have become many and even more complicated. Today, we fight wars within and without as enemies are everywhere. In all probability, we are also leaving behind this cultural history of wars to our children to continue the wars or totally vanish from our own motherland leaving behind only hundreds of martyrs standing without anyone left to offer respects, anymore. It is time to leave behind this history and culture of wars as the world has taken turn to change the course of history in the year 2000.
The third millennium, we have entered, is all about culture of peace and nonviolence that human beings are fully capable of. The United Nations Organization (UNO) came into being in 1946 for the sole purpose of ending wars on this planet from the ruins of the WW I & II. Two years after in 1948, the great leaders of the world at that time gave all human beings on this earth equal rights to life, self-protection and equal right to participate in all decision-making processes. But history and culture of wars and violence continue to follow through the period of cold wars for nearly half a century till 1990 stockpiling nuclear weapons for total destruction of the only planet that gave birth to human race. Post 1990 when the Berlin walls fell reuniting humanity across divides in Europe, the culture of wars and violence percolated down to inter-ethnic lines across the nation-states. The world drifted into ethnic wars breaking apart existing nation-state boundaries without realizing discovery of new knowledge and invention for peace methods and technologies in 1980s. Independent India, far away from Europe, also struggled throughout this period
Many pre-existing states in independent India comprising of diverse histories, cultures and languages gave rise to newer states and autonomous regions to accommodate political aspirations of ethnic and linguistic societies after bloody conflicts and many identity groups and religious communities continue to struggle violently. Manipur with 36 distinctive identities is no exception. After Kuki-Naga bloody conflicts in the early part of 1990s we have Kuki-Meetei presently. This is not the end, many more to come in near future unless concerted efforts are made to change the method of engaging with conflicts in line with the discovery of new knowledge for peace.
Tasked to find answer to the question: Is war biological by the UN to a multidisciplinary team of scientists in 1980s, the team made a discovery and issued a statement which came to be known as the Seville Statement of 1986. The statement said, peace is possible, because war is not biological necessity. This was corroborated by an American anthropologist, Margaret Mead from her ethnographic study among the Samoan tribes in 1940 which said, warfare is only an invention – not biological necessity. Sivelle statement was adopted by UNESCO in 1989 as its preamble which read as, since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds that the defenses of peace must be constructed. As the Cold war ended in 1990, UNESCO launched its global culture of peace program in 1995 alongside the 4th World Conference of Women at Beijing same year based on framework developed by Hage Appeal for Peace in 1993. This led UN General Assembly, 1998 adopt and declare the year 2000 as the International Year of Culture of Peace and Nonviolence and further extended to the decade 2001-2010 as the Decade of Culture Peace and Nonviolence. With growing literatures on peace and conflict studies through the previous decades, the UN set up UN Peacebuilding Commission in 2005 and started peacebuilding interventions in war torn post-cold war countries.
The UN peacebuilding program was inspired by Johan Galtung’s contributions in peace studies, Human needs theory of John Burton and strategic thinking peacebuilding theories and practices of John Paul Lederach in 1980-90s and so on. Galtung introduced two concepts; positive and negative peace. Positive peace means presence of justice and equality in society and so absence of violence, and negative peace means, absence of violence only. He titled one of his books as Peace by peaceful means stating that violence is not the way of bringing peace. Burton further added to explain presence of all kinds of violence as an outcome of denial for core human needs such as identity, security and survival of certain sections of society or group. This is true in most of the multi-ethnic or cultural society and state. John Paul Lederach hugely contributed to strategies and principles of peacebuilding. In one of his books, Moral Imagination he stressed the importance of building peace from grassroots communities affected by violence caused by state systems for sustainable peace. Furthermore, May B Anderson of Massachusetts University studying impacts of international aids in intra-state conflicts and reflections of people’s peace practices stressed the importance of insiders (local people affected by violent conflicts) and outsiders (international expertise) roles for sustainable peacebuilding processes.
Peace is not only possible but it can be put to practice here and now only one decides to invest own resources including intention, time, materials and money. New knowledge and ideas for peace can grow and flourish in human society if there is investment of resources it requires. Many individuals experienced personal peace in the ways of achieving Nirvana and peaceful life by investing own life time to it. Many people go to yoga and meditation centers by investing time and money and they experiences a better life to live. Like-wise, many people who believe in new theories and methods of peace can always create a Fund for Peace to develop peace education curriculum, trained teachers and trainers, educate and train the present and younger generations in the art and science of peacebuilding. The Govt can respond in much bigger ways through legislations recognizing war and violence as problems, not as a historical or cultural heritage, to establish educational and institutions for peacebuilding and committing adequate budget for peace. The total investments of the people and their elected government will make peace practice a reality sooner than later. Right intentions and right selection of candidates at the time to election who can deliver structural changes for peace is only step to take to have peace in the society.
(Deben Bachaspatimayum is a peace activist)