There have been many instances of inter and intra-State conflicts in India and the globe such as ethnic strife in North-east India, militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and the genocide in Darfur. Violence arising from issues of this kind have necessitated a broader field of study and in-depth research. Peace and conflict studies is one such discipline that seeks to understand the core issues.
Dr. Kaushikee, associate professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, says peace and conflict resolution courses aim to analyse conflicts at various levels and seek to train and empower students with skills and strategies to resolve conflict and build positive peace.
Deepa Varughese, research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says the thrust of peace and conflict resolution courses are in the realm of international relations, foreign policy, functioning of international organisation and so on. It is an interdisciplinary programme with inputs from history, political science, sociology, economics and other areas. This helps students understand a particular issue from different dimensions, thus helping them understand the root causes of a particular issue.”
Meghali Senapti, associate professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati, says that the aim of the peace and conflict studies course is to equip students with skills to work in conflict areas. Students should be able to work and research in the domain of social justice and human rights.Relevance
However, in India, there are few such courses. Bibhu Prasad Routray, director at Mantraya, an independent research forum and former deputy director in the National Security Council Secretariat, New Delhi, explains the relevance of the course.
“It is crucial that the numerous conflicts and peace building efforts in India, South Asia, and the world are studied and understood in a more comprehensive manner, and the scholars make important contributions to and interventions in policy making. In the absence of such courses, the existing think tanks are poorly equipped to make objective assessments of conflicts and peace building.
Consequently, media reports dominate the discourses on peace and conflict. It is also important for researchers to contribute to the discourse on peace and conflict, rather than retired bureaucrats and army officials who currently dominate the scene reiterating and circulating common wisdom. Only serious academic courses in colleges and universities can bring about such a change.”
Peace and conflict studies serves as an elemental component of various social science disciplines. Aparupa Bhattacherjee, independent researcher, says, “Even though the study of international relations is based on an analysis of the cause of conflict, impact and the actions that will lead to the establishment of peace; few colleges in the country have it as an important component of the IR course.”
She adds that peace and conflict studies must be made compulsory as part of international relations, history and political science courses at the master’s level.Scope
Deepa, highlighting the scope of the discipline, says that the course teaches students technical aspects of how resolution to a conflict is brought or peace is arrived upon. This includes the technical aspects of third party involvement, mediation, negotiation and the formalisation of peace treaty between the conflicting parties.
In the theoretical understanding of conflict resolution, these methods can be applied from the very local situation to the extent of an agreement being reached upon by two States or different States.
Suba Chandran, director at Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, comments on the scope of research. He states that peace has not been studied as a crucial dimension within the domain of peace and conflict studies. “In India, peace is under-researched. It is taught on absolute terms and primarily from a Gandhian perspective, as if that is the only aspect. Ideologically, and as a discipline of inquiry, the process has to be grounded in contemporary issues.
There are more peace processes in South Asia than conflicts. In most societies such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and J&K, conflict may have come to an end but that does not mean peace has been achieved. The State assumes that once violence declines, peace has automatically come in.”
Inclusion of practical research in the course will add depth and broaden the scope of the subject. Dr Rourtray says, “It is also important, however, that peace and conflict studies programmes, as they exist in some of the universities today, are revisited and a drastic overhaul in the teaching pattern as well as syllabus is carried out.
Rather than confining students to the classrooms and insignificant conferences (which are in plenty these days in Delhi and other places), there must be a focus on hardcore field-based research, collaboration with other universities and think tanks around the world, and greater push to draw lessons from other theatres.
Obviously, these initiatives would need adequate resources. However, quality research and publications in the medium-to-long run can attract sufficient resources.”