Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 04 June 2023

Manipur underlines need for peace movements

Source: By Bharat Dogra: The Statesman

The sudden eruption of widespread violence in Manipur has re-emphasized the need for continuing peace efforts which are only possible if peace movements become stronger and have a wider reach. Generally, there has been a tendency to look at peace movements in two roles.

Firstly, there is a firefighting role of trying to bring peace when violence has already erupted. Secondly, there is a role of peace-makers which facilitates the negotiations of the authorities with various rebel or insurgent groups. Of course both roles are important in their own way and at various places and times have made important contributions to peace efforts.

However, to limit the peace movement to just these two roles would amount to a serious underestimation. The peace movement deserves and needs to have a much wider and continuing presence.

Even when things appear to be normal and there is no outbreak of any violence, the peace movement has the important role of resolving simmering tensions, divisions, hostilities and suspicions in society at various levels so that these can be reduced and resolved at an early stage without erupting in violence.

The peace movement also has to look at important development and livelihood issues, land and forest issues, how difficulties, problems, conflicts, misunderstandings and insecurities relating to these can lead to violence involving one group against the other or one or more groups against the state.

Such conflicts and suspicions can only be removed on the basis of a deep and comprehensive understanding of development and resource-based realities, in turn requiring a multi-disciplinary study and longer-term efforts.

All this is possible only with a continuing peace movement, known for its lack of bias as well as for its honesty and sincerity, which is well rooted in communities. Conditions should be created by the authorities and communities that such peace movements are able to function with a certain stability and continuity and in reasonably secure conditions as only then can they make their proper contribution.

This should be seen in the context of a wider need being felt for a stronger and wider peace movement with continuity in a world which is increasingly troubled by violence, wars, civil wars and a destructive arms race.

How can the peace movement become stronger to cope with the enormous challenges it faces? The sad reality is that today far too many people are paid to work full time for weapons and wars than for disarmament and peace – in fact the ratio of the latter to the former may be as low as one to one million. Most of those who can be seen to be working for peace may not be working in an unbiased way and hence can make only limited contributions. Those working with complete commitment to the idea of peace and non-violence are very few; further, those with the opportunity or the ability to link local with global issues are even fewer.

Thus we have the paradox of the most important objectives of peace having the least number of people working for them. Yet at another level the peace movement has the potential to be strong and broad-based. Its enormous potential exists in the basic reality that the overwhelming majority of people want to live in a more peaceful world and would like their children to inherit such a world. Somehow these yearnings of the world’s people have not been translated into reality.

It is a strong and continuing peace movement which can help to fill this gap. The challenge of the peace movement is to guide these worldwide yearnings of people in such ways as to make the world a much more peaceful and safer place, for now and for the future, for us and for our children. People in most parts of the world tend to be more affected by violence close to them, by violence in their daily life.

This may be in the form of domestic violence, gender-based violence, workplace violence, bullying, violence towards self, street violence or village or habitation or neighborhood level violence. Many good and wise people are already involved in trying to reduce this.

However, quite often they may not identify the deeper causes and contexts of this violence, thereby missing out on more effective remedial actions and the wider social response that is needed.

If a movement for peace and nonviolence can result in establishing inter-linkages and providing a wider social response to these various forms of violence, with emphasis on incorporating peace and non-violence as important social values to be integrated into society and education, all these forms of violence and their associated distress can be reduced in more effective and sustained ways.

In such a situation, many people who have experienced the great relief and joy of the reduction or removal of violence from their lives, as victims as well as perpetrators, would be motivated to become peace activists, taking this message of peace ad non-violence to others.

Hence the peace movement could get a very wide base, where commitment to peace is strengthened and the number of peace activists grows. The next logical step would be to link this strong base for reducing personal, inter-personal and local violence with the wider peace movement for non-violent national and international policies, for a future without wars and the arms race, for ridding the world of the huge threats associated with nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.

With a strong base of millions of people engaged in peace activities on a continuing basis, such a peace movement will be able to become a much more effective voice, particularly among the youth, and will be able to influence policy makers in more effective ways.

Another way of strengthening the peace movement would be to build stronger linkages with the various other movements for creating a better world, including the various movements for justice and equality, women’s movements and movements for environment protection. There are important meeting points for all these movements.

Thus in a situation like that of Manipur, for example, the peace movement would be strengthened greatly if it works in cooperation with movements for promoting sustainable livelihoods and protecting the livelihood base as well.

Again there would be much for the peace movement to gain from cooperation with the women’s movement as well, with its emphasis on checking all addictions and intoxicants.

However, such strengthening of the base for peace as well as for integration of various constructive efforts is not possible in a hurry, and this is why the need for a stronger peace movement working with continuity should be re-emphasized.