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Transforming Conflicts

The north-east of India has been affected by armed conflicts since 1956 with the Naga National Council (NNC) adopting violent means to achieve its political objective of Naga independence. This has been followed by armed conflicts in Manipur, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura. The atmosphere of physical insecurity and violence has rendered governance structures ineffective, hindering the region’s development. The Indian state identifies these conflicts as irritants creating obstacles to its objective of integrative nation building.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would have viewed these conflicts in a completely different light. For Gandhi, conflicts provided a window of opportunity for change. He argued that sometimes conflicts are deliberately provoked so that issues that are difficult, bitter, divisive or largely ignored but which have deep meaning for a particular society come to the forefront. This results in a transparent understanding of these divisive issues setting the boundaries within which one can discuss them without fear. Such a process leads to empowerment and provides the mechanisms through which the conflict dynamics can be changed. For Gandhi, conflict is also a way of expressing that one is not a victim of a particular circumstance; that resistance to it can change and transform things. Gandhi himself believed in provoking conflict (non-violent civil resistance) against British colonialism so that one is not resigned to accept an unfair system of governance.

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