Over the years North East as a whole and Assam in particular has seen a lot in terms of violence and bloodshed. From armed struggle to ethnic clashes Assam has reeled under unprecedented violence. Armed revolutionaries and Government have an equal share in making Assam prone to such bloodshed every now and then keeping the common masses at the receiving end. If the armed organizations have spilled blood in the name of revolution and sovereignty, the government has got its license to kill in the name of bringing peace. The lawmakers have become the lawbreakers and the so called “rescuers” have also turned a blind eye towards all the misdoings. From clashes in between the ethnic communities to vague killings in the name of revolution has long been a problem of Assam.
Simultaneously, the state has seen a mushrooming growth of civil organizations that have pledged to bring in peace in the state. The state has seen many civil organizations that have given loud slogans about peace and decried the violence. Such organizations have also tried its best in bringing both the armed organizations and the government to the negotiating table. But has it reaped the fruit that the entire state was expecting? Are the civil organizations serving its purpose? If yes, – then why the violence has not ended? If no, – then where are the loopholes? It’s high time the civil organizations should come together under one platform to resolve the issue. It’s time to sit and discuss together than working for the cause of society as satellites.
And Peoples’ Alliance for Peace Accordance (PAPA) has set the examples by bringing most of the civil, student, social organizations, political parties, intellectuals and individuals together under one platform for the cause of peace. So far PAPA is the only civil organization that has been largely successful in being the messiah of peace.
Center of Media and Research for Indigenous People (CMRIP) took up this endeavor of bringing the civil organizations together and have a brainstorming session over the theme of “ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN PEACE PROCESS” as the year 2010 has been very eventful in terms of peace process and 2011 also promises to continue with the ongoing trend.
Objectives of the Seminar
The overall objective of the seminar was to motivate the civil society to understand their potential role in conflict mediation and peace building in Assam. Specific objectives of the seminar were to:
• Discuss the role of civil society in peace process in Assam;
• Review the steps to be taken to help restore peace in the state; and
• Judge the role of civil society in peace process.
The seminar was organized by Centre of Media & Research for Indigenous People [CMRIP]. The distinguished scholars and resource persons who participated in the seminar were members of various civil societies, representatives of academic institutions, media persons, activists, NGOs, etc.
The seminar on “Role of Civil Society in Peace Process” opened at 11:30 AM on February 26, 2011 at the Guwahati Town Club. The various dignitaries that adorned the dais during the seminar are: renowned journalist and civil activist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, Anjali Daimary Convener of Bodo National Conference (BNC), Elwin Teron Gen. Secretary of People Alliance for Peace Agreement (PAPA), Gautam Saharia Vice-President All Koch-Rajbongshi Student Union (AKRSU), Bohim Chandra Langthasa former President of Gedike Nisoh Hosom (Dimasa Apex Body) and renowned singer and cultural activist Loknath Goswami.
The seminar was attended by Karbi Human Rights Watch, representatives of All Bodo Students’ Union, Greater Guwahati Karbi Students’ Union, All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union, Bodo Women Justice Forum, Karbi Welfare Society, representatives from CPI-ML, United Peoples’ Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and distinguished individuals from all walks of the society.
The seminar started with the speech by the special guest during the occasion Mr. Garvin Brown, a true follower of Gandhian Ideologies from Queensland, Australia who highlighted Gandhian Ideologies and the need for peace in today’s world.
This was followed by the speech of the Gen. Secy. Of Center of Media & Research for Indigenous People (CMRIP), Sandeep Chatterjee. He pointed out during his speech the need for a dialogue between the communities to have a unified representation for peace in Assam. He also mentioned the importance of civil society actors in moulding a unified society in the larger interest of the people. Lastly, he urged all the civil society individuals and organizations to take up similar initiative to uphold sustainable peace for generations to come.
Ajit Kr. Bhuyan in his speech mentioned that the idea of peace has not been tackled in a wholesome manner. He also pointed out that peace for one may not be sufficient for others. He also stated that peace is not meant for the political parties who have been using this term for their electoral advantage. Deepening of democracy at the grass-root level and a non-autocratic stand by the civil society actors is the need of the hour. He further went on to applaud the initiative taken up by CMRIP in this regard and hoped for more such initiatives in future.
Anjali Daimary in her speech mentioned the importance of talks between the various ethnic groups to come to an acceptable solution to the impending issues. However, she was of the opinion that such a process should come through mutual respect and dignity among the communities. She also praised CMRIP’s initiative for arranging a platform for such interaction between the communities and also stated that civil society should struggle for building up favourable conditions for the same.
Mr. Bohim Chandra Langthasa stated that the time for a dialogue has come and hence such initiatives taken up by individual bodies like CMRIP are worth complimenting. He also stressed about the need to take the peace struggle to the next step by amassing public support and bringing together the divided communities of Assam.
Elwin Teron from PAPA shared his experience of 11 years of negotiation with the officials of Govt. of India. He stressed on understanding building measures between the communities is the need of the hour. He further went on to say that instead of a divided and fragmented representation in New Delhi, the civil society bodies should rather give a unified picture of Assam. He also languished that the govt. representatives in New Delhi are not suitable to provide a solution to the problems of Assam. He mentioned that the civil society actors and responsible individuals will have to take up the matter of finding peace that grows itself with harmony rather than chasing for peace that is being dictated by a third party. He also praised CMRIP in its commendable initiative to bring the different communities together and providing a platform to them to have a broader understanding of their differences thereby, minimizing conflicts.
Gautam Saharia urged the civil society actors to give a concrete and clear picture of the peace they are struggling for otherwise they would be compelled to reject the civil societies and intellectuals. He also mentioned that each community then has no other alternative but to follow their own path of struggle. However, in the interest of a common voice from this region from assam he calls forward for the formation of joint platforms in a bigger scale similar the one CMRIP has provided today.
As the last speaker Loknath Goswami hummed some lines of his renowned songs and pointed out the importance of maintaining the bonds of brotherhood between the communities of Northeast. He also was of the opinion that CMRIP has taken this initiative in a positive direction by bring the communities together and opening up the channels of ethnic and community bonding. He also pointed out that if equal status and equal space are provided to the communities there would be no separation and fragmentation in the society.