Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Lecture Series on Roots of Sectarian Conflict

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June, 1991)

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June, 1991)

Question
My name is Anish and I live in Manhattan. Your analysis has been extremely clear but the clarity has raised enormous concerns. It’s the implication, if I read you right, in this last comment you reinforced it, is really that the polity that is supposed to manage and govern all of this is directly involved in instigating and actually causing this happen for their benefit. The prognosis of this effect is that this is a situation that is not likely to change suddenly in the near future and certainly not if not left to its own recourse. What is your prognosis on that?

Atul Kolhi
My prognosis is not as pessimistic. That’s why I began with a proposition that most conflicts in India get resolved and I ended by trying to resituate these conflicts in an overall picture in which sensible leaders do both repression and concessions. It does not mean that mistakes have not been done. But the state has both governed and made democratic concessions. Sometimes it hasn’t and then it has paid dearly. So, let’s keep it in perspective is what I would suggest. My analysis is aimed at highlighting when things go wrong. I have not spent 30 minutes talking about where things are working just fine. Had I done that, which is the majority of the country, a very different picture would have emerged. That is why it is very important when you are talking about trouble not to take analysis of trouble to apply to the whole situation. And that is why I began with a cautionary remark and concluded with a cautionary remark that these have to be viewed in a overall situation which compared to most developing countries is not half bad.

Question
My name is Marcus Reitenberg. Has population growth or demographic change contributed to the underlying pressures leading to some of this violence.

Atul Kolhi
Short answer is yes. How it does so we could go into much greater detail. The two or three basic mechanisms have to do with the extreme difficulty to socialize a new generation into new political norms. So they learn their politics from their elders who are not so old themselves but who have not been behaving properly. And so the norms that came about from Sanjay Gandhi onwards (gundas, thugs, and variety of lumpan elements that Indian newspapers like to call them) once they entered politics many of these people are now socializing university students and the unemployed and other political agents in the urban milieu. And so that of course becomes a fairly significant source of political turbulence in the polity. One could also talk about poverty. Poverty is just too easy to blame. Many people say that if you could just create more wealth there will be less terrorism, less violence, no communism. For every bad thing, poverty can be blamed. So, of course, poverty contributes, but in complicated ways. That is why I have stayed away from poverty today.

Question
My name is Sushil Raj. I think you have touched upon a very crucial point of institutional reform which is very necessary reform. One often time finds that bureaucracy and politics, that the politicians are so involved in blaming and less of reflection and less of troubleshooting and problems solving. When you have a situation like that, do you think there is a space for non-profits, NGO groups, to target these institutions for reforms apart from looking at the government to reform itself?

Atul Kolhi
NGO’s are extremely important actors but they can never be substituted for governmental institutions. They are also very rarely capable of reforming governmental institutions or other non-governmental political institutions. They can work in tandem and if the intention is benign they can certainly do wonders in the situation. If they are at odds with governmental situations, they can still do good but less good. So, I don’t want to romanticize the role NGOs can play without demeaning their significance…