Books

Pathways to Justice and Peace

Book: Education for Peace: Guideline for Frontline workers
Authors: Ranu Jain and Taha Abdul Rauf
Publisher: Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Mumbai (ipscri1@gmail.com)
Year: 2012
Pages: 133
Price: Rs 150

The need for peace in society has been a major concern for human societies most of the time. More so during the last few decades. There are many causes of conflict and violence which are deeper and are related to social, political and economic injustices. In many a case of violence the prevalent perceptions, myths, biases of the society play a major role in precipitation of violence and in giving it a silent social sanction. This is what creates the base on which such violence is possible and acceptable. That’s where the role of Peace education comes in. Peace education should groom the generations in overcoming these perceptions which are far from truth and yet are deeply ingrained in the psyche of large sections of society.

Scholar-activist Noam Chomsky formulated the thesis of ‘Manufacturing consent’, whereby the State using various mechanisms creates an approval of society for its acts of violence. Similarly, one can say that the prevalence of ‘social common sense’ plays a major role in the area of ethnic and communal violence.

Social groups have been struggling against such perceptions. The challenge for them has been as to how to lay the foundation of critical thinking about ‘other’ communities, how to retrieve the missing narratives which clear the fog of misconceptions, how to create respect for diversity and pluralism to ensure that proper understanding of the ‘other’ becomes possible? These are the steps which can act as cementing bond between communities and will result in an atmosphere where the triggers planted by the vested interests do not lead to tension or violence.

This book by Jain and Rauf is an important attempt to give us the background and the prevalent models of peace studies, the UN resolutions about it, the attempts by educationists and social groups to develop their models to be effectively brought about in the understanding which can lead to peace and amity in the society.

The book gives a comprehensive account of the pedagogy of peace and compares and contrasts various patterns of peace studies.

The book squarely blames the pro-elite approach of the state ignoring the needs of the people, to be at the centre of various factors which result in the vulnerability of  people seeking community support, resulting in community identity becoming more important.

While the authors do address the problem in general, their focus is more on the communal violence which has reared its ugly head in the country during recent decades. They see the role of education in drawing attention towards the conflicting forces and the need to build knowledge of the structures and processes enforcing conflict.

As per Jain and Rauf, education can bring about attitudinal changes amongst individuals making them understand the negative implications of conflict and violence, as well as the benefits of the democratic processes that build dialogue and negotiation.

While violence has a lot to do with the structural inequalities, the book limits itself to give guidelines on recounting and addressing differences at individual and community levels. The core of education for peace is ‘deconstructing the other’ and recognizing members of different communities, especially those who are oppressed. It suggests ways to understand and resolve the existing conflicts in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner.

As such peace has been the major concern of human race, trying to strive for it through religious values to begin with, and later through legal endeavours. The culmination of these processes is reflected in the mandate of United Nations, which targets not only at prevention of conflict but to promote social amity and progress.

The ‘Culture of Peace’ is a respectable objective which aims at promoting a mix of identities, attitudes, values, beliefs and institutional patterns which allow people to live in mutually beneficial manner with one another. Hereby comes the concept of positive and negative peace. While negative peace aims at the absence of direct violence, positive peace aims at addressing those societal issues which disturb peace or have the potential of generating situations conducive to peace.

Away from lecture mode, the recommendation is on multifaceted participatory activities. Overall it is not an easy subject to handle as it does require a holistic view of society and multilayered nature of the issues involved. The compliment of peace education is conflict resolution which requires the ability to build relations of amity, understanding and cooperation. In this part of the social endeavour, mere demystification of misconceptions is not adequate; as it needs to be further built up by an empathetic understanding of the ‘other’.

Currently the peace education requires the challenging task of critically analyzing the structures and process of violence from micro to macro levels. In the Indian context, the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) has made commendable effort in this direction by bringing out Education for Peace (for students) and Ways to Peace (for teachers).

The NCERT approach focuses on values to be conveyed and the mechanism most suitable for that are stories and activities aimed at the outcome for culture of peace. The pedagogy of peace aims to ensure that the content of books overcomes biases and stereotypes in the books. The authors are appreciative of the attempt of NCERT, but here the question remains, do state educational boards follow the NCERT in a serious way. This problem has to be directed to the social workers and the political leadership to ensure that the foundations of the students are based on objective understanding of the ‘other’ communities and history in particular is presented above the biased presentation as it is today.

The book operates at various levels, from giving the interventions needed for school children to social workers, but the major focus rightly remains on the frontline workers. The idea is to demystify the images of the other community to ease the tensions and thereby defuse the violence. It also outlines various models for intervention for peace developed by social groups and elaborates some ongoing methods as samples of possible activities, which necessarily are diverse depending on situations and participants to whom they are addressed. The book could have been enriched by giving possible horizontal and vertical integrations of different modules for different social groups.

Overall it is a valuable aid for all those engaged in the process of peace and conflict resolution. It leaves the reader much more equipped to undertake the exercises of peace building in the community.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2012 on page no. 21

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