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Peace and conflict are the same sides of the coin that civilisation is. To attain peace we need to understand conflict. This is what Gandhian scholar John Chelladurai of the India Peace Centre, Nagpur has tried to understand over the past two decades. He was in Goa at a youth camp organised by the Goa based NGO Human Touch. NT NETWORK met up with him to understand the concept of the peace and development

Attaining peace through understanding conflict



John Chelladurai has been working towards understanding the concept of peace and conflict resolution over the past decade. As a part of the India Peace Centre and the member of the advisory council of Asian Academy for Leadership and Peace, he has been trying to spread the word that peace and economic development go hand in hand. In this excerpt of an interview NT NETWORK bring to our readers some food for thought:


Q: What is your view of religion and where do you see yourself in the religious context?

I came from a very religious family which I was very happy to be a part of; I learnt a lot from that orientation. As an individual it is very effective, but on the larger context I realised I am a member of a nation not only of a community. Thus I found that religion was confining me, this characteristic is found in all the religions. It becomes an identity, a cultural conclave where you are trapped and to have a relationship beyond a certain level is not encouraged. I realised that to live up to nature’s expectations, it is important that we outgrow this boundary. I have not become non-religious but I have only become in my own understanding deeply religious, without following any of the rituals. I am not symbolic I’m very actual in my faith.


Q: There are various conflicts in India, be it that of the Dalits, the lower caste, minorities, what are your views on this and how do we as a nation tackle them?

These are complex issues which require multiple approaches, and they are taking place at some levels. The Dalit issue, for instance has occurred over a period of civilization. We had a division of labour and we always wanted our children to learn the art we have mastered, that is how traditional economic engagement came into existence. That is how society started expecting, then compelling and later branding the families, thus we started becoming a stratified job-oriented community. The problem emerged here with the social status attached to each community. This is a problem all over the world with the blue collared or white collared jobs, which is economic stratification. In India, it has been brought into culture,religion, literature, philosophy. It became on order of the society. For long it was not a problem, because it was accepted by everyone.

But then the other perspectives came into the fore. The dialectic process is taking place now, there are people speaking about it—writers, thinkers, philosophers. They speak from both sides and the vast majority of the community listen. Slowly a synthesis is emerging between the point and counterpoint. We now see inter-marriages taking place and coexistence is possible.  It was culturalised over thousands of years. These kind of changes will not take place within a generation as there is limit to which an individual can change, particularly in matters of culture and civilisation.

We only need to keep in mind that this is not a unilateral problem. The issue with the Dalits is not that of Dalits alone. There are two parties, and both are victims, the Brahmins are also victim for their minds are corrupted. In this sense the underdog has the potential to be an ‘upperdog’ as they know what is it to be suppressed, and we can educate the other person. We need to come together in a dialogue and not a confrontation.


Q: You had come up with an experiment of ‘self-sustaining economic zone’. Can you explain the concept?

We are social as well as economic beings. In an economic paradigm, an individual first needs to be a producer to be a consumer. The problem in the economic arrangement today, the production possibility is unequally distributed.

According to Indian GDP of 2012, we have an employment possibility of around 4 lakh per annum per family, then why is there so much unemployment? The whole world works on the principle that the first person gets to eat 10 breads and the last person gets only one. We don’t have a mechanism, an ethical perspective or a legal understanding that gives equal share to others. Under the given capital based market economic arrangement, there will always be 40 per cent people below poverty. Profit is made at the expense of someone else’s income. Our economy is a convenient but not a just economy.

Gandhi had said the life is more balanced and just when it is optimised. He spoke about decentralised economy and governance. We as individuals cannot live alone, but we can also live in only a limited community. A community is more stable and healthy when it grows up to the size of the abilityof its members to comprehend. The moment the community goes beyond my ability to connect, then virtual relationships come into existence, thus we will be governed by norms and rules, and not by emotions.

Thus in my experiment, a limited number of families come together to pool their resources so that they can produce what we want, employ themselves, and regulate the process. For example, a BPL (Below Poverty Line) family will spend about 3000 per month, and a group of 100 such families can spend about 30 lakh per month, which is not a small amount and that can collectively generate a production possibility of five times the amount. If we have a network to market our produce we can sustain and give rise to several cottage industries, thus giving each a family an income of `10000.

It is not enough to project a national interest when we say ‘manufacture things in India’, we must look at the individual interest too. We are here talking about a local economy and market arrangement thus making every family a producer and thus a consumer. We are trying to implement this with the help of NABAR in Maharashtra where a network of 5000 families that needs 300 items to sustain, of which 200 items can be manufactured at the cottage industry level, thus we aim at creating 5000 jobs to meet with the demands.


Q: What are your thoughts on development in India?

Is a two way journey—micro and macro; inward and outward. Many a times outward development is projected as a development of the country but what about internal development? The individual’s development? Were focusing more on the macro development, which is not wrong but it is partial. The government is at a loss, they don’t have a way to ensure 100 per cent employment. Starting industries will not solve our problems, factories are not charity homes, they are not going to employ that many people to distribute all their profits.The development is pursued by mass production, but it is not mass production it should be production by masses that will solve the problem.


Q: As a part of the Asian Academy for Leadership and Peace how do you look at the India- Pakistan issue?

Pakistan is believed to be an integral part of India and the first response has to be one of love. Pakistan is people. Patriotism is all about loving one and other and as a subcontinent and we have to have an abiding love. Pakistan is not a terrorist nation, they are suffering from more terrorism than our own nations does.

Pakistan as a nation always looks at India as a parent land. I am a part of an international platform that helps in civil diplomacy. The experiences of people who travel across for the conferences say that Pakistanis are very friendly to Indians. We cannot say that politically we have no integrity but the approach is wrong.

We cultivated a patriotic fervour against the British, but when we got independence we still are in the same gear and are searching for an enemy to fight. We need to channelise this into a constructive approach. Our slogans are still charged with hatred, how can I be happy when I say something like ‘Pakistan Murdabad’? Once we set our priorities in order and shift the gear to that of progress and peace then all the other issues will be addressed.

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