CHENNAI: If a government is unable or unwilling to resolve internal conflict, civil society has a key role to play, stressed BG Verghese, Centre for Policy Research and Seema Mustafa, Political Editor, Asian Age, at the opening session of a two-day seminar on civil society in conflict situations organised by the Centre for Security Analysis.
Speakers pointed to important instances where civil society’s intervention in India’s 60-year experience of conflict, whether war, terror, insurgency, communalism or crime, had established facts, facilitated communication and addressed relief and rehabilitation.
These including the work of the Committee of Concerned Citizens in facilitating talks between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Naxalite groups, the role of women’s groups in Manipur, the role of the church and tribal leaders of Jamatia in Nagaland, and the role of the media in pushing for justice for victims of the Gujarat riots.
Ms. Mustafa also went on to highlight how the lack of a civil society response in Kashmir had resulted in a lack of political will at the Centre in resolving the cross-border dispute with Pakistan.
The significant role of the media, as the link between society at large and decision-makers in politics, in presenting basic facts sensitively and not sensationally was highlighted by speakers and participants. Concerns about the trivialisation of news in the broadcast media, the interest groups created through new media, editorialisation of news content in print media, and the privatisation of sections of the media were raised. Ms. Mustafa stressed that civil society, in particular the media, has a key role to play in national integration as part of a well-structured national security policy. But civil society, she said, does not get the kind of response it needs from government.
The seminar included sessions on the Northeastern region, Jammu and Kashmir and Nepal.
The Hindu, 6 October 2007