Written By: Ms.Sreya Mazumdar, Sr.Manager, Programmes
There is a history of violent conflict over land in Assam between the indigenous Bodo tribal and ethnic Bengali Muslim settlers dating back to 1952, with subsequent violent clashes occurring in 1979-1985, 1991-1994, and 2008. The most recent violence between Bodo and Bengali speaking Muslims erupted in July 2012 in the BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri, where 77 people were killed, and over 400,000 displaced from the violence. In the 2013 Karbi – Rengma conflict at Karbi Anglong, 17 lives were lost, with the destruction of basic infrastructure and livelihoods, accompanied by massive displacement.
This recurring ethnic conflict has resulted in the separation of family members, alteration of gender roles, breakdown of family structures, loss of community support mechanisms, increased pressures of child care, increased incidences of domestic violence and sexual exploitation as well as the long-term psychosocial trauma that is an inevitable byproduct of this dysfunction.
IGSSS is committed to respond with humanitarian relief in such emergent crises; however, the many years of such operations have also led to a conviction that these should be supplemented with longer term, concrete measures of peace building and conflict resolution to address the more structural issues. The role of women and young people, as the torchbearers of this peace building effort, is a cornerstone of the strategy.
The organizational personnel, facilitating this movement on the ground, are being mentored and capacitated to enhance their understanding on peace building – such that personal convictions can be more effectively translated into action through a structured process of peace education. Macro perspectives of human rights legislations, reflections from Peace Counts modules and Berghoff’s handbook on conflict transformation, Betty Reardon’s gendered perspectives on peace building have built up a theoretical framework against which knowledge and skills are being developed. The intent is to transfer these skills onto the Women Peace Volunteers, through staff, who, in turn, will help spread a larger culture of peace in their own communities through small significant actions.