Government of Peace

In the liberal science of government the phenomenon of resistance becomes an occasion for reforms and the continuity of the liberal way to rule, which means ultimately combining security with freedom and coercion with normal ways of administration and governance. In this way liberal way to rule becomes the original form of politics. This becomes the original form because it appears to rise above and subsume the physicalities of partition, colonialism, war, borders and boundaries; conflicts, and struggles, and suggests the liberal combining of freedom, order, and security, as the permanent way to conduct governance and rule. By definition then, such rule shows awareness of an original dilemma of governance, namely, how much to govern and how much to leave to society; likewise, how much to coerce and how much to produce consent of the subjects and rely on that consent in order to rule. The problem of ratio is thus at the core of the liberal problematic of governance. The liberal science of government is therefore also necessarily plural, inherently trans-boundary in its practice, appearing to be seamless in approach and reach, efficacy and life.

Social governance has turned out to be one of the crucial features of the government of peace. What can we learn from the post-colonial phenomenon of the government of peace? At least the following observations can be made:

First, the colonial foundations of governance structures for peace building are still intact, though these foundations have been reinforced and reshaped by the post-colonial experiences of democracy. Conflicts and insurgencies do not continue in the same way over time; the study of the phases is important. The mutation of the form of conflict depends on governmental measures and the responses to these measures. The mutation also depends on the condition of the middle spaces in conflict. The governmental logic of peace building at times bears the imprint of the popular demands for peace and justice, also the imprint of collective violence. The discourse of security can be seen as the link between the two types of ideas of peace: one emanating from the architecture of macro-security and other embedded in the phenomena of micro-insecurity. For this reason the governmental logic of peace building often runs counter to the ideas and practices of plural dialogues. Therefore the question: If overall security reinforces “molecular insecurity”, how to build a model of “molecular security”? At this point liberal way to peace can think of only one solution, namely increasing marketisation of relations so that the unruly subject can become the rational actor of choices and engage in meaningful rational activity helped and guided by a set of rules and laws.

Second, it is assumed that the subjects are unruly, because they are not sufficiently globalized. They are products of a phenomenon called enclave. If they are to made modern rational subjects, then they have to be pulled by their bootstraps to the level of the global. Market becomes the key to such exercise. But this course becomes a contradictory exercise, because if the post-conflict subject is to be rational, and for that only market based norms can exist be allowed to exist, then all other norms have to be destroyed. This also implies rational decision (at all levels) to deploy violence to establish control. How can the government in that case do away with the original violence and become legitimate as a government of peace? And what will be its stand on the tussle existing in the post-conflict scenario between a push towards sharing of sovereignty and the immense desire of the dominant powers to retain it in old form of indivisibility?

Third, conflict becomes in the eyes of the state a matter of deciding the ratio, and the government of peace becomes a government of constant ratio determination in order to control the conduct of subject population, and reorienting the conduct through the apparatus of policies, economy, and peace. This apparatus though appearing new in many ways in a fundamental sense repeats the old combination of the military and the civil. Social governance is the name of this apparatus – in part old, in part new.

Fourth, and finally, all these mean that we are thus suggesting through that “conflict” can be analysed as a historically singular mode of experience, whereby the “objects” of conflict governance are transformed into “subjects” through certain specific procedures, such as the procedure of establishing peace, or the attempts at peace at micro-levels, and through the contradictory process of securitisation. We are posing here the issue of a certain kind of public ethics of self-government growing out of the dynamics of subject-formation through conflict governance. Yet we must not forget that this subject formation is not a one sided process. For instance, an earlier phase of conflict may end with reproducing another phase to succeed it, precisely because the governmental policies of suppression not only produced fear, revulsion, and anger, but a revised subjectivity that took into account the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary. Thus new movements arise. These new movements allow us a faint and an admittedly weak picture of that new kind of subjectivity. The problem of government of peace, like any other form of good governance, is that it will have to deal with different subjects. This is a situation whose principle is that of heterogeneity. The question for government of peace will be: How can it turn the different unruly subjects with immediate memories of insubordination, dissent, and revolt, into the economic actor of a particular, homogenous, type? We can describe that condition in one word, peace.


Dr. Ranabir Samaddar is the Director of the Calcutta Research Group and belongs to the school of critical thinking. He has pioneered along with other peace studies programmes in South Asia. He has worked extensively on issues of justice and rights in the context of conflicts in South Asia. The much- acclaimed The Politics of Dialogue (Ashgate, 2004) was the culmination of his work on justice, rights and peace. His particular researches have been on migration and refugee studies, the theory and practices of dialogue, nationalism and post-colonial statehood in South Asia and new regimes of technological restructuring and labour control. His political writings published in the form of a 2 volume account, The Materiality of Politics (Anthem Press, 2007), and The Emergence of the Political Subject (Sage, 2009) have challenged some of the prevailing accounts of the birth of nationalism and the nation state, and have signaled a new turn in critical post-colonial thinking.

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Leadership in South Asia

Countries throughout Southasia face immense challenges of addressing the needs of their people – whether it is the poverty that stunts the children, the political instability that stifles productivity, the lack of delivery of social justice or the absence of rule of law. Corruption has become almost endemic, development is not participatory, and intolerance and violence are on the increase. At the middle of the last century, each of our countries were led by statesmen and -women who not only changed the destiny of our nations but also transformed the world. Such leadership seems to be missing in present times, whether inside or outside the political spectrum. Everywhere, we hear the call for visionaries even as we fail to harness our demographic diversity and natural resources. Why is this so? Are the societies of Southasia meant merely to undergo bouts of indignation? What can ordinary citizens do, actively, to change this?

Diplomat, writer and thinker Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who also carries the familial legacy of the Mahatma, will address these and other issues at the ASD-Himal Southasian Lecture.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was the Governor of West Bengal serving from 2004 to 2009. As a former member of the Indian Administrative Service, he held positions in different capacities in Tamil Nadu. He also served as the Secretary to the President of India and as High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka, among other administrative and diplomatic posts.

Gandhi graduated with a master’s degree in Literature from St. Stephen’s College of Delhi University. He has authored one novel (Saranam – “Refuge” in English) and a play in verse (Dara Shukoh). His other books are – “Gandhi and South Africa”, “Koi Acchha Sa Ladka” (translation into Hindustani of Vikram Seth’s novel ‘A Suitable Boy’), “Gandhi and Sri Lanka”, “Nehru and Sri Lanka”, “India House, Colombo – Portrait of a Residence”, “Gandhi Is Gone. Who Will Guide Us Now?” (Edited), “A Frank Friendship/ Gandhi and Bengal: A Descriptive Chronology” (compiled and edited).

He is the Chairman of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai since December 2011. He was appointed the chairman of governing body of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and president of its society on March 5, 2012.

He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari.

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The lecture was delivered in Kathmandu on 18 December 2012 as part of the ASD/Himal Southasian Lecture series.


The ‘World Class City’ Concept: Its Repercussions on Urban Planning in Southasia

The political reforms and deregulations pushed by the international financial institutions (IFIs) have had a major impact on property markets in the developing world including Southasia, giving developers and financers (many with links with the ‘underworld’) a dominant role in the politics of land – and hence in urban politics. In almost all cases, the state has responded to the demands of this powerful lobby and made land available to it through mostly illegal land-use conversions, new development schemes (often in ecologically inappropriate locations), and the bulldozing of informal settlements and forceful purchase of formal ones. The non-governmental and community-based organisations (CBOs) who have challenged this process have faced two constraints; one, an unsympathetic national and international media, and the other an absence of laws to prevent environmentally and socially inappropriate land conversions.

Karachi, Bombay, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Delhi all aspire to become ‘world class cities’. According to the World Class City agenda, a city should have iconic architecture by which it should be recognised. It should be branded for a particular cultural, industrial or other produce or happening. It should be an international event city (hosting the Olympics, sports fairs, etc). It should have high-rise apartments as opposed to upgraded settlements with low-rise neighborhoods. It should cater to tourism (which is often at the expense of local commerce). It should have malls as opposed to traditional markets. To solve the problem of increasing traffic (the result of a nexus between the automobile, banking and oil sectors), it should build flyovers, underpasses and expressways, rather than restrict the production and purchase of automobiles and manage traffic better.

Building a World Class City is therefore an expensive agenda, and for this the city has to seek foreign direct investment (FDI) and the support of the IFIs. For accessing FDI, it is important for the host country to develop an investment friendly infrastructure, and to develop the image of the World Class City. To establish this image, poverty has to be pushed out of the city to the periphery, and the already anti-poor byelaws are to be made even more onerous by permitting environmentally and socially problematic land-use conversions. The most important repercussions of this agenda are that global capital, and not local requirements, increasingly determines the physical and social form of the cities of Southasia, as elsewhere in the developing world. We find that projects have replaced planning, and land-use is now determined entirely on the basis of land value.

The urban crisis we face today is serious and is promoting social and class inequity, ecological damage and environmental degradation, crime and conflict, displacement of entire communities, loss of multi-class public spaces, and overconsumption of resources. The World Class City concept is to a great extent responsible for this damage. Interestingly, this concept has now taken root in both academia and bureaucracy, thus guaranteeing the continuation of this concept among our future planners.

With the death of the modernist paradigm, a new vision for the development of an ‘inclusive’ city is required to replace the neo-liberal paradigm. We can begin with articulating the principles on the basis of which urban projects, in the absence of planning, should be designed; the changes that are required in university curricula to make this happen; and laws and processes that can make our citizens the decision makers in the planning and implementation processes.

(The contents of the lecture are drawn from Arif Hasan’s experience in working programmes and projects in a number of Asian cities over the last two and a half decades and with their planners, academics, students, politicians and NGO and CBO representatives. Many of these programmes and projects, he says, were supported by the IFIs and bilateral development agencies)

Arif Hasan is an architect/planner who lives in Karachi. He studied architecture at the Oxford Polytechnic and, on his return to Karachi in 1968, began work on urban planning and development issues in general, focusing specifically on Asia and Pakistan.

Since 1982, Hasan has been involved with the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) and is currently the Chairperson of its Research and Training Institute. He is founder chairman of the Urban Resource Centre (URC), Karachi. Both institutions are being replicated nationally and in a number of other countries. The OPP is an informal settlement-upgrading project whose development is managed and funded by local communities. The URC is a research and advocacy organisation supporting communities against eviction and against gentrification and/or degradation of Karachi’s inner city.

Hasan has taught at Pakistani and European universities and is author of a large number of books on development and planning dealing with Asian cities. He was ‘celebrity speaker’ at the Union of International Architects Congress in Brighton in 1987 and has been a member of the ‘master jury’ of the Aga Khan Award. He is on the board of several international journals and research organisations including the Bangkok-based Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, of which he is a founding member. A Visiting Professor at the Department of Architecture and Planning at the NED University, Karachi, he has served on a number of UN committees including on the Millennium Development Goals. Hasan is presently member of the UN Advisory Group on Forced Evictions.

Hasan is recipient of several awards, including the UN Year for the Shelterless Memorial Award of Japan Government (1990), the Prince Claus Award of the Netherlands (2000), and the Hilal-i-Imtiaz of the Pakistan (2001). In 2003, he was recognised with the Life Time Achievement Award by the Institute of Architects, Pakistan (2003).

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The lecture was delivered in Kathmandu on 12 October 2012 as part of the ASD/Himal Southasian Lecture series.


The Promises and the Limits of Civil Society

What I want to do in this presentation is to (a) chart out briefly the return of civil society to political debates in Eastern Europe, i.e., the velvet revolutions of 1989, (b) see how in the process, liberal notions of civil society came to dominate more critical Marxist theories of the sphere, (c) investigate why civil society became important for South Asian societies, (d) explore how and why the concept has been taken over or hijacked by policy makers and by global donors, (e) survey developments in civil society in the South in the recent past, most notably in the NGOisation of the space, and (f) work out the implications of these development for democracy.

The one idea that lies at the heart of the civil society argument is that democratic states are imperfect. The project of democracy has to be realised through collective action which engages with the state, as well as society. Citizen activism, public vigilance, an informed public opinion, a free media, and associational life are necessary preconditions for this task. The space in which this activity and these engagements take place is civil society. The space of civil society provides room for a multiplicity of agents, professional associations, trade unions, chambers of commerce, film clubs, reading groups, citizen organisations, NGOs and social movements. Each of these organisations is a component of a plural, contentious, fractious and a messy, but an occasionally creative civil society.

But more importantly, civil society is a set of political values which upholds participation and accountability of the state. Whereas periodic elections are indispensable, they are not a sufficient condition for democracy. Between elections citizens have the right to intervene in the way an activity called politics is conducted through modes of direct action such as street corner meetings, demonstrations, strikes, representations and petitions. Citizens, to put the point across baldly, have the democratic right to intervene in issues crucial to public life and shape them, and they have the political competence to do so. To challenge this is to deny the basic right of citizens to participate in the making of a public and a political discourse that impacts them individually and collectively. Civil society is therefore a necessary precondition for democracy.

It is important to recognize that civil society does not admit of every form of politics; it is not a remnant of everything that does not fall within the provenance of the family, of the market, or of the state. It does not include armed struggles of the Maoists, and it does not include formations which seek to take over political power or the state.

However, a number of questions also need to asked of the civil society argument. One, do all organisations of civil society critique the state? Are all organisations democratic in terms of their constitution, decision making, perspectives, commitments, and the tasks they set for themselves? Or do some of them uphold the interests of the state and power equations in society? Two, in the aftermath of the success of democracy movements across the world in the 1980s under the banner of civil society, the concept was very quickly yoked to development agendas and appropriated by donor agencies. Resultantly, it has come to be identified almost exclusively with the third sector, the non-profit sector, the voluntary sector, or more popularly non-governmental organisations. Some NGOs have initiated innovative ways of resolving the problems of poor and impoverished people of the global south. But does the involvement of NGOS enhance the political competence of the constituency or diminish it? This is the core question.

Three, what are the limits of civil society interventions? Civil society agents cannot summon up resources that are required to emancipate citizens of the global south from poverty and deprivation. It is only the state that can do so through widening the tax net, and through monitoring the collection of revenues. Moreover, NGOs can hardly implement schemes of redistributive justice that involve transferring of resources from the better to the worse off sections of society. Above all, the non-governmental sector cannot establish and strengthen institutions that will implement policy. These tasks simply lie outside the pale of civil society activism. NGOs can lobby for and mobilise people for rights. But ultimately the realisation of these rights depends largely upon structures of governance and a responsive, accountable, and democratic state. Civil society is not a substitute for the state it is a companion concept of the democratic state.

Neera Chandhoke retired as professor of political science from Delhi University in August 2012, and is now an independent researcher and scholar. She was visiting Professor at the Centre for Ethics and Global Politics LUISS University, Rome, in 2011, and an International Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics and Political Science, in 2007. She was awarded the Shastri Indo-Canadian Fellow in 2009, Jawaharlal Nehru National Fellowship, 1997-1999, and was a Fellow, Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House from 1989-1992.

Prof Chandhoke was awarded the National Swami Pranavananda Saraswati Award for Contributions to Political Science by the University Grants Commission in 2010, the Gaetano Mosca Chair by the University of Turin, Italy in 2010, and the Eminent Alumna Award, Lady Shriram College, University of Delhi, Delhi in 2008. She is on the editorial/advisory boards of international journals: Democratization, (University of Warwick), Journal of Development Studies (I.D.S Sussex), Contemporary Politics, (University of Hong Kong), International Encyclopaedia of Civil Society (New York, Springer), The Ethics Reference Project (On Line Encyclopaedia of Applied Ethics), The European Journal of Development Research, (Journal of the European Association of Development Research).

Among her published works are Contested Secessions: Rights, Democracy, Self-Determination and Kashmir, New Delhi, Oxford University Press 2012, The Conceits of Civil Society, NewDelhi, Oxford University Press, in 2003, Beyond Secularism: The Rights of Religious Minorities, NewDelhi Oxford University Press in 1999, and State And Civil Society: Explorations in Political Theory, New Delhi, Sage in 1995. She has edited and co-edited a number of books.

Currently, Prof Chandhoke is exploring the relationship between democracy and political violence in India. India has successfully institutionalised the main traditions of democracy: public debate, participation, representation, and accountability. Logically the institutionalisation of democracy should have pre-empted the eruption and consolidation of sustained political violence. Yet the country has been wracked by political violence for quite some time now. Apart from the violence of everyday life, the country confronts an armed, ideologically charged and highly organised movement-Maoism- which has declared war on the state. The four decade old movement is now active in about 125 districts spread over 12 states in the country. The region of mainly central India in which the Maoists operate, is appositely termed the ‘Red Corridor’. This anxiety ridden question admits of no certain answers. Even as we recognise that violence is profoundly dehumanizing and a moral bad, any evaluation of violence will have to take into account both the context and the objective of violence. And even if we conclude that violence is morally legitimate in certain cases, this particular form of doing politics might not be politically sustainable in a democratic context.

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Democratic Culture and the Right to Information

At a time when the present Government of Nepal has attempted to limit the reach of the Right to Information Act (2064/2008), this public lecture is being organised to enhance the understanding of RTI for the sake of participatory democracy and transparent governance in Nepal. The ASD-Himal Southasian Lecture Series is collaboration between Himal Southasian magazine and the Alliance for Social Dialogue (ASD) to raise issues of democracy and governance that have relevance throughout Southasia.

Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey are part of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), a grassroots people’s organisation based in Devdungri village in Rajasthan. It was the Sangathan which propelled the Right to Information (RTI) campaign in India, which is helping change the face of Indian democracy from the grassroots on up. The MKSS started work in the 1990s to ensure the public’s right to scrutinise official records, using the tool of public hearings (jana-sunuwai) for democratic participation. Started in Rajasthan, RTI is now a part of national legislation in India and influencing multiple levels of governance.

The MKSS considers itself part of the ‘non-party political process’, and has also been instrumental in shaping India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which was adopted in 2005. In the context of the vigorous public debate on corruption issues in India over the last year, Roy and Dey are founder members of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which prepared its own formulation for anti-corruption and accountability legislation.

Aruna Roy is a social and political activist who is a Magasaysay Award recipient, declared one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2011. Nikhil Dey has been involved in popular efforts at formulating legislation for justice since the 1980s, focusing on poor people’s struggles for land, the right to work and minimum wage.

For more background on the work of Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and MKSS, go to:

Find the interview of Aruna Roy with Himal Media on “Right to Information: Seeping to the capillaries

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The lecture was delivered in Kathmandu on 20 February 2012 as part of the ASD/Himal Southasian Lecture series.