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Operation Sadbhavna

Manjrika Sewak

By Arjun Ray
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 233, Rs. 495.00


The annual UNDP Human Development Report, which tracks progress on human security indices, encompassing the ideals of ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’, often highlights India’s poor track record—particularly with respect to issues concerning education, gainful employment, healthcare, human rights, women’s empowerment, and political participation. Worsening this picture is the rise of organized violence in large pockets of the country, which is increasingly being supported by impoverished citizens who live on the margins of the Indian state and whose basic human needs and rights are not a priority for the political class. Paradoxically, relative deprivation, widespread alienation, poverty, xenophobia, and various forms of structural and cultural inequalities mix dangerously together in a country that is the largest democracy and that is also projected as an impressive emerging economy.   At the same time, India has witnessed a mushrooming of think-tanks, NGOs, and college/university centers that address issues of conflict, violence, and peace, and that seek to influence policy and public discourse on these issues. Consequently, today there is burgeoning literature on the related fields of conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict resolution and the theoretical frameworks they advocate to reduce violence and build peace in divided societies. However, the corresponding ‘success stories’ and evaluations of peace-building projects to track and measure change on the ground are few and far between. Peace is Everybody’s Business: Strategy for Conflict Prevention by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Arjun Ray fills this vacuum and makes an important contribution to the peace-building discourse in India. It documents the goals, design, and accomplishments of a successful grassroots conflict prevention initiative—Operation Sadbhavna—in northern Kashmir (Ladakh). Written by a practitioner who was directly involved with the implementation of the project, the book uses an invigorating approach: it ‘demystifies theory’ and ‘re-mystifies practice’. In other words, the conceptual model of conflict prevention was constructed ‘from the ground-up’in an organic and dialogic manner after the author engaged in listening and consultative exercises with the people of Ladakh. These dialogues in turn influenced the design and trajectory of Operation Sadbhavna, which emerged as a bold ‘socio-political experiment’ in building sustainable peace and security in the region. Undoubtedly, it represents a refreshing approach, particularly in a State—Jammu and Kashmir—where coercive state action and pervasive violence dominate public discourse.   Launched by the Indian Army in the year 2000 after the Kargil War in northern Kashmir, Operation ...

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