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Dr. Bidisha Biswas discusses Indian Government’s approaches to managing conflict

On Tuesday, June 17, START researcher Dr. Bidisha Biswas spoke at START on her new book “Managing Conflicts in India: Policies of Coercion and Accommodation.”

The book focuses on the Indian Government’s methods of dealing with domestic conflicts, as well as the consequences of those methods. During her talk she identified the three distinct conflicts.

“The first was the separatist conflict that occurred in Punjab in the 1980s,” Biswas said. “The second is the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been ongoing, and the third is the left-wing extremist conflict, also known as the Maoist or Naxalite conflict.”

Even though the government has been successful in quelling the uprisings in the first two areas, Biswas says that’s not the entire story.

The government’s dealings with these insurgencies follow a pattern, she said. According to her, first, the government instigates the conflict or denies that it is occurring. The second stage is a recognition of the conflict and a coercive, albeit constrained, response.  This begins a cycle of violence and reprisal, she said. Finally, there is an eventual cessation of violence, but the area is not left with a positive peace. Instead, Biswas asserts that what generally follows are years of policy inertia and inconsistency.

Biswas also discussed why she thought there was potential for change. The problems faced by India are often faced by democracies, she said, and citizens in India are becoming more active.

Biswas, a former recipient of START’s Terrorism Research Award, has been affiliated with START since 2006. She is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Washington University, and was a 2012-2013 Franklin Fellow at the Department of State, where she served as a policy advisor on South Asia. Her book “Managing Conflicts in India: Policies of Coercion and Accommodation” can be ordered on Amazon.com.