Linked with Himmat online.net / the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation CDR, and with the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy PIPFPD.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
For more than two decades, Sushobha Barve (born 1949) has been working tirelessly, often without any organizational support, to create dialogue and reconciliation in conflict-stricken areas. Her philosophy is based on the need for reconciliation, whether it is in Maharashtra, Bihar, Sri Lanka, or Jammu and Kashmir. Sushobha believes that people do not need state agencies to solve their problems. Born in 1949 in Mumbai, she grew up in a middleclass Maharashtrian- dominated area, the Hindu Colony in Dadar, one of the older parts of the city. Her family encouraged liberal thought and unfettered questioning. Both home and school environments bolstered the spirit of service and social work. The walls of the family sitting-room were adorned with the photographs of the freedom movement’s leaders … It is said: Sushobha’s sensitive and democratic approach to conflict resolution has led to inimical communities accessing each other’s mutual survival desires, and to building bridges over choppy waters. (1000peacewomen).
Conference on JK calls for ‘truth commission’, May 7, 2008.
THE India-Pakistan peace process has been stalled for almost a year now. Its negative impact is seen most in Jammu and Kashmir where people feel discouraged and disheartened about their problem ever being resolved. It was against this gloomy backdrop that the first intra-Kashmir women’s conference, ‘Connecting women across the Line of Control’, was held in Srinagar recently. It helped to lift spirits and revive hope … (full long text).
Her book: Healing Streams: Bringing Hope in the Aftermath of Violence, by Sushobha Barve, 30 May 2003.
Sushobha Barve – India
She works for the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation CDR (a project of Himmat online.net).
New Delhi, May 06: A conference on Kashmir has been conducted quietly for the past two days at a resort near Mehrauli off MG Road, which connects New Delhi to Gurgaon.Thirty-eight leaders from Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK), Gilgit-Balwaristan and Jammu and Kashmir are attending this meet. At the end of the first two days of deliberations, the message that has emerged is that if something concrete is not done to resolve the Kashmir dispute soon, the Valley could see another violent uprising. The strictly “closed-door” conference, organised Sushobha Barve of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation … (full text, May 6, 2008).
Sushobha Barve demonstrates that communal conflict in India can be addressed through dialogue. Working in the most violence-ridden regions of her country, she engineers conversations that involve all parties in an exploration of the social and economic factors that led to their conflict, and leads them toward practical solutions. Paying no heed to those who doubt the power of discussion, she has helped feuding groups make and implement strong plans to end violence, recover from it, and avert it in the future … Sushobha plans to apply the systems and techniques she developed through years of work in hot spots like Kashmir, Malegaon and the slums of Mumbai to communal conflict in the whole of South Asia. She is now spreading her methods through programs for teachers, community leaders, police, and citizens throughout the region. (full text on ASHOKA Changemaker).
Forging New Paths in Peacemaking in Times of Conflict and Violence.
She says (about Indian-Pakistan Kashmir conflict): “We can look forward to ending the bitter legacy of the last 60 years and begin a new chapter in our bilateral relations” … (and about her book): “This emerging story full of hope is based on her 20 years’ involvement in the growing peace constituency in India and Pakistan. Progress made by governments has been largely people-driven. This movement has begun to reverse the trust deficit accumulated over six decades of deep-seated distrust and hatred between us” … (full text).
Kashmir: The moral dimension.
She writes: Civil society in India needs to awaken to the colossal dimension of the humanitarian crisis that confronts tens of thousands of young widows and orphans in the violence-hit Valley. OVER the past two years, through regular visits that I have made to Kashmir, the abandonment of the ordinary Kashmiri, caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces, has come starkly to me. Each visit has made me guilty, when I see the absence of any involvement by Indian civil society in the plight of the ordinary Kashmiri. The present conflict has gone on for almost 13 years now. The consequences of violence in Kashmir are enormous in terms of human and social costs. Look at the staggering figures – 50,000 dead, several hundred missing, around 30-40,000 young widows and about the same number of orphans. No one really has any authentic figures since proper, independent surveys of all the districts in the Valley as well as Jammu region have not been made … (full text).
Barve’s faith in dialogue was shaped by strong Gandhian ethics that governed her family as she was growing up. She has honed her skills in facilitating dialogue during 30-odd years with the Moral Rearmament Movement, Sushobha Barve now known as Initiatives of Change, a diverse, global network that is committed to building trust across the world’s divides … (full text).
… Dr. Kalam will join other dignitaries representing India at the meet including peace activists Sushobha Barve and Niketu Iralu from the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, New Delhi … (full text).
CURANDO UMA AMARGA HERANÇA DE 60 ANOS, 15 Novembro 2007.
On the 1000 Peace Women-website: The first girl born after two generations, Sushobha was pampered, but allowed the same freedoms as her three brothers. Her personal experience of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots (which followed the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards) actuated much of her later work. The experience sensitized her to the trauma of the victims of violence, and the need to help the so-called dominant group that inflicted the violence. The work of reconciliation between the Sikh victims and the Hindu perpetrators began against the backdrop of escalating Sikh secessionist militancy.
It required certain physical as well as moral courage to publicly acknowledge the wrongs done to the Sikh community. To them, she would say simply, “I am deeply sorry for the hurt and humiliation we have inflicted on your community. Please forgive us.” The very simplicity of her articulation has helped heal the anger and wounds. A young Sikh who had left for the US embittered came in contact with Khalistani militants, and took part in their meetings. Then, he met Sushobha. Her unconditional apology had a profound impact on him. In the subsequent weeks and months, he met her several times and began to find his anger being counteracted. Today, he is back in India and working for social change.
Sushobha also went to Sri Lanka when hostilities erupted between the Indian Peace-Keeping Force and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. She and some others had been invited by a group of Buddhists, Laotians, Malaysians, and Indians to share in how they were healing divided communities. Traveling with the group to different parts of Sri Lanka, she addressed audiences from various ethnic communities in schools, colleges, and other areas, and met with the Buddhist clergy in Candy.
For 30 years, she worked with Moral Re-Armament (MRA, now called Initiatives of Change). Attracted to its slogan, “As I am, so is my nation,” she had joined MRA as a fulltime volunteer soon after finishing college. She saw businesspersons putting the welfare of their workers above their profits; she saw scores of students deciding not to cheat in exams or travel ticketless in buses and trains; she heard stories of how the MRA had played an important role in Franco-German reconciliation after World War II.
Sushobha worked at the MRA Training Centre at Panchgani, a hill station about 150 miles from Mumbai. She helped with running the administration and conducting training programs. The work took her to schools, villages in the Satara district, and to the distant and disturbed Northeast India. MRA was among the earliest organizations to start efforts to build bridges of understanding between the Northeast and “plains” India. She worked in Assam, Meghalaya, and Nagaland from 1972 till early 1990.
While Sushobha’s work has not been limited to any one region, the bulk of her activities have centered round Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra, where she has worked to create dialogue and reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims, with special focus on communally-sensitive areas like Mumbai, Bhiwandi, and Malegaon. In Malegaon town, which has experienced excruciating Hindu-Muslim riots for many decades, Sushobha persuaded the state police to start women’s grievance redress cells. The cell was started a year ago and has five panels of local women to help run it. Each panel has a woman lawyer to supply legal aid. The police have given the center a space where these panels sit and counsel women in distress.
Sushobha also served on the Governor’s Peace Committee during the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. In this capacity, she stayed in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum cluster, in a Muslim locality, where the residents were afraid of being targeted by militant Hindu groups. Sushobha’s ability to reach the police easily lent the locals immense confidence. She balanced her intervention by staying in a Hindu locality that felt vulnerable. It was this that prevented largescale destruction in Dharavi during the second phase of the riots.
In Mumbai, she has established a project, ‘Connecting Communities’, setting up local committees that took responsibility for watching over “watch teams” in several Hindu and Muslim localities. These committees would alert the local police at the first hint of trouble. With such credible information, the police turned up in time to prevent combustion. Sushobha is also a founding member and trustee of the Mumbai Mohalla Committee Movement Trust, which functioned from 1992-2000 to set up citizens-police joint ventures.
Following the 1989 Hindu-Muslim riots in Bhagalpur in Bihar, Sushobha traveled to the relief camps, where she met Muslim Tussore silk weavers. It was an industry that had once earned good money, but had lately suffered severely. The weavers told her that they wanted to return to their work and not beg for a living. With her intervention, the Planning Commission helped the weavers set up a cooperative within three months, along with loans to purchase looms.
Sushobha, who lives in Gurgaon in Haryana, is currently executive secretary and one of the founding members of the Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR). She devotes a lot of her time working in Jammu and Kashmir, helping women recover from trauma and empowering them take personal initiatives. The peace education training for high-school teachers, and an environmental awareness project with college youth, are examples of her initiatives.
She has also done pioneering work with the minority Kashmiri Pandit Hindus, helping them with specific physical, social, and economic security issues, and has set up interregional, intercommunity, and intracommunity dialogue between Hindus and Muslims, and Kashmiris and residents of Jammu.
When she began her work in Kashmir, she knew few people there–she had returned after a gap of nearly 20 years and everything had changed; the CDR was a new organization, with no base in Kashmir. Her visits to the state in 2000-02 were aimed at listening and understanding. She made frequent visits and met scores of people, building, over time, a certain trust with the local Kashmiris.
Her early years with riot victims and in the alienated Northeast had prepared her for her work in Kashmir. She has created a network of peace educators among school and college teachers. She has also addressed the needs of orphans and widows. In the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, she has identified men and women who are actively working to keep religious amity intact.
For Sushobha, a single woman, working in conflict-ridden areas has always carried its own baggage. Most of her ventures into the high-risk areas have been based on personal initiatives, because organizations are unwilling to take responsibility for any harm that might befall her. However, the inspirational results of her work are enough to keep Sushobha going.
Her method of fact-finding is listening and dialogue with people who have not been reduced to statistics. She believes in face-to-face community dialogues. She impeccably researches local causes for disputes, which keeps discourse alive and the probability of rapprochement high. And she has no hesitation in involving the State and law enforcement agencies to remove systemic problems.
Sushobha’s sensitive and democratic approach to conflict resolution has helped her to reach out and build bridges where none were thought possible.
Zainab Bawa draws insights from a new Indian book on dialogue and reconciliation between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs;
Photos from the International Caux Conferences 2007 (where she participated);
The divisions caused by decades of communal strife are partly responsible for the terror in Mumbai;
Events by South Asia Studies, Fall 2002 – Spring 2005 (by the School of Advanced International Studies SAIS, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), of the Johns Hopkins University, Washington);
The Big Hope – Confirmed Speakers and Strand Contributors.