Monday, February 15, 2016

The third day of the Just Governance Dialogue 2016 addressed Attitudes of Exclusion: Refugees, the Marginalized and the Displaced

Biren Bhuta (head of Social Corporate Responsibility at Tata Steel, India) spoke about his experience of working with the tribals of Jharkhand. Bhuta emphasized the importance of youth in governance, because ‘they have the ambition and the potential to make a positive change in the world’. ‘The Earth does not belong to Man, Man belongs to the Earth‘, he quoted.



The political sociologist Prof. Gayatri Menon (Azim Premji University, India) spoke of moving the marginalized, the displaced and refugees towards just governance and working with the citizenship of those groups. Recognition of those rendered dispossessed, recognition of practices that differentiate between visible and invisible groups of people, and recognition of losses concerning the marginalized should be addressed. ‘What we have to stop is thinking that inclusion means to put all these refugees and displaced into our institutions and society. Rather than that is to think how we can build (with those) a community institution, where their voices are listened to, and where there is space for the recognition. It is important to name the injustice and loss as well as violence and exclusion.’


Dr. Visier Sanyu has a PhD in History and a Bachelor degree in Theology.  He moved to Australia 20 years ago where he has specialized in refugee and interfaith work.  Dr. Sanyu was the spokesperson for the Asian delegation at the Working Group for Indigenous People at the United Nations, Geneva, in the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples. He believes that with the refugee crisis that the world is facing today, things are going to change. Europe, for instance, will have to rebuild its society, its culture and even its constitutions. ‘We all have to be open to the idea that the exclusion starts with us, from our own thoughts.’ The world will have to reshape their interest and open spaces for others that they did not consider as equals, he said.


Dr. Rita Kothari (author and Professor of Translation Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar) highlighted the importance of understanding the roots of different communities in order to understand better the phenomena of border-crossing and migration. She reminded us that there are not only physical borders but also borders in our minds and hearts.




Pramod Boro, president of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), underlined the need to develop a mindset that can deal with issues like refugees, marginalized and displaced persons. It will not be easy, but we can start by being responsible thinkers, solution makers and by building a transparent opinion. ABSU has about 1000 full time volunteers and thousands of part time volunteers working on social projects. After years of unrest he and the union turned away from violence and adopted unanimously to follow the Gandhian non-violence method for a ‘gun-free culture’.


Every day sessions with the panellists and others in smaller groups (Focused Dialogues) offered a space to go deeper into the topics,.  Some examples:

Working With The Displaced And The Dispossessed

The dialogue Working with the Displaced and Dispossessed was anchored by Dr Balasubramaniam (Balu), Suresh and Mala Vazirani.

Dr. R Balasubramaniam (Balu) is a development activist and physician and author. When he was 19, he founded Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). He has taught at Harvard and Cornell, US and has been a consultant to the World Bank. He has spent 31 years in the service of rural and tribal poor in the forests of India and is currently researching leadership lessons that ancient Indian books contain.  

He distinguishes between physical and emotional/cultural displacement reminding the audience that it is not just about relocation, but it is about a loss of cultural identity as people are forced out of their homes. He put a major emphasis on shifting attitudes towards the displaced and dispossessed from ‘tolerance’ to ‘acceptance.’

The entrepreneurs Suresh and Mala Vazirani shared their experience of India-Pakistan reconciliation initiatives they are involved in. They described the work they do together for refugees, especially around India-Pakistan reconciliation initiatives, as ‘we are the same people’.

Having experienced displacement himself as a child during Partition, Suresh encouraged the participants to help and empower others through implementing positive initiatives.

Empowering the Marginalized with these dialogue initiators:

  • Ruchi Bhimani, the filmmaker who is working on a campus campaign using a new film on student suicides.
  • Gayatri Menon, a political sociologist who works on the political economy of development, focusing on urbanization, displacement, and questions of home and citizenship the School of Development at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru. She is currently working on a book on the lives and histories of pavement dwellers in Mumbai.
  • Pierre Lokeka from East Congo, who works for the marginalized women, street children and refugees.

In the afternoon a choice of workshops was offered:

Strengthening The Link Between Good Governance And Democracy

The workshop was hosted by Prof. Trilochan Sastry and Giles Fitzherbert.

  • Prof. Trilochan Sastry, former dean at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) who has received various awards including the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year Award 2013 in Public Service. Sastry’s interests and work include supply chain and operations, social entrepreneurship, rural development, and good governance.
  • Giles FitzHerbert, CMG, former ambassador from the UK to Venezuela and former member of the British Parliament. He set up and hosted the first ever Irish Green Gathering, an environmental festival to bring together eco-minded activists, musicians and artists from across Ireland. And he was one of the main architects of the Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Myanmar (Patron: Aung San Suu Kyi) which is now entering its fourth year.
Pathways & processes towards generating empathy

This workshop with Dr Anand Aithal addressed empathetic interactions between people. Originally from Mumbai, Aithal had been living in Kenya for the past 13 years. He holds a PhD in Economic Geography from the university of Toulouse and had worked with various development and research agencies for the past 18 years including CARE, Khadi and Village Industry, World Agroforestry Centre and the World Food Programme. He is currently involved with a community-based organisation called Pamoja Amani Upendo which uses the language of music and art to generate empathy between different tribes of humanity.

Non Violent Communication

This afternoon also had the first of two workshops on Non Violent Communication with Chris Rajendram (Trincomalee Campus of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka). He has been delivering training in Nonviolent Communication in Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. 





Grampari: A Visit To The Rural Ecological Center

In the afternoon there was a visit to IofC Rural Ecological Centre Grampari.  Grampari focuses on rural development around Panchgani through watershed management, organic farming, vocational training, hygiene programmes, livelihood projects involving women and village governance programmes. There were also personal accounts from villagers on how their lives had been changed for the better by Grampari, thanks to the training and the spirit of the Centre.

One of the women from a nearby village narrated how she had participated in the women’s livelihood programme for the past five years and was able to confidently supplement her family’s income and educate her children. A farmer told his story of how, through the training, he moved from excessive drinking and fighting to take responsibility within his own family, alter the atmosphere in the village and bring improvements to the village’s infrastructure.


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