Peacemaking and the ‘Unofficial’ Peace Process in India’s East and the Northeast

Date01 December 2014
Published date01 December 2014
Subject MatterArticles
Samir Kumar Das is Professor of Political Science and currently Dean, Faculty of
Arts at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India. E-mails:;
Peacemaking and
the ‘Unofficial’ Peace
Process in India’s East
and the Northeast
Samir Kumar Das
While multiculturalism with its reciprocal recognition of rights is usually
held as the key to peace and peacemaking in India in general and her
Northeast in particular, this article points out with the help of a series
of case studies how ‘unofficial’ peace that is made independently of
the state mediation bases itself on certain values and standards of cul-
ture that more often than not entail compromise with our rights in
some form or the other. These values and standards, however, are
neither given in our culture nor unalterable as the theorists of ‘unity-in-
diversity’ would have us believe. Insofar as their viability and effective-
ness in bringing peace depend on their ability to constantly negotiate
with and confront the official or the State-brokered peace process and
‘interrupt’ the effects of governmental power, these values and stand-
ards constantly get reconstituted, reordered—if not hierarchized—in
keeping with the changing requirements of such negotiation and con-
frontation. As a result, peace, as the article illustrates, acquires forms
that are extremely contingent and momentary and does not necessarily
depend on rights-based solutions.
Governmentality, Inner Line Permit (ILP), Language of rights, Multi-
culturalism, North East India, Peace process, Recognition, Security,
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
18(2) 137–153
2014 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0973598414563205
138 Samir Kumar Das
Jadavpur Journal of International Relations, 18, 2 (2014): 137–153
In one of my essays published in 2007, I made a distinction between the
‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ peace processes (Das 2007). While it is always
the state that plays a role—albeit a predominant role—in the official
peace process, peace in the second instance is made by the stakeholders
themselves independently of state mediation. Of course, there is varia-
tion of degree in the relative independence that the unofficial peace pro-
cess enjoys vis-à-vis the state. But most importantly, in that essay I also
emphasized that these two peace processes produce two very different
‘kinds’ of peace. On one hand, official peace is always fragile—con-
stantly haunted by the specter of war and conflict and is therefore perched
precariously between war and peace. On the other hand, an unofficial
peace process produces peace that is likely to be durable, for it is
informed by the triadic principles of rights, justice, and democracy. The
correlation of these principles to peace, to say the least, is tenuous inso-
far as they are often seen to have triggered conflict and contentious poli-
tics in history and not necessarily peace.
By all means, it will be difficult to stretch the distinction between
the official and unofficial peace processes beyond a certain point, for,
they represent what Max Weber would have called ‘ideal–typical’
categories with possibilities of mixture between them in real-life situ-
ations. We know that the unofficial peace process finds it extremely
difficult—if not impossible—to escape the hegemonizing influence
of the official peace process. In another essay written more recently
(Das 2012), I also tried to show how peace is sought to be
govern(mentaliz)ed in India’s Northeast albeit with varying degree of
This article takes its cue from my essay mentioned at the outset (Das
2007) and proposes to extend the argument further by inquiring into how
official process views contending rights claims to identity and culture as
the heart of war and conflict, seeks to reconcile them within a new nor-
mative order of multiculturalism1 based on reciprocal recognition of
rights and thus scripts peace into rights-based solutions. On the other
hand, as we will argue in this article, unofficial peace bases itself on
certain values and standards of culture that more often than not entail
compromise with our rights in some form or the other. What we call

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