Conflict Resolution Effort in Bangladesh through Peace Education

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Pamelia Khaled:

Representational Image
Source: jrpc.org

 

Here I briefly discuss the conflict resolution efforts taken in Bangladesh so far. However, the attempt was taken by the Bangladesh government at the national level, not in the school curriculum. In 2006 to reduce violence in the country the then government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) took initiatives to crack down terrorist groups and banned four terrorist organizations. In March 2007 the military-backed technocratic regime started employing a strong Counter-Terrorism (CT) strategy. From 2009 to 2014 the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) government took several attempts to stop violence and banned an Islamist organization (Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami) and blacklisted a few suspected organizations (JMB, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh-HuJI-B, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh-JMJB, Shahadat-e-al-Hikma).

However, the Bangladeshi militant groups remained active and continued to reorganize with new names and disguises. There is evidence that a few Bangladeshi militant groups reportedly have connections with Pakistan-based militant organizations and have been implicated in the acts of terrorism in India. Alleged Pakistani militants and members of Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS) have been arrested in Bangladesh. The gains in Counter Terrorism effort achieved since 2006 started to slide in 2013, as the country’s political situation became more unstable.

Different political literature and International Crisis studies indicate the government maintains ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism, but critiques question the validity of such claims and demand evidence for the progress as they argue that it is the government’s ploy to use militancy against the opposition. Regrettably, to say, the government’s approach in handling the oppositions confirms this allegation. Thus, terrorism is inherent in the political realm of Bangladesh which is supported someway by the government.

Unfortunately, Religiously inspired violence: killing people who are from different gender spectrum (not straight), non-believers, science bloggers, science educators, and science believers and militancy emerged in the country only in the mid-1990s and there was a dramatic rise of political violence in 2004 and 2005. Extremism and political violence are rippling across Bangladesh currently. It is alarming that the Holey Artisan Bakery killing on the 1st July 2016 involved rural madrasa students and elite urban young students. Bangladeshi citizens are furthermore concerned about the meager attempt on violence and counter-terrorism in Bangladesh recently.

The above brief discussion confirms a lack of political will among leaders of the political parties of the country.  Counter Terrorism (CT) would be successful only when the current government and opposition have a concerted political will to ensure the sustainability of peace in the country. Otherwise, counter-attack, oppression, and coercion of the opposition will increase terrorism and violence in the country. The counter-terrorism should be a combination of strategies of social, educational (curriculum), economic and political effort.  

There is evidence that some countries are working on peace such as the Philippines which has included peace education in the public schools and Israel which has arranged peace rally to reduce violence against the Palestinians. The study of Save the Children, (2010) indicates that the national peace education in Afghanistan and Pakistan show that UN agencies, International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO)s and donors are promoting peace education using many different ways. Peace educators are concerned about interstate and intrastate violence and conflicts that are caused by identity issues related to religion, for example in Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.   The peace education model was successful in Nepal in both the formal and informal education systems as it was a systemic and a collaborative effort of INGOs, NGOs and the UN agencies. Bangladesh has not been able to integrate Education for Peace into its planning processes yet, it might want to look carefully at the suggestions for a holistic peace education planning of UNESCO, 2015 and follow rights‐based approach to promoting education for peace and conflict resolution. Bangladesh must consider those approach to integrate into primary and secondary curricula to bring back peace in the society.

On one hand, conventional approaches to citizenship education, overemphasis on war hero, glorified past, dominant ethnic identity, national identity, and nationalism present a key challenge to prospects for realizing education for peace; for example, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China.  Patriotic nationalist ideas are used for nationalism and identity but it generates a militaristic voice in textbooks and aggressiveness among the youngsters. Thus, I suggest rethinking the fundamental priorities of education policy. And create a platform to bring together the idea of scholars (like Tagore and Gandhi’s peace education concept) in child-centered education and designing curriculum in core subjects at primary and secondary levels. And teachers should be the partners in curriculum design than simply the expert in pedagogy delivery. Furthermore, I suggest for curriculum development, teacher training and the improvement of teaching materials rather than focusing on monitoring outputs only.

 

The writer is an anthropologist and environmentalist. She is pursuing her Ph.D. research on peace and conflict resolution at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. [email protected].  

 

 

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