Introduction

The ancient city of Varanasi has traditionally been a site of intercultural and interreligious dialogue and discourses on peace. Continuing this tradition, the Banaras Hindu University has taken the lead to institutionalize an interdisciplinary centre of peace research and conflict resolution. Deriving its name from the illustrious founder of the university, the Malaviya Centre for Peace Research (MCPR), the first of its kind in the Indian University system, was launched in 1998 under the VIII UGC Plan. The MCPR was envisaged to carry out teaching/research "to anticipate potential areas of conflict and tension, to analyze its determinants, to formulate suitable preemptive strategies, to make the subject of Peace itself an area of systematic, enlightened and rigorous investigation- a task that the social scientists must address themselves. Accordingly, the academic programs and activities at MCPR aimed to develop pedagogies and research trajectories to understand the generic features of conflict and peace building within and across Indian borders and to develop indigenous capacity to analyze and intervene in the peaceful management of violent conflicts. Peace research and teaching at MCPR rests on interface between research, teaching and recommendations through a synthesis of the academic findings and experiential inputs from scholars and practitioners.

In course of time the Malaviya Centre for Peace Research has established itself as an intellectual hub of scholarly and practical activities concerning varied dimensions of conflict analysis and sustainable peace. Recognized by the NAAC as 'an example of best practices' and the UGC visiting team as 'a laudable initiative', the MCPR was selected subsequently by the UGC to run an innovative teaching program under its Scheme of Innovative Programmes in Interdisciplinary & Emerging Areas. The launching of MCPR was acknowledged by internationally recognized experts as 'one of the best examples of BHU's will and capability to innovate and integrate and as M.J. Lunine, Professor of Global Peace Studies San Francisco State University observed:"the energy, sophistication, and amiable seriousness of purpose of the nucleus faculty and graduate students is one the finest works in progress I have witnessed at the dozens of universities in Europe, Central America, India, and of course especially the United States where I have either taught or served as Dean or consulted."

The granting of the UNESCO Chair for Peace to the Malaviya Centre for Peace Research in 2010-11 has been a worthy recognition of the continued sway of peace studies at Banaras Hindu University.

UNESCO CHAIR FOR PEACE at MCPR

The UNESCO Chair is well poised to meet its following mandate.

  • Explore and highlight the potentials of cultural and, in particular religious diversity as a resource for peace rather than a barrier;

  • Create a critical mass of trained and sensitized peace workers in this particular field;

  • Create an integrated regional hub for research, training, information and documentation in the fields of peace, human rights, conflicts resolution and human development sensitive to the issues of structural and cultural diversity;

  • Promote the preservation of public spaces of communally inclusive heritage and cultural practices in India and elsewhere, and sensitize media and civil society about the common grounds between diverse cultures; and peace building.

  • Create and reinforce networks of academic institutions in India and abroad concerned with intercultural peace and intercultural practices, to initiate Masters/ PhD programs for peace and development.

    The UNESCO Chair has acquired an impressive infrastructure along with a vibrant intellectual synergy at Malaviya Centre for Peace Research, Banaras Hindu University. In order to explore and highlight the potentials of cultural and, in particular religious diversity as a resource for peace rather than a barrier, we have undertaken many critical activities including Seminars/Workshops/ training programs. Most of the activities undertaken in this direction are harnessed with the help of our academic partners and ongoing research projects. Our critical contribution in this direction has been to project the sacred city of Varanasi as a model of intercultural and communal peace - a track which correspondence well with India’s national policies as also with the UNESCO mission.

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