By Haffiz Hassam Samnam* from India
August 3, 2015

Reconciliation raises several questions, answers for which are not quite simple. First, what do we understand by the term reconciliation, is there a common understanding or is it still developing? Second, do we really need the process of reconciliation? What if the power relations of the parties involved in the reconciliation process are unequal and can the process of reconciliation be initiated without involving the aggrieved parties as it seems to be happening in the case of victims of Jakarta? What role does it play in Pluralism?

The full day excursion to Napak Reformasi particularly the visit to the family of victims of fire at Klender Mall in East Jakarta and various examples discussed in the sessions including one about the racial video in the South African University of Free State set the context to understand and critically examine some of the questions.

Understanding of Reconciliation does differ and varies at different levels say national and local and in different contexts however there is some mediation to make peace between the parties involved. For some it might be a process of dialogue or resolving differences through discussions and for others it might be a long fought battle to get an apology from the state for the wrongs done to the victims and putting safeguards to avoid a similar incident. For some others it might be more than a dialogue and would also include social justice to compensate to certain extent the wrongs of the past. The process is complicated and at times does turn out messy and questions whether the law should take priority over reconciliation or not?

Reconciliation does play an important role in ensuring peace in places which have suffered from long term conflict as lawat times has its own limitations and revenge might not ensure lasting peace. The successful case of South Africa highlights how reconciliation can play an important role in a country torn by Apartheid. Another case of reconciliation which was highlighted in the session was one of Ambon where local leadership took upon themselves to mediate and reconcile differences and start the process of verbal and nonverbal dialogue through family visits and involvement of the youth.

When the power relations are unequal and especially when political actors are involved in crimes, it becomes difficult to initiative the process of reconciliation in its true sense which gives sense of justice to the victims and acts as a deterrent for future violence. This is evident from the cases of May 1998 case of Klenden mall fire during the Reformasi period in Jakarta, Indonesia or in 2002 Godhra massacre in Guajarat India where the process of reconciliation cannot begin as various political actors are involved in the crime and a public apology might be an end of their political careers. For the mothers of the victims of the Klenden Mall incident reconciliation means just an apology from the government and an official declaration of the names of the perpetrators so that they could forgive them and move past the event.

Finally, Pluralism is all about acceptance and engagement with diversity, dialogue, criticism and self-criticism. Conflicts will continue to be a part and parcel of any society but what matters is the mechanism to address them. Reconciliation is one such promising mechanism but with its own limitations.


*Haffiz Samnani is pursuing Master of Arts in Development at Azim Premji University in Bangalore, India