The Human Aspect of War: Dr Meha Dixit in conversation with Anando Bhakto

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“War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.”

– Khaled Hosseini

On the second day of the Symbiosis Literary Festival, 2021, the last session, ‘Piece of War: Narratives of Hope and Resilience,’ was graced by Dr. Meha Dixit and Mr. Anando Bhakto. Dr. Dixit has a Ph.D. in International Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has conducted field research in various conflict and post-conflict zones, including topics such as disputes in the Kashmir Valley and Pakistan. Mr. Anando Bhakto is a correspondent from Kashmir and has reported from different parts of the country.

Bringing their wide-ranging experience in Indian journalism, Dr. Dixit and Mr. Bhakto engaged in an enlightening conversation about the book released in 2020. Through the real-life stories of people, the book attempts to uncover the human aspect of war; and how individuals and communities cope with the pain and uncertainty. Dr. Dixit began the session by reading the last chapter of the book, which details her interviews with female artists in the Herat Province of Afghanistan.

Realising the importance of peace over anarchy, post-fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, ex-militants in the Herat region started creating art. Dr. Dixit described how beautiful the Herat province was, and its importance in serving as a learning centre. Highlighting the issue of more children becoming combatants, Dr. Dixit explained how terror organizations greatly influence teenagers due to large-scale disruption, unemployment, and a failure of governance mechanisms in their countries.

In response to Mr. Bhakto’s question about governments using repressive patterns to suppress dissent worldwide, Dr. Dixit gave examples of Kashmir and Palestine having a long-standing dispute, with two countries being at the helm of power, resulting in war.

Furthermore, Dr. Dixit touched upon the exclusion of Rohingya Muslims from the 2014 census in Myanmar due to pressure from Buddhist religious organizations. Talking about indoctrination, she said that religion had played both positive and negative roles. For instance, the church was instrumental in bringing about relief efforts in Mozambique, while Pakistan and Myanmar have often faced exploitation in religion’s name.

As she spoke about the augmentation of the patriarchal system, Dr. Dixit said that orthodox gender roles had always been in place. However, in an unusual show of courage, women in Eretria felt empowered to join the armed forces and fight for freedom. When asked about the current situation in Afghanistan, Dr. Dixit said that she was in touch with the women she interviewed. She said that the citizens still have faith in the fact that Afghanistan is so much more than war, despite the struggles.

Mr. Anando Bhakto concluded the session by hoping that countries like Afghanistan bounce back to a better and brighter future soon. Through the discussion, the students got a deep insight into international issues, delving into the nuances of war and its consequences.

by Pooja Bhatia

(Batch 2024)

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