“There is a place under the sun for every citizen of this world.” If only this statement were true, then the world would have been a better place – free from strife and war. However, the world, as it has always existed, remains not how philosophers and thinkers have idealized it to be. It is an arena of unequal opportunities, where for centuries the elites have feared and protected themselves against the revolts of the poor. No wonder that the world history is punctuated with blood-splattered slave, serf and social uprisings. While as those who could – the elites – have thrived and progressed from “first-wave” agrarian to “second-wave” industrial and subsequently to the “third-wave” knowledge societies, generating wealth and monopolizing power, there is, at the same time, a mammoth population of social, political and economic underdogs who still live as in centuries past. It is this ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, powerful and the helpless, developed and the under-developed, haves and have-nots that possibly explains the seemingly inexplicable resurgence of religion, ethnicity, language, nationality and a multitude of other such factors that provide the global cleavages and fault-lines which give birth to conflict.
Decades back, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler had predicted – “these multiplying, and fast-widening cleavages represent large-scale threats to peace in the decades ahead.” Today, we are already into an era when world remains torn by the bloody uprisings based on religious, ethnic, political, and economic differences. However, if we look beneath these uprisings, we will see each of these movements have their own economic, political and social causes and agendas tearing the existing nations apart through what has come to be known as civil wars. While as international wars have always attracted enormous global attention, however, in the post-Cold War era, the incidence of civil wars increased manifold and it is these internationalized internal (intra-state) wars, which even today remain a major focus of international attention and concern.
Since these civil wars or war-like situations within the territorial boundaries of states are caused and propelled by a plethora of political, economic, social, and other factors, it will therefore be a mistake to look at these wars through a vantage point of any single factor alone. In fact every civil war is an amalgamation of many or all of the varied factors and causes. Similarly, each conflict is different and has its own “distinctive, idiosyncratic triggers,” which makes any generalized study prone to faulty understanding and interpretation of the phenomena characterizing these wars. But there are, at the same time, certain other factors that run common in most of the civil conflicts dotting the political landscape of the world. It is these common elements that systematically increase or decrease the incidence as well as the severity of most civil wars.
The loud political rhetoric originating from various parties and sources regarding the various conflicts, particularly those centered around what has come to be known as “Islamic extremism” notwithstanding, it goes without saying that so far not much has been done to understand the apparent as well as latent dynamics of these confrontations in the proper perspective. Instead everything is so overly politicized around some western stereotypes about the Muslim populations that the scope and reach of saner and informed voices has been considerably reduced. This is why that a few leaders who have tried to lend voice to the structural violence faced by the “earth’s wretched” are now being targeted and framed as being “apologists” or “sympathizers of terrorism”. The reason primarily is that both the ‘political haves’ as well as the powerful media in India owing to its pro-right bias, has become habitual of shutting its eyes to the unfortunate realities. For the media, whose earnings come from the advertisers selling scented soaps, deodorants and toothpastes which promise that no foul smell will come out from people’s mouths and arm-pits, wishing away the unpleasant makes some sense. But politicians certainly cannot enjoy this privilege because the main source of their power is the people, the ordinary people, the have-nots.