Sushobha Barve

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2004


This profile was prepared when Sushobha Barve was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Sushobha Barve demonstrates that communal conflict in India can be addressed through dialogue. Working in the most violence-ridden regions of her country, she engineers conversations that involve all parties in an exploration of the social and economic factors that led to their conflict, and leads them toward practical solutions. Paying no heed to those who doubt the power of discussion, she has helped feuding groups make and implement strong plans to end violence, recover from it, and avert it in the future.
Well-meaning groups have struggled for years to create successful community-level methods of dialogue and reconciliation for people in conflict. The distinctive success of Sushobha’s method turns on a simple insight into the nature of social conflict: communal violence doesn’t arise from religious or ethnic difference alone. Most such violence has its roots in the desperation of communities whose basic needs are not met over the course of decades or even centuries. Their grievances stew and intensify, eventually becoming “communalized” when blame for years of deprivation falls on an outside group. Sushobha helps to address these grievances before they recombine into ethnic or religious conflict.
Sushobha has devised highly successful citizen peace committees in places that have seen ferocious and enduring violence. These committees tackle both the material and psychological aspects of conflict. They emphasize to all parties that peaceful cooperative living depends not only upon common understanding and emotional relief, but also on jobs, stable supplies of clean water, and space for public recreation. Once in place, committees also set up early warning systems to detect the first signs of conflict and prevent it from spreading.
Sushobha plans to apply the systems and techniques she developed through years of work in hot spots like Kashmir, Malegaon and the slums of Mumbai to communal conflict in the whole of South Asia. She is now spreading her methods through programs for teachers, community leaders, police, and citizens throughout the region.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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