The Archive on the Legacy of Conflict in South Asia is a collaborative initiative between CHRDR, the Columbia Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), and the Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights Project (ACRes) of the Center for Social Sector Leadership (formerly Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership)—Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. The Archive will serve as a repository for documentation of gross violations of human rights and conflict in South Asia, with a focus on India in the latter half of the 20th century and 21st century. This pilot documentation project seeks to improve access to unique and primary source materials, especially those that are currently inaccessible or at risk of disappearing.
In this unique partnership, ACRes, together with ISHR and CHRDR, will identify materials that highlight experiences, voices, and perspectives that are not widely available and are not presently collected and preserved by libraries and archives. Examples of the kinds of materials to be collected include personal papers and correspondence, oral histories, testimonies, unique legal documents, political and social ephemera, photographs, and film and sound recordings.
“This innovative program will preserve critical material that will highlight the role of history and memory of violence in contemporary politics, and the centrality of historical dialogue to conflict resolution and redress of gross human rights violations. Anchoring the collection in the exceptional CHRDR will ensure the longevity and accessibility of the material and will turn the collection into an important center for the study of the role of history in conflict,” said Dr. Elazar Barkan, Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Professor of International and Public Affairs, and director of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
“States and other collective perpetrators of violence are swift and conscientious in covering the tracks of their moral and political wrongs, and the human memory of the ordinary people who have suffered such violence is insufficient to keep the record alive. These detailed and equally conscientious documents acquired by the Columbia University Libraries, which cover the recent violence in two regions of South Asia are, therefore, a small but vital beginning in making available what would otherwise be lost to the public and, indeed, to History,” said Dr. Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Chair, Department of Philosophy, and Director, South Asia Institute at Columbia University.
“‘Where is the place for my story?’ This question, asked by victims-survivors, reverberates across landscapes of conflict and mass violence in South Asia. The experience of violence and loss that leaves individuals and communities bereft continues through their routine omission in official record-keeping. The Archive, housed at the preeminent CHRDR, will serve as a critical gathering place of counter-memory. Through preserving materials that are rare and endangered, the collection will focus on events, communities, places, and institutions significant to the history and memory of present-day conflicts in South Asia, and hope to inform the work of justice and accountability,” said Dr. Angana Chatterji, Co-chair, Project on Armed Conflict Resolution and People’s Rights, Center Social Sector Leadership-Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
The three project partners will work together to develop policies for making the materials available to researchers, and ACRes and ISHR will collaborate to develop exhibits exploring the histories, events, memory, and counter-memory of the conflicts through the archival materials. The Archive will inform research, scholarship, teaching, and advocacy on the themes of human rights and cultural change, memory and memorialization, and historical dialogue and conflict resolution.