Between Revenge and Reconciliation: The Significance of Truth Commissions



The author, in this chapter, highlights the episode when Gandhi decided to live with a Muslim league leader post the communal riots of Calcutta in 1946, in order to bring about lasting peace. However, such an intervention may not always be possible in a society devoid of a Mahatma, nonetheless peace can be brought about by establishing a truth commission. According to the author, basic procedural justice makes possible a minimally decent life, which has a value independent of any wider conception of the good. In order to transform a barbaric society into a decent society, it is important to transit through certain stages. First, a highly frail and temporary truce prevails that may easily collapse generating a fresh burst of violence. With the help from appropriate institutions, such as the truth commissions, we move to stage two, to a minimally decent society. A sufficiently prolonged period of minimal decency may eventually create facilitating conditions for stage three, for forgiveness and reconciliation, and therefore, to a fully decent society. In order to break the cycle of revenge, former victims must be inducted into a system of basic procedural justice equipped with a mechanism of arbitration, Truth commission can help in the recovery of the submerged voice of the victim. It is important also for the brutalities to be spoken about rather than expect victims to forgive and forget since only an appropriate engagement with the past makes for a livable common future.


Reconciliation Peace Justice Procedural justice Barbarism 


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Parekh Institute of Indian ThoughtDelhiIndia

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