JERF ►Jain Studies and Research at Florida International University

Published: 14.04.2013
Updated: 15.10.2013

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Jain Education and Research Foundation


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Bhagwan Mahavir Senior Summer Fellowship: FIU Law Professor Speaks on "Gemstone Justice"

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Every summer a group of selected faculty and students visit India as Bhagwan Mahavir Summer Fellows to study aspects of Jainism during a six-week stay in India. The fellowship is supported  by the Bhagwan Mahavir Professorship and the endowment fund for Jain studies established at FIU.

Prof Manuel Gomez is a faculty at the School of Law at FIU. A graduate of Stanford University, Prof Gomez is an expert and an authority on both domestic and international arbitration. He is the founder member of International Arbitration Society.

Prof Gomez visited India as the Senior Bhagwan Mahavir Summer fellow in the summer of 2012 to study the ex-judicial conflict resolution mechanism among the Gujrati Jain diamond trading communities worldwide. He presented a talk, titled "Gemstone Justice: Contract enforcement and dispute resolution among Gujarati diamond merchants" at the local Jain center on February 17. For the study he visited the jewelers from Jain community in India, Europe and in United States. The main objective of his research was to find out how the   lain values influence the contract enforcements and conflict resolution among the Jain diamond merchants. His main findings were that the Jain diamond merchants do

  1. Attempt to solve conflicts by building a consensus rather than by going to arbitration.
  2. The treat their business as a family with the lowest employees treated with respect and dignity and
  3. The errant individuals are given a second chance to rehabilitate themselves.

The brief outlines of his of the study in his words:

Approximately half a century ago a few Jain families from Palanpur in the Indian state of Gujarat, became involved in the cutting and polishing of diamond and with tremendous tenacity and dedication rose to the top in the diamond global trade. According to figures released by the industry, Indian merchants - mainly Jains - process 11 out of every 12 diamonds that are bought and sold worldwide every year. Moreover, these merchants have a foot in every phase in the diamond production chain and a presence in every important market including Mumbai, Antwerp, New York, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town, and even here in South Florida as many of you know well. Given this state of affairs my main quest has been to find out whether these Gujarati families in the diamond trade, most of whom are also Jains, had a different approach to contract making and dispute resolution than the Jewish merchants who dominated the industry for centuries, and who relied on a system of private arbitration to sort out their differences. More specifically, I was curious to see to what extent the conduct of business people in the diamond trade is influenced by Jain rules, accepted practices, superior knowledge, the traditional prescriptions, and most notably the principle of non-violence generally followed by members of this community. In order to do this, I had to immerse myself in the everyday lives of diamond merchants, which I did for almost a month in Mumbai, Surat and later on Antwerp and Brussels, where I met very interesting people involved in every stage of the diamond trade. During my time in India and Belgium, I was able to visit from the very small traditional units where rudimentary tools are used and polishers sit on the floor and rely on their pure talent to achieve perfection, to the ultra-modern diamond factories furnished with million dollar laser cutters, and computers in every stage of the diamond cutting and polishing process staffed by employees dressed in lab coats and protective glasses, giving the impression that one is at a futuristic laboratory. On the other hand, I was also able to see first-hand the thousands of diamond transactions that take place out in the open either in Mumbai's Opera House, or in Surat's street market, where precious stones are quickly examined and traded in broad day light; and also, the sophisticated million dollar deals closed in the comfortable and very modern offices of the recently opened Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai.

What I observed during my research was remarkable but not surprising. The community had an impressive capacity for consensus building and, unlike other ethnic groups of merchants operating in the same sector, was committed to addressing their business disputes in a non-adversarial manner. These and other efficiencies have certainly played a role in the fast ascent of the Guajarati diamond merchants to the apex of the global diamond trade. I look forward to learning more about this captivating sector, and will be publishing the results of my research very soon. Earlier Dr Neptune Srimal, President JERF welcomed the gathering and introduced Prof Gomez. Mr Bindesh Shah, Vice President, JERF delivered the vote of thanks.

The talk was attended by a large turn-out of local jain community and was attended by Prof Steven Vose, the new Bhagwan Mahavir Professor at FIU and by Mr David Skipp, Associate Director, Advancement, at FIU. A communal lunch hosted by Mr Narendra Mehta and Mrs Jeevan Prabha Mehta and by Mr Sapan Bafna and Mrs Gitika Bafna followed the lecture.   

Sources

JERF Newsletter 2012-04

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  1. Antwerp
  2. Bhagwan Mahavir
  3. Dubai
  4. FIU
  5. Gujarat
  6. JERF
  7. Jain Education
  8. Jain Education and Research Foundation
  9. Jainism
  10. Mahavir
  11. Mumbai
  12. Non-violence
  13. Sapan Bafna
  14. Srimal
  15. Steven Vose
  16. Surat
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