Land, Resource and Politics: Looking at Contemporary Northeast India
September 2022 to March 2023
Integration into global economic structure and the emergence of capitalist relation within various communities all over the world has brought in important changes in their social and material relations. India’s Northeast is an apt example where one can witness these changes. The annexation of the region by the British was solely guided by economic reasons, to appropriate oil, coal and other natural resources including timber. The colonial state being exploitative as it was, has things changed in the post-colonial period? What is happening to the political processes, and the way Indian state has approached the region over the past decades, where security and resource remains the overarching concerns. The aim of this proposed study is to locate the challenges faced by the region in dealing with a kind of extractive politics around land and resources. Where many of the peripheral communities have long been exposed to market, what is interesting to notice is, first, the changes in cultivation and ownership patterns and the shift from food to cash crops, privatization and commodification of land. Second, people being increasingly exposed to the vulnerabilities of global market, losing their security and ownership over land and also resources. Using ethnographic insights, the study would look at the processes that have radically transformed the lives of rural masses of the region with huge implication on rural economy, which has shifted from sustenance to that of profit and competition, and the rise of an elite class and marginalization of vast majority. It is an attempt to look into the processes and relations that have undergone change with the market-oriented land use policies and also the changes in customary practices of the society, the interplay of state, market and the society at large.
Arunima Deka is Assistant Professor at OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati. Her research interests include gender, identity politics, state and development issues in Northeast India. She has been associated with a number of studies relating to peace and conflict, gender and identity politics in Northeast India. She has recently completed a project on ethnic identity and regional politics in Northeast India funded by ICSSR, New Delhi.