Politics and conflict in development: land, law and progress in Jharkhand, India

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The Adivasis are the indigenous communities of India. After a long struggle for autonomy, spanning centuries, their dream of an indigenous state was finally realised with the formation of Jharkhand in 2000. The birth of Jharkhand brought with it hope that moving forward the Adivasis would have more control over their destiny. However, within three months of Jharkhand being formed the newly formed government of Jharkhand announced the creation of Koel-Karo dam, dampening their vision of self-determination as the state continued to exert its dominance on the Adivasis. The agenda for the creation of Jharkhand slowly revealed itself to be a resource-dependent state that had little regard for Adivasi communities. Today, this conflict continues as the Adivasis enforce their legal right through the Pathalgadi movement and call the state unlawful and corrupt if it enters their land. Central to these conflicts is the question of development. Seen in its raw form it is the conflict between the ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ pursuits of development by the state and the Adivasi respectively. This contradiction is witnessed in their quest for industrialisation and agriculture respectively. Development ultimately is a product of contestation over the idea(s) of development by different actors making it deeply intertwined within the power and politics that creates enclaves of inequalities and exclusions through the control and distribution of resources. Development becomes a question of contention as the state of Jharkhand is focused on a ‘fast-track’ model of growth built on ‘efficiency’ and ‘high return’ while delegitimising ‘traditional’ practices for the ‘superiority’ of liberal capitalism. It is in this context that this thesis undertook a deeper study on the conflict in the state of Jharkhand to identify the development orthodoxies of the key actors in Jharkhand. It was identified that the actors studied in this thesis – the state, the corporate entities, and the Adivasis – reflected a distinct ideology that is inclusive of their particular style as presented in the literature – the state aligns with the principles of state-led modernisation, the corporate entities lean on the ideology of neoliberalism, and the Adivasis stand for the theory of alternative development. This finding brings to light the deeply entrenched biases of the actors with the conclusion that the conflict in Jharkhand will persist until these differences are recognised and welcomed through participation and collaboration.
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