eJournal | “Environmental groups and movements have been at the forefront of efforts to democratize state institutions”

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[…] In India, as elsewhere, colonialism is “first, foremost and always” about land. As in North America and Africa, the policing of reserve forests has often resulted in what amounts to ethnic cleansing, with Indigenous peoples being evicted from their homelands for the benefit of the tourism industry and its urban, middle-class clients. Displaced Adivasis are often forced to relocate to settlements that bear a strong resemblance to reservations.

Legal protections for Adivasis were never very strong in India; since colonial times, officially designated forest lands—which cover no less than a fifth of the country’s surface area—have formed an internal “state of exception” where the normal functioning of the laws of the land are suspended. This realm is controlled by the Forest Department (an immense bureaucracy with vast powers) and an army of forest guards that functions like a paramilitary force. This department bears a more than passing resemblance to the settler-colonial bureaucracies that dealt with Indigenous affairs in North America and Australia: like them, it has proved to be an effective instrument in helping corporate interests penetrate deeper and deeper into regions that were once protected by their remoteness. As in North America and Africa, the policing of reserve forests has often resulted in what amounts to ethnic cleansing, with Indigenous peoples being evicted from their homelands for the benefit of the tourism industry and its urban, middle-class clients. Displaced Adivasis are often forced to relocate to settlements that bear a strong resemblance to reservations.

The parallels abound: as with the “Indian boarding schools” of North America, privately owned institutions are now reeducating Adivasi children; in consonance with settler-colonial practice, the material basis of Adivasi life is being steadily undermined by restricting access to traditional foraging grounds and the banning of certain kinds of hunting and gathering. As in the Americas and Australia, mines and extractive industries are being sited on mountains and other locations that are sacred for Adivasis. Completing the parallels are the long-simmering, decades-long “irregular wars,” fought between government forces and tribal insurgents in central, eastern, and northeastern India.

But within this grim and steadily darkening picture, there are also a few points of light, emanating mainly from grassroots resistance movements—and it is no coincidence that some of them exemplify the possibilities of vitalist forms of politics. One of the most notable of these was the Chipko movement of the mountain region of Uttarakhand. […]

Ultimately, as Mukul Sharma notes, the strength of the Indian environmental movement lies in its heterogeneity: “In their practical political activities, many environmental groups and movements have been at the forefront of efforts to democratize state institutions, as well as in the creation of more democratic and accountable forms of environmental decision-making.”

All of this conforms to what appears to be a consistent pattern in the relationship between vitalist ideas and politics: almost always, beliefs in the Earth’s sacredness and the vitality of trees, rivers, and mountains are signs of an authentic commitment to the defense of nonhumans when they are associated with what Ramachandra Guha calls “livelihood environmentalism”—that is to say, movements that are initiated and led by people who are intimately connected with the specificities of particular landscapes. By the same token, such ideas must always be distrusted and discounted when they are espoused by elitist conservationists, avaricious gurus and godmen, right-wing cults, and most of all political parties: in each of these manifestations they are likely to be signs of exactly the kind of “mysticism” that lends itself to co-optation by exclusivist right-wingers and fascists.

Source: “Congress, Left, BJP – India striving to remake itself as settler colonialist: Amitav Ghosh”
URL: https://theprint.in/pageturner/excerpt/congress-left-bjp-india-striving-to-remake-itself-as-settler-colonialist-amitav-ghosh/750429/
Date Visited: 26 October 2021

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Find articles by Mukul Sharma (Ashoka University, Dept. of Environmental Studies) on Academia.edu >>

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See also

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress since Independence. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Source: States and Union Territories – About India
URL: https://knowindia.india.gov.in/states-uts/
Date visited: 4 September 2021

Learn more about India’s 28 States and 8 Union Territories – From Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal | Nutrition >>

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

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