Politics of Land Acquisition and Managing Dominant Caste Interests

“The Politics of Land Acquisition in Haryana: Managing Dominant Caste Interests in the Name of Development” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1651885) by Loraine Kennedy of CNRS, Centre for South Asian Studies, CEIAS-EHESS, Paris, France, is the third article for a forthcoming special issue on the new land wars in India, due out next year.

The abstract states:

Anti-Special Economic Zone (SEZ) mobilisation in Haryana failed to generate a mass movement. This is despite the political strength of farmers and their deep resentment of the government’s policy to build up land reserves for industrial purposes. This article argues that there are two main reasons for this outcome. First, the state government put in place a series of significant policies to compensate landowners and give them a stake in the industrial project, primarily through payment of an “annuity.” Second, the main anti-SEZ movements were led by dominant landowning castes who did not incorporate the concerns of landless labourers and tenant farmers who faced equally or even more dire consequences from the government’s land acquisition policy. Moreover, mobilisation relied on traditional caste institutions such as khap panchayats and farmer unions strongly associated with Jats, rather than adopting a more broad-based approach. Entrenched caste animosity and pre-existing conflicts of interest between landed Jats and Dalits, who have traditionally worked as agricultural labourers, further explain the limited scope of the mobilisation among rural groups. The analysis underscores how hierarchical relations shape social movements, define the claims they make and ultimately impact their effectiveness.

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