Caste Expression and Land Rights in India

Patrik Oskarsson

Adivasiness as Caste Expression and Land Rights Claim-Making in Central-Eastern India” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1656277) is the fourth article for a forthcoming special issue on the new land wars in India, due out next year.

The article is by Patrik Oskarsson of the Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and Siddharth Sareen of the Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway.

The abstract states:

Siddharth Sareen

The adivasi population represents a special case in India’s new land wars. Strong individual and community rights to agricultural and forest lands have been enacted for this group based on notions of adivasi identities as primeval, but without linking these to economic and political influence. This article interrogates the adivasi land question seen through a caste lens. It does so via case studies in two states to understand the ways in which adivasi identity can be mobilised for its instrumental value and used to demand land rights. In Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court’s Samatha Judgement has prevented virtually all private mining activities. In Jharkhand, however, similar legislation is seen to be trumped by the national Coal Bearing Areas Act, as well as by former and current land acquisition acts that allow industrial land claims to take precedence over identity-based ones. Available evidence indicates the challenges involved in bringing support for land rights that are premised on a supposedly unchanging adivasi identity when these rights go against dominant interests. This circumstance serves to highlight the possibilities present in caste analysis to understand the plight of adivasis, despite their usually distinct treatment in scholarly analyses.

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