Politics of Land and Caste in West Bengal

Narratives of the Dispossessed and Casteless: Politics of Land and Caste in Rajarhat, West Bengal” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2019.1679861), authored by Ritanjan Das of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Portsmouth in the UK is the fifth article for a forthcoming special issue on the new land wars in India, due out next year.

The abstract for the article states:

This article examines the political narratives around a two-decade -old process of land acquisition and development in the “global city” Rajarhat, a former rural settlement in the Indian state of West Bengal. These narratives are built against the backdrop of a neoliberal state acting as a corporate facilitator, particularly in matters of land, and the concomitant dispossession. The multifaceted politics of Rajarhat took shape during the erstwhile communist regime in West Bengal, the dichotomy of a self-identified Left state engaged in forceful and violent land acquisition thus forming an interesting paradox. The article also presents evidence against the long -held political myth of caste relations being irrelevant in Bengali politics, by examining the upper-caste -dominated social relations in Rajarhat and the formation of low-level cartels or “syndicates” in the area . In conclusion, the article points to the reinvention and redeployment of caste relations – even in increasingly urban spaces where “hierarchical” caste practices are usually taken to be on the decline – rooted in the duality between land struggles and development.

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