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Connecting the dots between the environment, conservation and adivasi politics

Shashank Kela, author of an acclaimed study of adivasi history and politics, writes: This essay aims to make connections between things that are usually studied separately– environmental history, political economy, conservation practice and adivasi politics. The belief that this potential convergence could do with wider discussion is my sole justification for putting it up here.

Staking the Terrain – Political Economy, Environmental History and Nature Conservation

Shashank Kela, Kafila.org 

The aim of this essay is to make connections between things that are usually studied separately – environmental history, political economy, conservation practice and adivasi politics – and I apologize in advance for the demands it makes upon the reader’s attention. The belief that this potential convergence could do with wider discussion is my sole justification for putting it up here.

Environmental history in India is not a very old discipline – the first mongraphs began appearing in the 1980s, and more and more books and papers have been added to the historiography since 2000. Let us examine certain themes as outlined in a cross-section of recent scholarship.

One key debate centers upon whether the colonial period can be regarded as an ecological watershed. An influential book by Ramchandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil argued that, before the advent of colonialism, there existed a harmonizing tendency between human beings and the environment, a balance between resource use and preservation mediated largely through the caste system: colonialism shattered this equilibrium and the values associated with it.[1] This idealizing view, eliding different time periods and state structures, was bound to come under attack and much subsequent scholarship has been devoted to unpicking its conclusions.

Sumit Guha shows how at least one natural resource, namely wild grass for fodder, had become scarce in the Deccan by the Maratha period thanks to the demands of armies, nobles and zamindars, who engrossed it by enclosing tracts of common land. This fierce arbitrariness fostered a system of free grazing and discouraged sustainable management through collective protection of the commons.[2]Meanwhile the argument that sacred groves are strands of untouched forest – repositories of biodiversity – is refuted by Claude Garcia and J-P Pascal in their study of Kodagu.[3] Far from being untouched, groves there are heavily used and managed, and show clear signs of degradation associated with use.

Kathleen Morrison goes further than this to argue that, since ecological change has occurred throughout the sweep of south Asian history, it makes little sense to regard the colonial period as being exceptional in this regard.[4] Her argument is based on biological scholarship which holds that no landscape in any part of the world has remained unmodified by humans since their appearance upon the evolutionary stage; thus any notion of climax vegetation (before human intervention) is inherently unsustainable. If all landscapes are essentially anthropogenic, then ecological transformations must be seen as a constant process instead of serving as “simple baselines for later change”.[5] However I believe that Morrison misses an essential point, namely the nature of ecological change before the advent of colonialism.

Although it is true that human beings have modified nature pretty much since their arrival upon the evolutionary stage, there remained limits on the kind of change that could be brought about. It is possible to transform a forest landscape into savanna through cyclical burning, but the transformation is essentially a replacement of one kind of vegetation and the faunal assemblages associated with it by another. This also holds true, albeit to a much smaller extent, of some cultivated landscapes. Pre-modern agriculture was not necessarily an unbroken pattern of fields: they could be interrupted by strands of forest, canebrakes and wild grasses, shifting riverbeds, seasonal lakes – like the frontier between the regions of Delhi and Lahore described by Jos Gommans.[6] These interstitial spaces provided shelter for wild animals and enabled alternate forms of resource use. Agriculture incorporated fallows; its run-offs were uncontaminated by chemical residues. The frontier of cultivation expanded and contracted – scrub forest could take over abandoned fields. In other words, the agricultural landscape could be a mosaic, one which wild animals like elephants, wolves, lions, deer passed over in their peregrinations.

The abolition of these interstitial landscapes began in the colonial period as agriculture expanded, previously mobile groups were sedentarized, and commons (“wastelands”) shrank through encouragement of individual tenures and population growth. For the major factor that distinguishes this period from earlier ones is demography: resource use at a population density of 70 human beings to a square kilometer (the figure in 1881) is bound to be much greater than at 35 (the estimate for the mid 17th century).[7]

India’s population density has historically been uneven and large parts of the subcontinent were rathersparsely populated in precolonial times. However the secular growth in numbers that began in the 19th century has continued for over a hundred years, through a series of major economic transformations, and represents a qualitatively different magnitude of impact. In addition, as in many tropical countries, the impacts of browsing, though significant, are less important than the wholesale conversion of forest into farmland. It was colonialism that set in motion processes that were to lead, for the first time, to conditions of land scarcity and oversupply of labour.[8] Precolonial landscapes had been dominated by nature with islands of cultivation; by the mid 20th century, cultivation was predominant with nature confined to islands. Thus there seems little reason why colonialism should not be regarded as an ecological watershed albeit not of the kind envisaged by Gadgil and Guha.

After independence, existing patterns were pushed faster and further. The dams and barrages that reconfigured the hydrology of India’s rivers are a post-colonial phenomenon (even if some of them were conceived in the colonial period). So is the introduction of water intensive cash crops in dryland regions ecologically unsuited to them. The commercial exploitation of forests saw no slackening from the late ’40s to the late ’80s although a substantial network of protected areas was created. The desertification of marine landscapes through trawler fishing was actively encouraged from the ’60s. If the reasons are understandable – the drive to build a modern industrial economy – the colossal waste associated with it is not.

Rohan D’Souza shows how the concept of multi-purpose river valley development was adopted by the colonial state in the 1940s.[9] Its model was the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Mahanadi was chosen as a suitable site for replication. The state sought to defuse nationalism by reinventing itself as a harbinger of modernity through public works and industrial development: this strategy found its echo, from a very different starting point, in the ideology of the Nehruvian state, to which the project passed seamlessly, in the manner of relay runners exchanging a baton.

Vinita Damodaran emphasizes the scale of environmental destruction and deforestation in Chhattisgarh, its profound effects on adivasi livelihoods, and collective responses in terms of affirming an organic relationship to the forest.[10] Adivasi politics quickly became enmeshed in contradictions as state structures alienated them from forests to which they stressed claim: an organized attack on teak plantations in Singhbum in the late ’70s shaded into tree cutting in reserve forests as a means of reclaiming ancestral lands.

Bengt Karlsson contributes to the sparse literature upon management by examining the debate over forests in Meghalaya after judicial pronouncements in 1996 and 1998 had banned timber felling in the northeast. He shows the fallacies on both sides of the argument – the position that Meghalaya’s forests were in good shape because under community control; and its converse, that they could only be saved by bringing them under state management and banning swidden, a conclusion that the history of the forest department in Meghalaya – and elsewhere – certainly does not warrant.[11]

Reading through the historiography certain gaps become visible. One (pointed out by Rangarajan and Sivaramakrishnan) is the general neglect of ecological change before the advent of colonialism. For example, Divyabhanusinh’s analysis of Mughal sources indicates that much of western and northern India, the usual site of imperial hunts (for lions and cheetahs), was a savanna landscape by the 17thcentury.[12] Tigers (and elephants) favour thick forests, and these were more plentiful in the south and east of the subcontinent.

Another is the paucity of straight ecological history (or studies of landscape change). Even in adivasi history, environmental change is treated as a subset of social and political history: the transformation of the physical landscape and its ecological consequences are rarely dealt with in any detail. This is true, for example, of Ajay Skaria’s monograph on the Dangs as well as my own work.

Very few studies straddle the dividing line of independence. Pradip Krishen’s observation about teak being essentially ‘a southern, peninsular tree whose natural range scarcely straggles up north of the Narmada’[13] has interesting implications for the floristic composition of some parts of the central Indian forest belt – forestry operations may have helped teak embed itself where it had not previously flourished.

Finally, only a nuanced understanding of ecological change at different times in the past, under different technological frameworks, can help us arrive at a fair judgment on the effects of subsistence use upon natural landscapes today. The argument that human beings have always modified nature does not distinguish between different intensities of resource use by different societies; nor does it help us determine under what circumstances patterns of subsistence use become ecologically unviable. It is theoretically possible for the technology and practices of a small group to remain unchanged and yet become environmentally wasteful (or much more wasteful) thanks to increasing intensity of resource use by adjoining societies. This probably happened in the Western Ghats once tea and coffee were introduced in the 19th century, leaving a shrinking remnant of forests unable to support subsistence use as they once did. This does not, of course, alter the essential problem or make solutions easier to find, but it does allow us to apportion the blame more equitably.




From history we turn to political economy, and the framework whereby adivasi regions are administered, to see whether and in what way this can be connected to contemporary environmental concerns.

The Government of India Act of 1935 sought to defuse demands for independence by putting in place a structure for power sharing; it also created a special administrative mechanism for tribal regions. Designated as excluded or partially excluded areas, these were removed from the authority of legislatures and administered directly by the governor of each province. The policy was ostensibly protective and paternalist in orientation; Stuart Corbridge describes it as one of ‘mean isolation’, designed to protect the tribal from the non-tribal, whom officials saw as ‘ever ready to sell liquor to the tribal and entrap the latter in inequitable trading and usury relationships.’[14]

Whatever the merits of colonial policy towards tribal communities, Corbridge’s observation is historically untenable, for it was under colonialism that the relative isolation of adivasi regions was systematically broken down. In other words, it was colonialism that brought tribal societies into much greater contact with the wider world, on terms exceptionally violent and unfavourable to them: protective policies enacted in the early 20th century owed a great deal to the sequence of tribal revolts in the preceding period.[15]

After 1947 most of these administrative units were brought under the ambit of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution. The sixth schedule, in particular, is usually described in flattering terms and it is worth looking at its provisions in some detail. At its core are autonomous district councils or ADCs, granted a range of legislative, administrative, economic and judicial powers. They are vested with the authority to regulate land use and economic development; codify traditional custom; try cases; run primary schools (and determine the language of instruction); regulate dispensaries, markets, fisheries; and assess and collect local taxes. In actual practice the authority of the ADCs is undercut by certain clauses. Financially they are completely dependent upon the state government through which all funds are routed; it is the state’s budgetary allocation (decided without reference to the ADCs) which determines how much they have to spend. Their legislative capacity is neutralized by the fact that the governor’s assent is required for ADC bills to become law, and this assent can only be given if the cabinet approves: ‘In other words, the same state government from which the ADC is intended to be autonomous has ultimate veto power over ADC legislation.’[16]

A number of ADCs were set up in undivided Assam. Demands for full statehood emerged almost immediately and as a result some councils were insulated from Assamese interference. In 1963, Nagaland was incorporated as a state under special constitutional clauses. The status quo in other regions was allowed to drag on until the 1970s: Manipur and Tripura became states in 1971; the North-East Frontier Agency was converted into the union territory of Arunachal Pradesh in 1972 when Meghalaya and Mizoram were also hived off from Assam.

The special history of the north-east as a colonial frontier and the enduring fear of secessionism spreading from the Naga region meant that the framework of autonomy remained somewhat elastic. Constitutional guarantees in Nagaland ensured that the authority and jurisdiction of the forest department were curtailed in significant ways, and this pattern was applied across most of the other states. In Arunachal Pradesh, roughly 62 percent of forests in 1990-91 were under community ownership and designated as unclassified state forests; only 37 percent were reserve forests, managed by the forest department.[17] This gave local communities much greater control over a key resource than would otherwise have been the case. In addition, there is the inner line system whereby even Indian citizens need official permission in order to enter some states. In practice, of course, autonomy is undercut by the extensive power granted to the military by laws such as AFSPA, and the impunity with which police and security agencies operate.

In what is now Meghalaya, ADCs were granted extensive powers over primary education from 1962. However ‘[t]he curriculum was transplanted without modification from the West Bengal Department of Education and …. most textbooks [we]re written in Hindi.’[18] Teachers were appointed on the basis of political and clan affiliation, and little money was spent upon infrastructure. This was not entirely the ADC’s fault, for funds available for education did not increase until the 1980s even though the number of schools rose steadily. In 1984, citing mismanagement, the state took control of primary education back from the ADC.

The record of the Khasi ADC on environmental issues is not much better. Since forest and mineral royalties provided 40 percent of the council’s budget, the temptation to allow a free for all was obvious. Illegal logging on a massive scale became routine and a great deal of forestland was destroyed by limestone quarrying and coal mining.[19] In Arunachal Pradesh, considerable environmental destruction occurred in the 1970s, under plans drawn up by central authorities, but not much changed after it became a state. The eighth plan outlay (1992-97) budgeted less than 300 crores for conservation and protection, but almost 674 crores for extractive forestry (plantations, logging and the like).[20] It took a Supreme Court judgment to halt commercial logging in the northeast; more recently the state government has signed dozens of MOUs with private players for hydroelectric projects, unmindful of their environmental impacts on the fragile ecology of the Himalayas.

Peninsular India: the Fifth Schedule

While the sixth schedule had a real albeit flawed basis, the fifth schedule was toothless from the very beginning. So total has been its failure that the political history of adivasi regions since independence can be written as though it did not exist at all.

One of the chief reasons for this lies in the fact that the “institution” responsible for protecting the interests of adivasi inhabitants of areas governed under the fifth schedule is the state’s governor – the occupant of a (largely) ceremonial office. Quite apart from the obvious contradiction in expecting him/her to observe the state government’s advice in all matters save this one, is the plain fact that the office is filled by political appointees. The overarching dominance of the Congress until the late ’80s ensured that they would be unwilling to take an independent line. Even when this situation changed, and a multiplicity of parties emerged, the way the political class as a whole saw adivasi regions did not. Therefore no governor has ever exercised even a fraction of his theoretical authority over schedule five regions.

Meanwhile laws passed by state legislatures are held to apply to them unless the governor rules otherwise: this has the effect of removing all incentive on his part to do so (under colonialism, each bill needed the governor’s assent before being applied). Quite apart from this, schedule five areas are subject to the overlapping jurisdiction of the forest department and state legislatures. Even federal legislation is rarely harmonized – provisions of the Forest Rights Act clash in practice with those of the Forest Protection Act. The result is to render “progressive” laws all but inoperative.

The absence of an institutional mechanism of administration or enforcement presents another problem. ADCs have their own infrastructure, employees and budget (albeit wholly insufficient to the scale of the challenges they are supposed to address); fifth schedule areas lack any administrative framework separate from the ordinary apparatus of government. This effectively renders any powers that might be devolved inoperative.

The vague and theoretically unlimited authority granted to the governor under the fifth schedule has drawn praise from advocates of adivasi rights like B D Sharma: the problem, according to this viewpoint, is that it has never been exercised. I would argue on the contrary that it is precisely this vagueness and lack of institutional context that renders it impossible to act upon. Lacking a precise definition of powers, agencies, institutions, the framework of autonomy in mainland India proved rotten from the very beginning.

The sharp and very visible deterioration of conditions in adivasi regions led to sporadic legislative attempts at reform – of these the most important are the Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act of 1996 and the Forest Rights Act of 2006. PESA was hailed as a radical reform by activists and on paper the powers devolved to the gram sabha in schedule five regions look impressive. However no institutional matrix exists for executing them: the gram sabha must rely upon the existing machinery of state to carry out its decisions. This means that any positive resolution – such as restoration of land – is likely to remain inoperative, for the local representatives of the executive branch can simply ignore it. The only powers it is left with are negative in nature – such as refusing assent to land acquisition. In practice the state invariably refuses to accept their exercise; and this authority has, in any case, been whittled away by providing for exceptions. It took a Supreme Court judgment to halt mining in Niyamgiri and it is arguable whether, in its absence, the powers of the gram sabha under PESA would have sufficed (though they formed the legal basis of the judgment).

The experience of the Forest Rights Act forms a somewhat different pattern. A key provision permits adivasi communities to apply for collective rights over forest produce and thus, by extension, allows them to manage forests. I believe that these CFRs are, potentially at least, the most radical part of the FRA in terms of affirming collective rights over a resource that played a central part in the life of adivasi communities. Broadly speaking, they are in consonance with what are usually described as traditional arrangements of ownership and one would have expected this enabling provision to receive much more attention than it actually does.

In actual fact the filing of individual land claims far outweighs applications for CFRs. The process of applying is flawed, bureaucratic and weighed against adivasi communities, but the general neglect of the provision remains striking – as does the dependence upon NGOs as facilitators. Jharkhand, historically the locus of adivasi politics, lags far behind in applications and grants. Maharashtra and Orissa, where NGOs and mass organizations have facilitated the process, do best.[21] Orissa, incidentally, is the only state to report a significant number of local initiatives to protect forests independent of (and opposed to) the forest department long before the FRA and the introduction of joint forest management in the early 1990s.[22]




Now to bring together the strands of this discussion by looking at a model of conservation that seeks the involvement of local communities in conservation outcomes. This approach supports protected areas, but looks beyond them to the wider landscapes of which they are part, to engage with people living in these landscapes and seek their consent, however grudging, to conservation goals on ideological and pragmatic grounds. It holds that an exclusionary approach to conservation will not work in the long run, and is unlikely to meet important conservation goals either.

It seems eminently sensible to suggest that one should look beyond protected areas, if for no other reason than that many species consistently overflow their boundaries. The wider landscape must be taken into account, and here it is futile to talk only of forest corridors or treat them as a technical problem requiring much the same solutions. Human pressures on reserved forests are of a different order and magnitude to those on protected areas and require a more nuanced approach. Nor is it only, or even primarily, a matter of forests. Tigers, leopards, elephants and wolves move across cultivated landscapes; in riverine and marine environments the very notion of a physical boundary becomes absurd. If conservation is to move beyond a few flagship species human use must be reconciled and reoriented towards conservation goals to a greater or smaller extent.

Arguments in favour of participatory conservation are convincing – I’ve dealt with some of the actual experiments elsewhere. Here I’d like to flag a couple of points. One is that though its theoretical justification is wide ranging, participatory conservationists tend to see local involvement in instrumental terms – as being necessary to ensure the success of conservation outcomes. A related issue is the avoidance of all wider questions of political economy, and economic and social policy. Dams are a prime symbol of the ecological wastefulness of India’s economic policy-making: their effects upon riverine ecosystems are profound and irreversible. It’s not a coincidence that riverine ecologists tend to be more plainspoken, but even their criticism remains narrowly conceived and technocratic.

Just as damaging is the refusal to formulate a coherent critique of the forest department. It is true that individual criticism risks reprisals (such as denial of access), but surely a collective effort to point out deep-rooted institutional infirmities and habits should, by now, be possible. As things stand, the very structure of the forest department makes long term conservation goals extremely difficult to achieve. The problems begin with a recruitment process, which at the lower level is rife with corruption; and lack of accountability and specialized knowledge higher up. At the bottom, conditions of work and housing remain poor while a great deal of arbitrary corruption is condoned if not actively encouraged. Budgets are geared towards spending money so as to allow skim-offs (such as in construction contracts): long terms planning and scientific expertise (whether independent or in-house) are conspicuous by their absence. There is no mechanism to impart botanical and zoological training to the forest guard or ranger (or to choose the best men and women for the job), or hold him accountable for abuses of power. These fault-lines – lack of ecological knowledge and accountability as to outcomes – run all the way to the top. The organization of the forest department as a closed caste of bureaucrats (rather than experts in conservation, ecology, anthropology etc.), answerable only to their superiors, along with a long history of treating forests solely as a source of timber, has reached its logical terminus. The department has become, in effect, an authoritarian administrative machine designed to process (and distribute) money in order to (ineffectively) preserve a handful of species, and extend what is nebulously called tree-cover.

Exclusionary conservationists may see merit in this machine and its coercive capacities; but it is hard to see how participatory conservationists can go along with the illusion. This makes the absence of a forceful critique all the more striking. Generally speaking, the conservation movement in India is much stronger than it was in the 1980s, and grows a little more influential with every year that passes. The steady rise in ecological consciousness (for want of a better word) worldwide and the growing urgency of climate change have contributed to this phenomenon. Conservation is being written into international climate change agreements, and a much greater flow of funds pours into India to do research on conservation problems and outcomes. Whether or not the political class recognizes the catastrophic impacts of global warming, it certainly recognizes that conservation is now an integral part of the language of climate change diplomacy. Nor is the domestic constituency in favour of conservation negligible – a vocal fraction of the middle-class has begun expressing interest in the natural world in a variety of ways and this elite bias carries a certain weight in policy-making.

The pressures and influences working against conservation are much stronger, but I would argue that conservationists are no longer at the fringes of the debate: they command a place at the table albeit a subordinate one and have an opportunity to make themselves heard. Yet collective voices speaking about wider factors that impinge upon the environment, not to mention such topics as reform of the forest bureaucracy, remain notably absent.

I would argue that this matters, for a number of reasons. In other countries indigenous communities are at the front-lines of the fight against extractive industry – oil drilling, fracking, mining and so on. In Canada, for example, it is coalitions of indigenous groups that have halted transcontinental pipelines to take oil from the Alberta tar sands to the west coast, using rights and claims over land enshrined in the Canadian constitution. Their actions have been challenged in courts of law and it is on interpretation of law that the outcome will hinge, but for now they have succeeded in blocking or slowing them down. Environmentalists, ecologists and even some climate change scientists are embracing these struggles as the best method of keeping extractive development at bay, preserving wild landscapes, and preventing climate change.

In India what has been called the environmentalism of the poor (by Joan Martinez-Alier among others) goes back to the ’80s. It is embodied in various struggles against extractive development: logging (the Chipko movement), dams (on the Narmada and the Koel Karo, for example), and mines and mining industries in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand. However they have never been embraced by ecologists in the same way even though it seems obviously better to have people using rivers and forests rather than see them destroyed wholesale by dams and mining. One of the few exceptions is Kalpavriksh, an eclectic group of individuals that has long advanced a alternative, more democratic, view of conservation.

For most exclusionary conservationists, people are as much a problem as dams – perhaps even more so. On the other hand, it is also the case that many independent adivasi movements have not actually been opposed to extractive development. This was true of the Jharkhand movement in the 1940s and 50s, before and after it became a political party. Jaipal Singh argued that there was nothing wrong with extractive industry as long as its fruits in terms of employment and profits went to adivasi communities. And later on, when adivasi movements actively began to resist dams, mines and so on, this resistance was rarely expressed – and is still not expressed – in an overarching ethic of land use and management.

The usual argument holds that adivasi use of natural resources is sustainable because based upon traditional knowledge and practice. But these have been fatally undermined by state policies and a long process of social and economic change. In my experience, adivasi farming practices in western Madhya Pradesh are no longer sustainable and have not been for some time: the reason lies in a long and complex historical process that goes back to the early 19th century (an example of how historical knowledge might help conservationists read contemporary realities more accurately). In other words, sustainability must be recovered, not regarded as preexistent, and one of the central failures of adivasi politics is its refusal to confront this fact.

Perhaps that is why adivasi movements in India, unlike other countries, rarely invoke autonomy as a right stemming from customary practices of land use and management and subsistence ways of life. The Jharkhand movement failed to articulate any alternative vision of democracy or natural resource management – a point made by some of its critics. Even the abysmal failure of the fifth schedule to protect adivasi communities has not encouraged movements to articulate a different concept of autonomy. Campaigns like those that led to PESA and the FRA champion local control over natural resources, but an overarching framework that locates autonomy within a distinctive ethic embodying sustainable methods of use and management remains absent.

Perhaps this absence can be put down to a refusal to recognize the class dimension in adivasi politics. There are avenues of upward mobility available to adivasis within the political structure, very limited to be sure, but they exist. Since 1947, a small fraction has taken advantage of them to move into urban occupations and state jobs. The vast majority still retain their connection with the land, but political representation is dominated by this middle class, which tends to focus upon avenues of upward mobility opened up by the reservations system at the cost of wider economic and political problems. The two don’t need to be antithetical, of course …. But that is a much broader question which I only touch upon here.

For now I’d like to conclude by stressing that there exists a connection – or at least a potential connection – between reform of governance (in adivasi regions and the forest department) and environmentalism, which includes the necessity of preserving landscapes where humans and wildlife can coexist. But this can only be brought about by a creative transformation of adivasi politics and ecological discourse (incorporating a nuanced understanding of complex patterns of environmental change over time). I’ve no idea whether this can or will happen – but in the context of an economic system that has long decimated nature and adivasi ways of life, a process of dialogue would, at the very least, be useful.

Shashank Kela is the author of A Rogue and Peasant Slave: Adivasi Resistance 1800-2000, a study of adivasi history and politics. He writes occasionally on current affairs and the environment, and can be reached at shashankkela at gmail dot com.

[1]     Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha, This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992).

[2]     Sumit Guha, ‘Claims on the Commons: Political Power and Natural Resources in Precolonial India’ in Mahesh Rangarajan and K Sivaramakrishnan (eds), India’s Environmental History (hereafter IEH), Vol. 1: From Ancient Times to the Colonial Period (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2013).

[3]     Claude A Garcia and J-P Pascal, ‘Sacred Forests of Kodagu: Ecological Value and Social Role’ in Gunnel Cederlof and K Sivaramakrishnan (eds), Ecological Nationalisms: Nature, Livelihoods, and Identities in South Asia (Delhi: Permanent Black: 2005).

[4]     Kathleen D Morrison, ‘Conceiving Ecology and Stopping the Clock: Narratives of Balance, Loss, and Degradation’ in Mahesh Rangarajan and K Sivaramakrishnan (eds), Shifting Ground: People, Animals, and Mobility in India’s Environmental History (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[5]     Ibid, p. 51, 59.

[6]     Jos Gommans, ‘The Silent Frontier of South Asia, c. 1100-1800 CE’ in IEH, Vol. 1, pp. 217-244.

[7]     Mahesh Rangarajan and K Sivaramakrishnan (eds): IEH, Vol. 2: Colonialism, Modernity and the Nation (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2013), p. 7.

[8]     A point made by Rangarajan and Sivaramakrishnan in IEH, Vol. 1, Introduction, p. 24.

[9]     Rohan D’Souza, ‘Damming the Mahanadi River: The Emergence of Multi-Purpose River Valley Development in India (1943-1946)’ in IEH, Vol. 2, pp. 550-583.

[10]   Vinita Damodaran, ‘Indigenous Forests: Rights, Discourses, and Resistance in Chotanagpur, 1860-2002’ in Ecological Nationalisms, pp. 115-150.

[11]   Bengt G Karlsson, ‘Indigenous Natures: Forest and Community Dynamics in Meghalaya, North-East India’ in Ecological Nationalisms, pp. 170-198.

[12]   Divyabhanusinh, ‘Lions, Cheetahs, and Others in the Mughal Landscape’ in Shifting Ground, pp. 88-108.

[13]   Pradip Krishen, Jungle Trees of Central India: A Field Guide for Tree Spotters (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2013), p. 27.

[14]   Stuart Corbridge, ‘Perversity and ethnoregionalism in tribal India: the politics of the Jharkhand’ inPolitical Geography Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, July 1987, p. 228.

[15]   A subject I explore at more length elsewhere; see Shashank Kela, A Rogue and Peasant Slave.

[16]   David Stuligross, ‘Autonomous Councils in Northeast India: Theory and Practice’ in Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct-Dec 1999), pp. 504-5.

[17]   Amitava Mitra, ‘Environment and sustainable development in the hilly regions of north-east India: A study in Arunachal Pradesh’ in International Journal of Social Economics Vol. 25, No. 2/3/4, 1998, p. 198.

[18]   David Stuligross, p. 512.

[19]   Ibid, pp. 513, 509-10.

[20]   Amitava Mitra, p. 201.

[21]   Draft Community Forest Rights Citizen’s Report, January 2014, by Kalpavriksh and others (unpublished).

[22]   See Prodyut Bhattacharya, Lolita Pradhan and Ganesh Yadav, ‘Joint forest management in India: Experiences of two decades’ in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, No. 54 (2010), p. 472.


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