ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Situated 'Forest' State and the Alienation of Van Gujjars: Locating forms of accumulation through dispossession in forests of Uttarakhand

The Van Gujjars are a nomadic pastoral community who practice seasonal migration and rotational grazing between the forests of Terai Bhabhar and Siwalik regions in winter and alpine meadows (bugyals) in the upper reaches of the Western Himalayas in the summer. However, the inception of fortress conservation models and forest restoration policies have severely inhibited the ability of these pastoralists to reside, graze and migrate within these forests. The post-colonial state has designed myriad schemes to resettle these pastoralists, without necessarily addressing their volition to accept these ambivalent strategies of sedentarization on their lives and livelihoods. Nonetheless, legal instruments and court orders are routinely used by the Forest department to dispossess these pastoralists in the guise of forest conservation and wildlife protection. This article seeks to identify the numerous strategies adopted by the situated forest state to legitimise dispossession of Van Gujjars, either directly through routine eviction and threats of displacement or indirectly by providing handouts in the form of compensation and rehabilitation packages. The author argues that an analysis of the political economy of forest conservation and restoration becomes key to understand how pastoral lives and livelihoods are negotiating this onslaught of accumulation within forests that rests on displacing and settling them. Although the Forest Rights Act, 2006, engenders a form of agency amongst some Van Gujjars to assert and resist these strategies, the author argues that the politics embedded within its implementation allows the situated forest state to engender ‘proletarianized’ rationalities towards resettlement and land tenure amongst the Van Gujjars.

From Feudalism to State Developmentalism

Himachal Pradesh is often held out to be a model case of development, moving from the bottom of economic and human development indices to the top of the tables in the course of its post-independence existence. This article traces the nature of its pre-independence political economy and the social structures that sustained it and then describes the manner in which changes occurred in the post-independence phase. It marks out the successes as well as flags the continuing areas of concern.

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