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Identity, politics, and identity politics in indigenous land rights movements in India
Development-induced displacement in India for long has remained a bone of contention. Between 1951 and 1990, 21.3 million people in India are displaced due to development projects, out of which 40% are indigenous people. As a consequence, there emerged several land rights movement in India such as Singur of West Bengal, Kalinga Nagar of Odisha, etc. The purpose of this paper is to explicate the distinctive features of these indigenous land rights movements in India vis-à-vis the features discussed in literature. The paper is based on a critical analysis of several cases of land rights movements discussed in existing literature. The analysis is carried out in the framework of New Social Movement Perspectives (NSM) and Resource Mobilization Theory (RMT). The paper concludes that existing social movement perspectives such as NSM and RMT are insufficient to explain the recent indigenous land rights movements in India. The nature of mobilization in these movements usually follows a ‘controlled from the top” approach. In most of these movements, opposition parties highlight the tribal identity to mobilize the aggrieved mass and use the protest as a means, not to protect the interests of the indigenous people, but to discredit the political party in power. Indian legal system being negligent towards the interests of indigenous eases the endeavor of opposition. In this process of identity politics, and tussle between political parties, the indigenous people stand only losing. The paper adds a fresh dimension to the existing social movement perspective and has significant policy implications.