Submerged and Submerging Voices

Hegomony and the Decline of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat, 1998-2001

Author: Judith Whitehead


Adivasis(aboriginal peoples) in southeastern Gujarat, India, have been subjected to an accelerated process of accumulation by dispossession through the construction of large dams, as well as through the privatization of common property resources. Neo-Gandhian social movements, such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), have used transnational activism to gain exposure for these issues but in the process have lost local support in the state, particularly after a negative court judgment in 2000. This article identifies three major reasons for the declining support for NBA in Gujarat. The first arises from the repressive nature of agrarian relations that have emerged through the capitalization of agriculture in the state. The second is the NBA's failure to link their opposition to displacement by large dams with similar examples of accumulation by dispossession in other regions of rural Gujarat, hence precluding any unity between poor peasants and adivasis elsewhere in the state. Finally, neo-Gandhianism represented adivasis through a discourse of ecological romanticism that did not reflect existing realities and tended to privilege urban, middle-class perspectives. Pushed from above and below, the NBA movement lost the support even of the adivasis it claimed to represent.
Regions: South Asia
Countries: India

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September 2007
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