Urbanization, Rural Mobility, and New Class Relations in Darjeeling, India

Author: Tim Scrase | Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase | and Trent Brown


Throughout the developing world, rapid urbanization is leading to new social relations and new conflicts between urban and (formerly) rural populations. This paper examines this process of change through a detailed examination of changing rural-urban relations in the town of Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills in Eastern India. In Darjeeling, increased rural mobility, accelerated rural-to-urban migration and the increased participation of rural people in local politics have led to major changes in the town. We demonstrate that the upward trajectory of rural classes who were previously subordinate is leading the more established urban residents to feel threatened, resulting in a redrawing of local political issues along rural-urban lines and a reconfiguration of class consciousness and social relations. The urban middle class, whose opportunities in the town have stagnated or declined, see rural migrants as a source of competition for increasingly scarce resources and blame them for the overall decline in the quality of urban life. They mobilise their (predominantly cultural) capital to reinforce markers of cultural distinction between them and the rural migrants and to delegitimise the political gains they have made. We argue that rural-urban conflict is emerging as the chief source of tension in the town and that this tension is largely grounded in class issues.

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