The continual pursuit of developmental projects, economic expansion and rapid urbanisation has displaced communities and people across rural and urban India and caused irrevocable environmental destruction. The establishment of infrastructural projects ranging from mining industries to road projects to energy powerplants has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of tribal and indigenous populations who formerly lived, hunted, fished, and farmed in the lands that are being taken over from them. For indigenous communities such as forest dwellers, tribals, cattle grazers and fisherfolk - land is as an economic, social and cultural resource. Land is livelihood. Land is life.
These communities have cohabited their environments for centuries and have, over the years, evolved a way of life that is woven around their immediate ecologies and also ensured that their environments are protected against degradation by man and nature. The communities closest to their lands with the least ecological footprint are at the forefront of environment conservation and climate change efforts but face continual eviction and erosion of their land rights and are the ones paying the highest cost of this development.
These non-inclusive models of development are resisted by the people who are disempowered by the deprivation of their land rights, ranging from resistance movements against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, to the people’s movement against the coastal road in Mumbai.
We want to delve deeper and interrogate notions of development and land rights. ‘Whose Land is it Anyway?’ is a day long conversation at the intersections of indigeneity, land rights, development, displacement, resistance and environmental conservation in contemporary India.