Law of the Landless: The Dalit Bid for Land Redistribution in Gujarat, India
Tenuous land access contributes to food and livelihood insecurity, and fuels conflicts in many rural societies. In such cases, the ability of government legal institutions to structure and ultimately transform the conflict depends not just on the adoption of laws favorable to progressive land redistribution, but also the effective implementation of those laws in the face of elite influence in local government. This paper presents a case study of an identity-based social movement for Outcastes in India (the Navsarjan Trust) struggling to bring about the successful implementation of land redistribution laws in Gujarat, India. I contend the Dalit land movement recognizes outcomes of state policy as products of caste struggles within a nested hierarchy of local government institutions. I argue Navsarjan’s strategy is to modify the strength of links between levels in this hierarchy in order to produce favorable results for the Dalit land rights movement. This strategy explodes the myth of human rights movements as necessarily antagonistic to government function, portraying government rather as a framework that structures social struggle.
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Volume (Year): 4 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (August)
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