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Law of the Landless: The Dalit Bid for Land Redistribution in Gujarat, India


  • McDougal Topher

    (University of San Diego)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • McDougal Topher, 2011. "Law of the Landless: The Dalit Bid for Land Redistribution in Gujarat, India," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 141-167, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:lawdev:v:4:y:2011:i:1:n:4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maitreesh Ghatak & Sanchari Roy, 2007. "Land reform and agricultural productivity in India: a review of the evidence," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(2), pages 251-269, Summer.
    2. Sanyal, Bishwapriya, 1991. "Antagonistic cooperation: A case study of nongovernmental organizations, government and donor's relationships in income-generating projects in Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 19(10), pages 1367-1379, October.
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