AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 450

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Session 450: Social Movements in Postcolonial India II

Organizer: Shinya Ishizaka, Kyoto University, Japan

Discussant: Miho Ishii, Kyoto University, Japan

Recently there has been a new trend in the scholarship on Indian societies of looking at post-independent India as “postcolonial India” so as to gain a better understanding of the continuity/discontinuity in social features between colonial and postcolonial India. This attempt has opened up a new arena for interdisciplinary dialogue, which has overcome the age-old academic division of labor: History dealing with social phenomena in pre-independence India and Political Science, Sociology or Anthropology taking social facts or events in the post-independence era as their objects of inquiry. However, there have been very few such interdisciplinary efforts so far in the area of social movements studies in India. Against this background, this panel (in collaboration with Panel I) brings together specialists in history, anthropology, sociology and political science to explore the characteristics of social movements and other related movements (such as political or religious movements) in postcolonial India by focusing on the following questions: What features in movements are continuous from the colonial era? What are the new characteristics in movements, which were not seen in the colonial setting? How have social movements in postcolonial India been changing? Through these investigations, this panel also aims to make a theoretical contribution to social movements studies in general, which often fails to grasp the significance of social movements (e.g., anti-colonial movements) in countries outside America, Europe or Japan. We will have at least 30 minutes for joint panel discussion. This panel, Panel II, deals with Environmental, Regional, Tribal, and Tibetan movements.

The Environmental Movement in Postcolonial India: The Chipko Movement and “Connective Politics”
Shinya Ishizaka, Kyoto University, Japan

This paper proposes a new interpretation of the environmental movement in postcolonial India by focusing on the Chipko movement (1973-81), a forest protection movement in the Uttarakhand region in northern India. The Chipko movement enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a case of “environmentalism of the poor” mainly based on the reports and studies that appeared in the 1980s which highlighted images of local women hugging (chipko) trees to protect them. Since the 1990s, however, literature on the movement has revealed that in fact the movement ended up in “failure” because commercial deforestation was completely prohibited in spite of people’s “actual” hope of deriving economic benefits from forest-related local industries; the movement “of the poor,” which had to be “for the poor,” betrayed “the poor” in reality. The question now arises: Were the poor local residents who wanted material gains from the forest the only rightful participants of the movement? This paper tries to clarify the intertwinement of various participants’ intentions and aspirations as well as the multiple outcomes and significance of the movement in a much wider historical context. It focuses especially on the process of forming a new “environmentalist” personal network, which served to connect the local society to national- and global-level politics. It is also noteworthy that the tactical repertoires of the anti-colonial Indian freedom movement (such as foot marches and fasts) worked as catalysts for amplifying the interpersonal connections in the Chipko movement.

Indigenous Movements in Postcolonial India
Makiko Kimura, Meiji Gakuin University, Japan

Since the 1970s and 1980s, the network among indigenous rights movements has become active at both international and regional levels. It is mainly indigenous peoples in North and Latin America, Australia, and Europe that have initiated this, but since the 1980s and 1990s, indigenous groups in Asia and Africa have also joined in international activities. In India, indigenous groups from the northeast, as well as central India have been active in such international rights movements. In both these areas, movements by so-called “tribes” have been active since the colonial period. In postcolonial India, most were categorized as “Scheduled Tribes” and entitled to some measures for economic and social development. Tribal majority states or smaller autonomous councils have been created, and many have entered into state politics. However, movements seeking independence or greater political, economic, social and cultural autonomy have continued, and there have been constant efforts to seek networking and solidarity in the international arena. In this presentation, based on two prominent movements by indigenous peoples of the Northeastern India, I would like to analyze the factors which promoted their participation in international arenas such as the United Nations’ forum and mechanisms on indigenous issues/peoples, and what these activities aim to achieve. One particular feature is that some radical demands that have been sidelined and rejected in domestic processes are prevalent in international discourse. Examining the situation at domestic as well as regional and national levels, this presentation attempts to examine postcolonial indigenous movements in India from a broader perspective.

Performing Tibetan Traditions as a Social Movement in Postcolonial India
Tatsuya Yamamoto, Kyoto University, Japan

This presentation explores the activities of a Tibetan refugee’s performing arts group in the context of social movements in modern India. There have been many studies which treat the activities by Tibetan refugees since their exodus from Tibet in 1959. I insist, however, that most of them have analyzed their activities only in terms of the international level; international politics between Tibet and China, Tibet and the UN and so on. It is not realistic to understand their activities just through an international one if we thought their situation and their every day’s lives as refugees in India after passing 50years since their fleeing from their predicament in Tibet. This speech suggests that it is necessary for us to focus on their activities in domestic level which shows their struggle to establish a stable status in India in addition to the international level. Their activities can be understood by regarding them as movements for keeping their lives safe in India. This presentation especially focuses on the movements of one performance troop which is managed by the Tibetan Government in Exile, Tibetan Institute of Perfoming Arts, and shows how they are engaged in activities to win recognition on the existence of Tibetan refugees in India and their situations from the citizens in India. Through the analysis of the movements and activities by them, I would like to finally show both their accomplishments and the “aporia” of their movements.

An Overview of the Separatist Movement in the Western Region of Orissa in the Postcolonial Days
Kiyoshi Sugimoto, Tokai University, Japan

The movement demanding a new separate state, Koshal, has been increasingly active in the western parts of the state of Orissa since 2000 when the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were established in adjacent regions. This movement has been fueled by dissatisfaction with such inbuilt conditions as the growing economic gap between the coastal and the hilly western parts of Orissa, an inadequate infrastructure, and insufficient of educational opportunities. Although the government of Orissa established the Western Development Council by “giving it powers for the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement and development of the people” in the region under the new act introduced in 2000, it was regional parties like the newly established Koshal Kranti Dal that invigorated the separatist movement. In the British colonial period, most of the western parts of Orissa were under the rule of princely states. While the origin of the separatist movement dates back to the days of the merger of the princely states with Orissa after independence, the complicated intertwining of the region arose from various postcolonial issues, such as problems of environmental deterioration (e.g. the large-scale Hirakud dam construction project and a number of projects for mining development) and serious issues about the empowerment of the adivasi people (nearly 40% of the total population of this region). In this paper I would like to arrange the complicated above-mentioned issues from both the colonial and postcolonial periods into chronological order so as to better understand the entangled situation of western Orissa today.