Tag Archives: colonialism

Staking the Terrain – Political Economy, Environmental History and Nature Conservation: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

The aim of this essay is to make connections between things that are usually studied separately – environmental history, political economy, conservation practice and adivasi politics – and I apologize in advance for the demands it makes upon the reader’s attention. The belief that this potential convergence could do with wider discussion is my sole justification for putting it up here.

Environmental history in India is not a very old discipline – the first mongraphs began appearing in the 1980s, and more and more books and papers have been added to the historiography since 2000. Let us examine certain themes as outlined in a cross-section of recent scholarship.

One key debate centers upon whether the colonial period can be regarded as an ecological watershed. An influential book by Ramchandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil argued that, before the advent of colonialism, there existed a harmonizing tendency between human beings and the environment, a balance between resource use and preservation mediated largely through the caste system: colonialism shattered this equilibrium and the values associated with it.[1] This idealizing view, eliding different time periods and state structures, was bound to come under attack and much subsequent scholarship has been devoted to unpicking its conclusions.

Sumit Guha shows how at least one natural resource, namely wild grass for fodder, had become scarce in the Deccan by the Maratha period thanks to the demands of armies, nobles and zamindars, who engrossed it by enclosing tracts of common land. This fierce arbitrariness fostered a system of free grazing and discouraged sustainable management through collective protection of the commons.[2] Meanwhile the argument that sacred groves are strands of untouched forest – repositories of biodiversity – is refuted by Claude Garcia and J-P Pascal in their study of Kodagu.[3] Far from being untouched, groves there are heavily used and managed, and show clear signs of degradation associated with use. Continue reading Staking the Terrain – Political Economy, Environmental History and Nature Conservation: Shashank Kela

A Future for the Left: Ravi Sinha

Guest post by RAVI SINHA

It is with considerable satisfaction and with a mild sense of accomplishment that we arrive at this moment. For those of us who have been a part of this process, it has been an exciting but difficult journey. One little climb is over. After every climb, howsoever small, one gains a view. And a view we have gained.

I speak of satisfaction, and of a sense of accomplishment. But, I also speak of trepidation. I do so because a climb much steeper and far more challenging begins from here.

We have gained a view, admittedly still hazy, but much clearer than the one we had in the valley we come from. Most of the climb, however, lies ahead of us.

Fortunately, it is not like climbing in the mountains. Fortunately, metaphors have their limitations. There, in the mountains, as you gain height, the air gets thinner and climbers begin to drop out. There, it gets lonely at the top.

The terrain of history is different. Climbing has a different meaning in the movement. Here, the air gets thicker as you climb higher. Here, you join others as you gain a clearer view. With clarity comes a higher but broader platform for unity.

Here, a summit is reached when an entire revolutionary class stands united in its resolve to overturn the status quo. Here, a summit is gained when an invincible mass of humanity comes together to bend the course of history. Continue reading A Future for the Left: Ravi Sinha

India Gate vs. India

August 15 marked the 65 anniversary of India’s Independence from foreign rule and colonialism. September 21 will mark the 155 anniversary of the recapture of Delhi by the British and the end of the first valiant rebellion against foreign rule.

Between May 11, 1857 and May 21, 1857, Delhi was free of the British. The rebel soldiers had chosen Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader and since the Red Fort was where he lived, the Lal Qila came to be seen as the centre of the First War of Independence. Delhi was seen as the heart of India and Lal Qila was the heart of Delhi and that is why once the British recaptured Delhi they wasted no time in arresting Bahadur Shah Zafar and quickly moving into the fort. Continue reading India Gate vs. India

Drop A Beat, Turn Up My Symphony

This is a guest post by John Bevan

Nearly half the 8 million population of Haiti, (the size of Wales, Belize and El Salvador— seems that was one of the standard sizes for countries at the time) lived in the Capital Port-au-Prince.  So the elimination of the Capital approximates to the loss of half the country’s entire infrastructure, limited as it was.  The loss of many of its intellectuals and elected politicians, few enough in the first place, given the brain-drain northwards, with some third of Haitians living in the US, adds to the knock the country has taken.

In 2006, the main Port-au-Prince daily proudly lead with the story- “Haiti there at World Cup Final”- referring not to their football team but Wyclef  Jean who sang a duet with Shakira before the France-Italy final in Berlin.  Wyclef boosted the image and self-image of Haitians a few years earlier when he won a Grammy for the 1996 Fugees album, The Score, and accepted it while wearing a Haitian flag, Haitians still being at the bottom of the pile of all US immigrant groups.  He rarely appears on videos without the flag somewhere about his body. Continue reading Drop A Beat, Turn Up My Symphony

“Gentle persuasion” in Kashmir

Some intelligence agencies have also warned of a low-poll percentage. But a senior police official said: “One cannot wait for the perfect situation in Kashmir.” According to him “gentle persuasion” in rural and border areas will help improve turnout. “After all, it is not a crime to ask people to vote. In several countries, voting is mandatory,” he argues. [George Joseph, Sakaal Times]

What an admission, what a giveaway! Indian democracy never went beyond Lakhanpur anyway. Nationalists and the weak hearted, please be ready to shut your eyes and ears for the next two months. The Indian state is planning to show its ugliest face in the Valley. Get ready, get ready.

A cartoon in ‘Greater Kashmir’


Meanwhile, some links to the sort of news from Kashmir that the Delhi media won’t give you:

Even expecting mother not spared during curfew

CRPF administers ‘patriotic’ dose to 56-yr old

Crippling curfew devastates fruit industry

Sikh Youth thrashed by Samiti supporters

‘Dangerous conspiracy to give communal color to movement’

While we were gagged
8 Killed, Hundreds Injured In 7 Days, Massive Clampdown On Valley

Where are pro-freedom leaders?
Geelani’s Son-In-Law Seeks Red Cross’ Intervention

Curfew relaxed, not beating
‘It is terrorism in uniform’

Yeh BBC London Ki Urdu Service Hai
News starved Kashmiris tune into popular radio program of 90’s in curfew

Tangmarg Imam goes missing

Curfew revives water transport on Jhelum

AMK condemns demand for ban on Kashir channel

Hindu chauvinist derails Mumbai citizens’ sit-in

Azaadi echo in Delhi
Civil right activists favour Kashmir independence

Steep rise in CRPF battalions in Valley