Political Economy of Land and Development in Assam
Funding Agency : ICSSR
Principal Investigator: Dr. Vasundhara Jairath
Duration/Starting Year: 2022-04-01 to 2024-03-31
Assam has been home to a long history of conflict over issues of land, territory, sovereignty, nationality, identity and language. While the nationality question has occupied center stage in most debates, land has remained somewhat marginal except for an acknowledgement of increasing land alienation in broad terms. The region is marked by a dual and simultaneous anxiety of the loss of identity and language and a subsequent desire to maintain its separation on the one hand, alongside a sense of a dearth of development and a desire to ‘catch up’ to the rest of the country on the other. Land, as it were, figures as central to both. Modes of living of, particularly but not limited to, the large numbers of tribal and indigenous communities that inhabit the state require land to reproduce themselves as a community, intersecting in important ways with questions of autonomy. Development, on the other hand, is hungry for land. A proliferation of investment opportunities in order to ‘catch up’ with the rest of the country entails the requirement of large swathes of land to carry out economic activities. This is a conundrum that is often lost in political rhetoric, and little work has been done on land and development and its implications for autonomy in present day neoliberal Assam. This research project seeks to fill this gap. Even as land conflicts have a long history in the state, their increasingly close relationship to questions of development has remained understudied. This research project endeavors a robust analysis of the emergent question of how demands for autonomy are reconciled with the landhungry project of development. It further hopes to contribute to a deeper understanding of the political economy of land and how the current development model is shaping the state.