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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Adivasiness as Caste Expression and Land Rights Claim-Making in Central-Eastern India

Oskarsson, Patrik; Sareen, Siddharth


The adivasi population represents a special case in India's new land wars. Strong individual and community rights to agricultural and forest lands have been enacted for this group based on notions of adivasi identities as primeval, but without linking these to economic and political influence. This article interrogates the adivasi land question seen through a caste lens. It does so via case studies in two states to understand the ways in which adivasi identity can be mobilised for its instrumental value and used to demand land rights. In Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court's Samatha Judgement has prevented virtually all private mining activities. In Jharkhand, however, similar legislation is seen to be trumped by the national Coal Bearing Areas Act, as well as by former and current land acquisition acts that allow industrial land claims to take precedence over identity-based ones. Available evidence indicates the challenges involved in bringing support for land rights that are premised on a supposedly unchanging adivasi identity when these rights go against dominant interests. This circumstance serves to highlight the possibilities present in caste analysis to understand the plight of adivasis, despite their usually distinct treatment in scholarly analyses.


Adivasi; land rights; caste; identity politics; indigeneity; sub-national regions

Published in

Journal of Contemporary Asia
2020, volume: 50, number: 5, pages: 831-847

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Sareen, Siddharth
University of Bergen

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Human Geography
Social Anthropology

Publication Identifiers


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