ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Land rights and crime: Adivasi women in colonial and post-colonial eastern India


Das Gupta Sanjukta - Department of Oriental Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy


36 – Interrogating Deviance and ‘Crime’ in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia


 The land question is one of the burning issues facing Adivasi societies in India. Since colonial times, Adivasis have been routinely displaced and evicted from their villages, usually with inadequate compensation, in the interests of industrial and mining lobbies, and are seemingly powerless against the continuous process of corporate encroachments. This often masks another pressing land-related problem that Adivasis need to confront, i.e. the right of Adivasi women to inherit ancestral property. The issue is further complicated by the fact that Adivasi women’s land rights today has become enmeshed within the larger problematic of Adivasi identity, whereby granting land rights to women is seen as yet another attack on Adivasi custom and way of life. Taking a long-term view, this paper explores the transformation of social practices and customary laws identifying crime and deviance which reinforced women’s subalternity with reference to Adivasi societies in eastern India and analyses the ways in which were challenged by Adivasi women both in the colonial and post-colonial periods.