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This book challanges the current academic consensus on the relationship between adivasi societies and the caste-based agrarian order, and seeks to place them in the context of a wider agrarian and ecological history. It reveals the intimate connection between the past and the present, and shows how some of India’s most pressing contemporary conflicts can only be understood with reference to a history whose consequences are still working themselves out.
The first part shows how the Bhils of western Madhya Pradesh were affected by colonialism, the perceptions and notions that shaped colonial policy, its effects in material life and politics, how Bhil groups adapted to these developments and resisted them. A social history cast as narrative – a narrative of blindness and rancour, resistance and change – it charts the emergence of an unjust and oppressive social order.
The second part is a reflection on adivasi politics in the twentieth century. It begins with the (understandable suspicious) adivasi response to nationalism and goes on to examine India’s development politics and their effect upon adivasi societies. It looks at the emergence of an adivasi middle-class and the contradictions of its political role, as well as collective modes of protest and adaptation. Kela discusses the ways in which culture and politcs intersect, and how political choices are shaped by cultural developments.