State and Local Conservation Traditions: A Comparative Study of Fortress Conservation and Traditional Forest Forts

By Rajiandai Bariam

The paper attempts to contribute to existing discourse on conservation and political ecology by juxtaposing the concept of “fortress conservation” which favors the creation of protected areas, to the concept of “forest forts,” a traditional conservation practice woven into a traditional village society. By drawing insights from the theory of political ecology and colonial conservation laws and practices, the present paper reiterate the critique of “fortress conservation” while advocating a dialogue between the state, conservationists, and the local people. Unlike the forceful and displacive conservation projects and discourse that harbors dissent and protests, straining relationships between state and people, the paper shifts the paradigm emphasizing the healing of relationship among human agencies as of utmost importance, and a vital step in restoring our relationship with nature. It opines that if conservation is to be deeply successful and sustainable, the minimization of casualty and cases of displacement must be part of the equation. Furthermore, it seeks to explain such a possibility through the traditional forest forts in which the local people engaged in the traditional practices of conservation themselves based on their long-standing and time-tested traditional ecological knowledge.

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Mizoram Assembly Election 2023: Bucking Bipolarity and Regurgitating Ethnicity and Governance

By V. Bijukumar

The recent Mizoram assembly election gave a clear verdict in favour of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), a third political force in the state, against the conventional binary electoral politics centred on the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Congress. While the incumbent MNF government, in its last leg of the tenure, clinched on new wave of ethno-regionalism to beat the perceptible anti-incumbency, the Congress tried to regain its lost electoral space promising efficient, transparent and corruption-free governance. The BJP unleashed a high-voltage campaign, but its outreach mostly confined to smaller ethnic minorities like the Chakmas and Maras than the dominant Christian Mizo ethnic community. Despite all these, ZPM’s promise of good governance with the slogan of “vote for a change, give this new party a chance” won the mandate of the electorate, both in rural and urban areas of the state. However, fulfilling its promises would be a daunting task.

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Land Use and Livelihood: The Case of Shifting Cultivation among the Kukis

By M. Mangkholen Haokip

Shifting cultivation as the main source of livelihood framed the life-world of the Kukis in the hills of Manipur. The socio-cultural, politico-administrative, religious practice and most importantly the land use system have an intertwined relationship with it. Though shifting cultivation has been debated and invites stringent scrutiny in policy arenas, it withstand as the chief source of sustenance for many in the tropics and sub-tropics till today. Important debates on the questions of sustainability and environmental consequences of shifting cultivation are intrinsic to the land use system of the cultivators. This paper is an attempt to examine the practices of shifting cultivation vis-à-vis the land use system among the Kuki shifting cultivators through a qualitative analysis. It argues that the land use system, reasoned by their livelihood (shifting cultivation) and the notion of forest conservation is an ingeniously developed sustainable technique of their association with the rough topography over a long period of time.

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Identity and Violence: Exploring an Ethical Framework for Peace in the Context of the Indo-Naga Conflict

By Venusa Tinyi

Violence is still one of the biggest threats to human civilizational values. It looms large around the globe in various forms. Despite advancements at several fronts, including the existence of several peace norms and organizations, we are yet to find an adequate panacea for violence. In this paper, an attempt is made to provide a conceptual framework to understand and address the problem of violence through the philosophical lens of Emmanuel Levinas. According to him, violence is grounded in how we see ourselves and how we see the others. Identity construction is thus seen as the root cause of violence. Having outlined the basic ethical ideas of Levinas to address the problem of violence, I present a case study of a conflict – the Indo-Naga conflict. I suggest that for understanding and resolving the conflict at a much deeper level, one has to go beyond the socio-empirical conditions to conceptual pre-condition that comes with a sense of ethical responsibility.

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The Politics of Coal Mining in Meghalaya: Land, Ownership and Local Autonomy

By Teiborlang T. Kharsyntiew

In the Northeast region of India, the state of Meghalaya is endowed with rich mineral resources like coal and limestones. Protected under the special status of the Sixth Schedule, land and its resources belong to the people. But over the last few decades, mining of these resources has changed not only the physical environment but also the tenet of indigenous land governance. While this transformation can be attributed to the change in land governance during the colonial and the post-colonial period, the extensive resource extraction from the mid-1990s onwards exposed the shortcomings of decentralisation of power and its effect on land governance in Meghalaya. Today the existence of multi-layer institutions of land governance that are inconsistence in powers and functions shapes the dynamics of coal politics and land governance in the state.

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Living a Flooded Life: Women, City and Community in North East India’s Dibrugarh

By Evy Mehzabeen

The paper makes a case-study analysis of the annually flooded Dibrugarh town of the Brahmaputra valley of India’s northeast, and looks at floods as disasters in the context of how women negotiate, adapt and survive an annual phenomenon of flood. The paper has tried to interweave multiple narratives arising from differentiated gendered roles played by women in the pre-flood, during floods as well as in the post-flood periods, as collected through interviews and discussions to showcase how women use their agency to make place within as well as outside the community through dialogues, shared experiences and inter-community social capital. It discusses gendering space through the changing lived spaces of a household in the flooded and non-flooded period for four different communities united by flood. The first section of the paper looks at the City as a site for recurring disaster. The second section discuss agency of women as an emanating tool to face, adapt and survive disaster, expanding beyond herself to family and community. The third section presents the spatialities of adaptation manifested through built-form, arising as an outcome of gendered vulnerability and adaptation practices, as translated onto the spaces they inhabit, throughout the flood-cycle.

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Roluahpuia, Nationalism in the Vernacular: State, Tribes, andthe Politics of Peace in Northeast India, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2023

Reviewed by George Chakma

Isaiah Berlin, one of the finest historians of ideas, on nationalism once wrote: ‘‘There was one movement which dominated much of the nineteenth century in Europe and was so pervasive, so familiar, that it is only by a conscious effort of the imagination that one can conceive a world in which it played no part: It had its partisans and its enemies, its democratic, its, aristocratic, and monarchist wings, it inspired men of action and artists, intellectual elites and the masses…’’ (Berlin, 1968, p. 337). Of course, Berlin was specifically talking about the European condition, but nationalism as a socio-cultural-political phenomenon has taken shape in almost every nook and corner of the world. Berlin’s comments succinctly describe the nature of nationalism and the role it plays in shaping modern polities and identities. The northeastern region of India has been no exception. The winds of modernity have caused (sub?) nationalist groups here as well to ideate their respective poetics and sensibilities of national identity and nationalist politics. The case of Mizo nationalism presents to us as one of the textbook examples of modern invention of a national identity and the playing out of nationalist politics, yet it has not grabbed the attention of many scholars. Roluahpuia’s book ‘‘Nationalism in the vernacular: state, tribes, and the politics of peace in northeast India’’ is a timely intervention that has the potential to become a seminal work.

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Work and Livelihood of Northeast Migrants in Delhi: An Empirical Study

By Khansemphi KK Raleng

With the recognition of the rise in migration of people from Northeast states to metropolitan cities to pursue a better livelihood, this paper aims to uncover various aspects of their working lives. Responses of a sample of 225 Northeast migrants working in formal and informal sector reveal that they strongly believe that there is a way and possibility of earning a good living in the city. About 12 per cent of workers are engaged in more than one work, a few of them being engaged in both wage work and self-employment. Despite several challenges in working life including the experiences of differential treatment, a majority of respondents reported a better livelihood in the city. Although the BPO sector work has been one of the most preferred jobs for these migrants, most of them tend to change jobs for better opportunities and payment. It is strongly believed that communication skills are most important for a job. While factors like facilities in the workplace, organized and professional environment, and new learnings shape good working experiences for wage workers; for the self-employed, extra income, passion for and interest in own business, and financial independence are the motivating factors. The impact of the pandemic on Northeast workers has been quite evident from the fact that about onefourth of people took new jobs in the city in the aftermath of the pandemic.

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Jelle J.P. Wouters (Ed.). Vernacular Politics in Northeast India: Democracy, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity. Oxford University Press, India, 2022

Reviewed by Tanaya Hazarika

Vernacular Politics in Northeast India: Democracy, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity, edited by Jelle J.P. Wouters, is a compilation of essays that attempts to comprehensively explore the complex political landscape of the Northeast region of India. It is an insightful analysis of the complex interplay between politics, democracy, ethnicity, and indigeneity by compiling research from a diverse group of scholars who possess an intimate affinity to the region, either scholastically or by being native to the region. Hence, it provides an understanding of the intricate web of politics in Northeast India.

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Shrinking Academic Space

By Thongkholal Haokip

The censorship on academic publications and imposition of CCS (Conduct) rules in Manipur, and the attempts to impose it in other parts of India, is not only an affront to academic freedom, it will hinder the achievement of the goals of India’s new education policy.

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