Accepted Paper:

Ownership and Marginalisation in a Punjab Village  


Daljeet Singh Arora (BECON)

Paper short abstract:

Using data from my doctoral fieldwork, I discuss appropriation of land in India Punjab during the colonial administration. I develop an argument on differential and long-term impact of the land settlement policy in Punjab on land-owning and landless castes in Raigarh, a Punjab village.

Paper long abstract:

A large body of anthropological research and literature exists that focuses on land appropriation in tribal communities across the world. While there are historical reasons for such a focus, it is also arguable that these communities faced impact of colonial policies on land most severely. In comparison, the impact of appropriation of land by the colonial administration on 'peasant' communities has been drastic and long term, if not as traumatic.

In my article, I wish to explore a situation in a village called Raigarh in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, a province in India. I argue that appropriation of land by the colonial administration impacted quite differently on peasant communities in Punjab during the colonial period and afterwards. I further emphasise that while tribal communities in some areas have managed to regain communal rights on land, for example through a recent law in India, a movement back to pre-colonial land relationship has not appeared for the landholding and non-landholding communities in Punjab. This aspect has resulted in extreme marginalisation of landless communities, especially the Dalits, despite land reforms set in Punjab.

My article is based on the information I collected as part of my doctoral fieldwork in 2001-2. In my article I discuss the existing relationship between people and land within the context of twin aspects of value attached to land in Raigarh. While land remains fundamental to Jat social and individual identity, it has also become an asset with commercial value, sometimes leading to social conflict.

Panel P50
Appropriating land