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Remembering displacement: hunger and marginalisation in three resettled villages of south Gujarat

By Gauri Raje


Dams have had significant impact on the hinterlands of the regions in which they are built. Since the 1980s, there has been a growing body of empirical literature that has critiqued the fallout of dams on populations residing in the catchment areas and face uncertain futures due to inadequate or lack of rehabilitation policies that do not consider the long-term impact of the displacement on the economic, social and political lives of the affected population. Due to such encompassing effects, dams have long been the points of critique for environmentalists and social activists in the countries of the South. In south Asia, the Narmada dam controversy raised questions of displacement and water politics in the decade of the 1990s specifically but raised larger questions on the nature of adivasi relations with the Indian state, and the nature of development and paradigms of progress in the region. However, there are few studies in the field of anthropology or displacement studies that have examined the relationship between development projects and how these are remembered among those adversely affected by them.\ud Based on fieldwork over 8 months, this thesis seeks to explore the different ways in which displacement due to the Ukai dam in the south Gujarat region of India is remembered by a group of 3 adivasi villages. It focuses specifically on the perception of the displaced adivasis and contexts and creation of the varying memories of displacement across social status, gender and generations in these three villages. In remembering the processes of disempowerment among displaced groups, the different groups of adivasis articulate the hunger and marginalisation that pervades their everyday lives. This thesis attempts to look at this fibre of social suffering and how this is experienced and lived out by the displaced villagers 30 years after the event of being displaced due to the dam. Through the focus on remembering displacement, the thesis attempts to examine the process through which pre-existing hierarchies are strengthened in the postdisplacement period and the disempowerment experienced by some of those already living on the margins in the pre-dam socio-economic and political structures. By focusing on the different memories and experiences of disempowerment from a long-term perspective, the thesis calls into question the singularity of an `impoverished community' and the role of development projects in exacerbating pre-existing hierarchies rather than transforming them

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