Seeking Indian ‘green gold’: land politics and renewable dispossession in a postcolonial State

Authors: David Andre Karnail Singh*, University of East Anglia/ University of Copenhagen
Topics: Political Geography, Energy, Land Use
Keywords: renewables; frontier-making; land control; wastes; resistance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Renewable energies are presented as the modern pathway for sustainable development in India and the turnkey solution to address the global climate crisis. These large-scale power projects are well connected to global financial capital, but they are also embedded into specific land politics: renewable infrastructures follow a cyclical dynamic of both frontier-making and territorialisation (Rasmussen and Lund, 2018), where previous property regimes and land uses are erased while a new set of land technologies and territorial rules legitimates forms of socio-economic marginalization and land dispossession. These violent logics of colonial and capitalist land governance are also largely contested by new forms of political reactions coming from “bellow” and emerging strategies of “everyday” resistance.
The green energy transition requires therefore to adopt specific tools to understand the existence of class-caste relations in development issues and the legacy of colonial powers in actual land politics: indeed, land grabs are complex political processes negotiated by the State with the different classes of a society (Levien, 2018); but green energy projects are also specifically targeting subaltern groups (tribal and low cast communities) historically deprived of agency under colonial rule, and now trapped in a virtuous circle that presents their lands as “waste” and their communities as “backward” (Baka, 2017).
This paper will be based on the study of different wind power projects in the region of Kutch (Gujarat, India): empirical data will highlight the negotiations that both federal State and private company representatives engage with local powerful intermediaries to dispossess farmer and pastoral villagers.

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