Narratives of the dispossessed and casteless: politics of land and caste in Rajarhat, West Bengal

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Abstract

This article examines the political narrative around a two-decade old process of land acquisition and development in the ‘global city’ Rajarhat, a former rural settlement in the Indian state of West Bengal. The narrative – exploring the development politics in Rajarhat - is built against the backdrop of a neoliberal state in the Global South acting as a corporate facilitator, particularly in matters of ‘land’, and the concomitant dispossession. The multifaceted politics of Rajarhat takes shape in contrast to the erstwhile communist regime in West Bengal, the dichotomy of a Left state engaged in forceful and violent land acquisition thus forming an interesting paradox. The paper also presents evidence against the long held political myth of caste-relations being irrelevant in Bengali politics, by examining the upper-caste dominated social relations in Rajarhat and the formation of low-level cartels or ‘syndicates’ in the area. In conclusion, the article points to the reinvention and redeployment of caste relations – even in increasingly urban spaces where ‘hierarchical’ caste practices are usually taken to be on the decline - rooted in the duality between land-struggles and development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)806-830
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contemporary Asia
Volume50
Issue number5
Early online date29 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Rajarhat
  • West Bengal
  • CPIM
  • land acquisition
  • displacement
  • caste

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