ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Adivasi Encounters with Hindu Nationalism in MP

In the late 1990s, many Bhilala adivasis in western Madhya Pradesh joined the battle for Hindu supremacy, attacking Christian adivasis and, later, Muslims. At issue was indigeneity, the politics of place and belonging in the Indian nation. The affiliation with Hindu nationalism marked a radical departure from the previous decade's politics when adivasis had asserted a separate tribal identity and sought to reclaim rights to resources. These claims, elaborated eloquently during the course of the anti-dam movement, were shaped and strengthened by globally circulating discourses about indigenous peoples. How did these discourses, and the distinctive meanings of adivasi indigeneity to which they lent themselves, come to be superseded? Instead of signifying a subaltern experience of adivasi dispossession and resistance, how are discourses of indigeneity deployed to support the claims of the Hindu Right, to disenfranchise religious minorities and legitimise a politics of hate? How do Bhilala adivasis participate in this transformation in the valences of indigeneity? This paper traces adivasi mobilisation across three sites: rights to place and natural resources, religious reform, and electoral representation, to examine how discourses of indigeneity are differently constructed and contested across the terrain of class, caste and citizenship.

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