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

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Adivasis, on Their Own Terms

Adivasis, on Their Own Terms Hybrid Histories: Forests, Frontiers and Wildness in Western India by Ajay Skaria; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp XXIV+324, Rs 595.

This important new book represents the fruits of a decade of research on the adivasis of the Dangs region of south Gujarat. Ajay Skaria’s interest in the adivasis of Gujarat was awakened in the mid-1980s, while a student at the University of Baroda. This was the time when the movement against the dam on the Narmada river was taking off, and many committed young men and women were turning their energies towards fighting for the rights of the displaced adivasis and disputing the environmental wisdom of large dams. Amongst them was Ajay Skaria’s younger brother, Manosh, who was drowned most tragically in the Narmada in 1991 while engaged in such work. The book is very appropriately dedicated to him.

In the meantime, Ajay himself was given the chance to study the history of the adivasis through a scholarship at Cambridge University, which he took up in 1988. An initial interest in ecology was soon replaced by a realisation that environmentalism, as pursued in the adivasi tracts of western India had been a highly violent and oppressive force, opposed most strongly by the people themselves. It was not possible to portray the adivasis as some form of proto-ecologists – as was fashionable at the time. Instead, he realised that it was more important to try to study the adivasis on their own terms. In particular, he realised that there was a whole politics of what he distinguished as ‘wildness’ which needed elucidation. This book is the result.

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