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Conflict and Coexistence in a National Park

Conflict and Coexistence in a National Park

The aim of this paper is to trace the emergence of a subculture of resistance following a strict management regime of the state institution of forestry in Kanha national park of Madhya Pradesh. It illustrates how the state as an institution has been limited in its capacity to protect these enclosed spaces simply through the policy of "fences and fines". The main tenet of the national park model was the complete removal of humans resident within the park area and to preserve the area in its pristine form in order to protect wildlife. This case study of Kanha examines how relatively powerless groups unite in their hopelessness to protest against a system or institution that has its own agendas in conservation.

SPECIAL ARTICLEjune 6, 2009 vol xliv no 23 EPW Economic & Political Weekly52Conflict and Coexistence in a National ParkAnanya MukherjeeThe aim of this paper is to trace the emergence of a subculture of resistance following a strict management regime of the state institution of forestry in Kanha national park of Madhya Pradesh. It illustrates how the state as an institution has been limited in its capacity to protect these enclosed spaces simply through the policy of “fences and fines”. The main tenet of the national park model was the complete removal of humans resident within the park area and to preserve the area in its pristine form in order to protect wildlife. This case study of Kanha examines how relatively powerless groups unite in their hopelessness to protest against a system or institution that has its own agendas in conservation.National parks and protected areas in India continue to be a hot-bed of struggle over access to the land and natural resources they contain. The long history of con-serving wildlife parks by fortifying them within fences and boundaries has evoked a lot of hostility among resident rural populations, who are the most dependent on the resources of these parks. Generally speaking, conflicts occurred not only over restrictions placed over accessing forest resources but also following the subsequent displacement of these local populations from within the park to its buffer zones (Milner-Gulland and Mace 1998). The aim of this paper is to trace the emergence of a subculture of resistance following a strict management regime of the state institution of forestry in Kanha national park (henceforth KNP) in Madhya Pradesh. Prior studies have discussed the contentious relationship of the state agencies in conservation and the locals in rural ecosystem areas (Brandon 1998; Brockington and Homewood 2001; Jacoby 2001; Saberwal and Rangarajan 2003; Borrini-Feyerabend et al 2004). Many of these have identified socially excluded groups as the main culprits responsible for the unsuccessful conservation programmes. However, there is a gap in the literature because the reasons behind non-conformity by politically weak actors to legal restrictions of entry and access to forest resources have not been clearly articulated. This also reflects the lack of understanding of the existing nature of con-flict in Kanha which is a culmination of what I have termed the “third dimension of power”1 which is discussed later.Through the case-study in Kanha, I will illustrate how the state as an institution has been limited in its capacity to protect these enclosed spaces simply through the policy of “fences and fines”. Most of these restrictions and displacement policies of the state were a direct impact of the national park model and its legalised forms of rules and regulations. The main tenet was the complete removal of humans, resident within the park area and to preserve the area in its pristine form in order to protect wildlife and en-dangered species. The case study inKNP examines how relatively powerless groups unite in their hopelessness to protest against a system or institution that has its own agendas in conservation. Before focusing on the KNP case study, a brief introduction to the genesis of the conservation idea through legally designated national park areas is offered. Genesis of the Conservation IdeaThe genesis of conserving the wild was first born in America out of a sense of lack of self-identity and to enhance a person’s sense of self and his or her appreciation of the world. It originated with the early wilderness philosophers like Henry Thoreau and George This paper was presented at the 18th ECMSAS Conference in Manchester University in July 2008 and is part of PhD work completed from the University of Reading.Ananya Mukherjee (lwr01am@gmail.com) has completed a year's post-doctoral research from the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, United Kingdom.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW june 6, 2009 vol xliv no 2353Catlin (Nash 1973). Catlin’s initial idea was to preserve the pristine landscapes, the wildlife and the native American Indian as a specimen for the world to see. Although, later thinkers such as John Muir and Samuel Bowles drew inspiration from them it had very little impact on policies (Spence 1999). Subsequent acts were passed that advocated the cessation of all rights of the na-tive American Indians and their complete removal (Spence 1999). In fact, when the first national park was created in Yellowstone (1872), it was largely to prevent private acquisition of the hot springs and geysers located in the region and to preserve nature for the enjoyment of scenic beauty (Nash 1973). Wildlife protec-tion emerged as a much later feature (Nash 1973; Spence 1999). With an amendment act (in 1891) revising the existing land laws, it was affirmed that the State had the authority to create “forest reserves” by withdrawing lands from the public domain in the US. With this began the history of the creation of “forest reserves” which later became “national forests”. Fifteen “forest reserves” totalling about 52,60,913 hectares of land (Nash 1973; Pretty 2002) were created. This became a turning point in the history of conservation. Since then, parks and nature reserves became the most prevalent way of conserving wildlife areas throughout the globe. With the national park creation also began the removal of the natives, the American Indians in America being the first (Spence 1999) although this was not a universal phenomenon. Segregating Human-Animal SpacesThe critical factor is the universal adoption of the “Yellowstone national park model” mainly in the developing countries. The unsound application of national park rules to the detriment of the locals, resident in the region has been discussed abundantly in the literature on conflicts in the conservation of national parks in Asia, Africa and Latin America (Hellstrom 2001; Wittmer and Birner 2005). Local communities on their part have historically resisted these dislocations. Apprehension of extreme negative reaction to forcible dislocation was reported by the New York Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission, in the Second Annual Review, in 1896 (as quoted in Jacoby 2001). According to the report, the removal of local squatters engendered a spirit of resentment and revenge, which led to the burning of forests and the destruction of fish and game species (as quoted by Jacoby 2001). Government park reports from the 1960s and 1980s contained references to several violent confrontations between park officials and local residents (United Republic of Tanzania 1964, 1965, 1967 as quoted by Neumann 1998; Feeney 1993: 2; Roy and Jackson 1993; Colchester 1997, 2001, 2004; Pretty 2002). The main argument of these authors has been the unjust policy of expelling the locals for the preservation of park areas for visitors. In addition, the revenues earned from visitors or tourists went to the respective state agencies in conservation at the cost of the socio-economic needs of the locals. Hence, such policies often raised criticism among pro-human conservationists. Another critical point in segregating human-animal spaces is the relationship between nature and indigenous people. The latter, residing in these rural ecosystem areas have an intricately intertwined relationship with nature which influenced their beliefs and practices (Ellen and Harris 2000; Gadgil et al 2000; Berkes et al 2000; Folke 2004). Sudden dispossession uprooted the very essence of their life resulting in destructive behaviour and malicious killings of the very wildlife they valued formerly. Instances of disrupting the established social norms and the legal restrictions surrounding national park areas have been amply demonstrated in the burgeoning literature on forestry in devel-oping nations. The Three Dimensions of PowerWhere the management regime of parks has been draconian, vio-lent outbursts have been strongly suppressed. Some outbursts have mellowed down to latent forms of conflict. This point will be referred to later on in the paper. On this note, power exercised by the dominant group is itself embedded with an internal con-tradiction, that of being disrupted by the dominated. It exists as “capillaries of power” as Michel Foucault termed it (Palmer 2001). It permeates through all social activities, is all pervading and is not just exercised from the top or the centre (ibid). Following from this, conflicts can be located in all those places where power has permeated “invested, colonised, involuted” itself by ever more general mechanisms (ibid: 343). This is evident in the vari-ous social movements organised by people at the grassroots level whereby they protest, negotiate alliances, and infiltrate within the socio-political fabric resisting and challenging the hegemony of the dominant groups. Lukes (1974), Bachrach and Baratz (1970) have given some interesting insights on power and its three dimensions and how it is exercised by either both or only the power holding groups. Power, in this respect, has three dimensions. In the first dimension, it is expressed behaviourally, i e, in the decision-mak-ing process. More specifically, power is exercised in activities which have a direct bearing upon whose will prevails when there is a conflicting situation between two groups (Lukes 1974). This is “institutional power”. In the second dimension, power is mani-fested mainly through the mobilisation of bias in the non-decision making process through coercive means. Through this process, the powerful groups prevent the voicing of opinions through formalised channels. Fear of retribution in the form of suppres-sion and loss of privileges, if their demands are formalised through some legitimate channel, are some of the ways in which this form of power is exercised. As coercion is exercised it has been identified as “coercive power”. Groups and individuals are able to get other individuals’ compliance by threatening to deprive the latter of certain resources (Bachrach and Baratz 1970). In the third dimension, a situation is created whereby the socio-political structure influences, shapes and determines the desires of individuals to the extent that they accept their fate as a fait accompli. Individuals within such a system internalise the sanctions and norms imposed by the social system and resist and operate within the system. This can occur in the absence of real observable conflicts even though the potential for conflict may exist in the form of a latent conflict (Lukes 1974). This is “invisible power” mainly because such acts hardly seem visible or are not usually considered as a formal method of protest against the system, since anger and its visible expressions are withheld
SPECIAL ARTICLEjune 6, 2009 vol xliv no 23 EPW Economic & Political Weekly54(Scott 1990) when the system of domination is absolute such as in autocratic societies. Apparent acquiescence and passivity on the surface thus gives a false picture of the reality, simply, because individuals in this position are aware that they do not have the power to change the socio-political structure. Instead, they resort to alternative means of resisting the social system through non-compliance and other passive means. Flam (2004:172), too, gives a similar explanation, i e, when the social system allows for mini-mal autonomous spaces, it leads to the formation of these sub-cultures of resistance, which not only permits but also celebrates the daily expressions of resistance to the established order. Identifying Conflicts in ConservationConflicts generating from the exercise of the third dimension of power are often overlooked in the study of conflicts in conserva-tion. The tendency is to overlook political action informally organised by relatively powerless people, simmering beneath the surface of mass mobilisation and other forms of open confronta-tion (Morrill et al 2003). The focus of this paper is on these ran-dom acts of resistance culminating from latent tensions arising from a sense of hopelessness and frustration. I assign them as covert forms of conflict. Prior to that, I examine conflicts in general and discuss the two broad forms of conflict, viz, overt and covert.Generally speaking, conflict can be defined as when two groups or individuals try to thwart the other from achieving a particular goal or purpose. Critically speaking, conflicts may range from open violence to latent tension depending on the suc-cessful implementation or use of power by one dominant (deci-sion-making) group over another (non-decision making group) or equally, between two decision-making groups. I examine nat-ural resource conflict. Such conflicts often emerge because peo-ple have various uses of natural resources, such as forests, water, pastures and land. According to Jacqueline Ashby, conflicts are seen as a normal feature of natural resource management (Eber-lee 1998). For instance, in the Galapagos Islands, violent conflicts were associated with the exclusion of a local fishing population from the use of resources (Eberlee 1998). Similar instances of conflicts have been seen in case-study areas like the Honduras, Sudan, Philippines, Laos, India and Indonesia. Natural resource conflicts are disagreements or disputes arising over access to, and control and use of natural resources. In some other instances, they occur because of the disruption of traditional ways of life, environmental devastation, loss of livelihood and food insecurity. Disagreements also arise when these interests and usages become incompatible or when the priorities of some user groups are overlooked while making policies and plans in managing these resources. Conflicts in such cases take the form of locally-based conflict among and within communities, between communities and the local or national government and at times, leading to cross-border conflicts (CNR Solidarity Network, accessed 2006). Natural resource conflict could originate as a simple war of words or may escalate into violence leading to loss of life. Accord-ing to Lewis (1993), conflicts arise in national parks when the substantive needs of the people in nearby communities, (i e, need for grazing land, firewood, building materials, fodder for cattle, etc) come into direct conflict with the conservation needs of the park. Another set of circumstances that may lead to conflict is when the local people are not adequately involved in the decision- making process with regard to park management strategies (Borrini-Feyeraband et al 2002, 2004). Studies from the Caribbeans by Geoghan and Yves Renard illustrate that unless protected area management is merged into the wider landscape management practice and policy involving the local community members, it would always be a hot-bed of conflict from the perspective of the conservationists (Borrini-Feyerabad et al 2002). Such deci-sions isolate the locals preventing them from voicing their de-mands because the repressive regime does not allow space for them to bring up such issues. Such an instance was seen in the case of the Amboseli national park. With the creation of the park, the locals lost their traditional rights to graze cattle. The Maasai population, as a form of protest destroyed important components of wildlife resource (by spearing rhinos, lions and other wildlife) upon which the tourist industry in Amboseli depended (Colchester 1997; Cater 1993 as quoted by Roe et al 1997: 260). In addition, they continued to enter the park, in order to water their cattle. Some also began negotiating with professional poachers and ivory traders by helping them kill rhinos and elephants. Similar instances were seen in Nagarhole national park and Keoladeo national park (Middleton et al 1991; Pimbert and Gujja 1997; Bashir 2000). These are instances of violent conflict.Reverting back to the case of latent conflict discussed earlier, I assign daily passive expression of negative emotions as latent conflicts. Scott (1985) termed it, the everyday forms of resistance. Turton (1986) explained everyday forms of resistance as responses to “everyday forms of oppression or domination”. Larceny, feigned incompetence or ignorance, the very essence of foot-dragging protest is reflected in innumerable revenue officials’ complaints about peasant indolence or carelessness (Scott 1985; Adas 1986). They frequently straddle the nebulous zone between ongoing peasant defences and protest to such a degree that it is difficult to distinguish between them (Adas 1986). State insti-tutions describe such acts as punishable offences and the offenders are usually known as outlaws (Hobsbawm 1959; Jacoby 2001). Such acts were not meant to disrupt the social system or create a huge movement but as Scott says (1985: 36), “these were thousands of individual acts of insubordination and evasion to create a political or economic barrier reef of their own, just as millions of anthozoan, polyps create, willy-nilly a coral reef”. Scott’s work shows how apparently powerless actors internalise the legal bindings of a social system and resist it from within the system. Apparent acquiescence and passivity are its subtle features reflecting the third dimension of power. The next section introduces the case study area and sets the context for the study. Kanha National Park Kanha is one of the biggest national parks of Asia, located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. One of the prominent features of the park’s topography is its river valleys: the Banjar, which flows in
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW june 6, 2009 vol xliv no 2355the west and the Hallon in the east. The park area covers nearly 2,000 sq km of undulating country. Elevations range from 450 to 900 metres. The Surpan river meanders through Kanha’s central grasslands. These grasslands are interspersed with forests of sal, teeming with varieties of deer, chital (spotted deer), thegaur (Indian bison) and the wild boar. Kanha is home to hard ground barasingha (cervus duvauceli branderi), the only surviving popu-lation of this central Indian sub-species. Kanha was declared a national park in 1955. With its creation most of the indigenous human population (i e, the Baigas and Gonds), resident within the forest village were moved out into the boundary area of the park. Any form of human interference such as accessing forest resources, hunting or cattle grazing was completely prohibited within the core region. The boundary area covered 1,005 sq km surrounding the core and was treated as a “multiple use area” where human interference was permitted. The initial area of the park was 253 sq km, which was subsequently expanded in 1964 and 1970 to a size of 446 sq km and much later to 940 sq km in 1973 with the initiation of the Project Tiger programme. Subse-quently, the displacement and relocation of the locals from the core to the boundary or buffer zone of Kanha began. The buffer zone was not a protected area and was spread over two revenue districts. Initially, 15 villages were moved into the buffer zone. With the initiation of the Project Tiger programme, 27 villages were relocated. Most relocated people were given lands outside the core area to grow crops, cattle to plough the land and money to build houses. Cattle grazing and collecting forest resources was permitted in the “multiple use area” something that was completely prohibited within the core region of Kanha. The next section discusses the discontentment and disillusionment follow-ing the displacement of the locals leading to an ambiance of latent conflict. The section also blends the methods used to infer these findings.Form, Content and MethodEven thoughKNP is a well-managed park with a record of increas-ing game numbers, the element of conflict was not absent in the region. Careful exploration of the intricate and complex nature of the conflict in Kanha required the use of ethnographic methods and in-depth interviewing. Extensive field notes recorded the interactions between locals and the park officials or when group discussions took place between the researcher and the people. I began to give more importance to what people said before and after the formal interview sessions and the focus had to be fine-tuned using informal and unstructured methods. To understand the implications of having to follow a strictly protected conserva-tion regime imposed by Kanha state forestry, I gradually began to probe and acquire detailed nuances of people’s feelings towards park rules and regulations. Such detailed questions were asked informally to local inform-ers and forest officials. This was mainly because people were reti-cent in giving out information about the relationship between forest officials and the local people or in identifying any existing malpractices within the bureaucratic framework of the forest department. Questions were never initiated point blank but always after a warm-up session of a discussion of the daily chores of the respondent. To understand the nature of conflict, exten-sive and detailed in-depth conversations with local informants were conducted. Building Confidence before Discussing Sensitive Issues: While conducting fieldwork, I often introduced myself as a book writer visiting Kanha to find out the condition of the local people after the creation of KNP. The initial reactions of the respondents were sceptical. Most of them were unsure about my role, i e, whether I was representing the government or whether I was an independent book-writer. However, my frequent visits during evenings and afternoons when they were at leisure enabled me to build up a rapport with them. In fact, conversation with the people was easily facilitated because of a conscious and sponta-neous decision that I made on the field. After my first week in Kanha, I realised that although people appeared friendly, they appeared reluctant to communicate. At that time, I was living in the state forest department’s guest house. To get closer to my subjects I decided to move into the house of one of the locals, who was renting out rooms for guests visiting Kanha. The fact that I had moved out from the forest department’s guest house to live with the people made a lot of difference. I was now identi-fied as someone who genuinely wanted to know the conditions of the people following their displacement after the national park was created. Another strategy adopted for gaining confi-dence was by requesting the local school teacher to accompany me in order to gain the confidence of the locals. Often I would request my escort, i e, the forest officer to allow me to travel rid-ing pillion on the local teacher’s (Ramu) bicycle from one village to the other. This created familiarity and helped in building confidence and rapport.Most of the findings were inferential. These were drawn from conversations and notes taken during field visits. Warm-up ses-sions were mostly informal with the introduction of names and purpose of the visit. In a particular group discussion between the school inspector, the local school teacher and the local villagers, the nature of illegal practices between the junior forest officers, the state forest department and commercial loggers was revealed. As explained by the school inspector, the forest officers issued licence permits calledchalantothe commercial loggers visiting from nearby towns so that they could enter the park. They could then cut down trees approved by the forest officials and take the wood away in trucks. An important question raised by some of the locals was that when they were not allowed to enter the park (let alone collect forest resources), why were permits granted to commercial loggers? If they were legally permitted to enter the park for their commercial interests, why were the local people stopped? From these questions emerged a deep sense of moral indignation at being overlooked, a sense of being cheated and their interests being side-tracked by the forest department. The predominant feeling was that they should have had more privi-leges than the outsiders, the commercial loggers as these lands were formerly theirs. The conversation gave me the impression that the exclusion of the locals was the main bone of contention among the local people. This was due to two reasons: one, their subsistence needs and
SPECIAL ARTICLEjune 6, 2009 vol xliv no 23 EPW Economic & Political Weekly56second, to vindicate the denial and dispossession of former areas which had been theirs once and which were now state property. Licence permits, as a matter of fact, were given to a few external commercial loggers on a limited basis to transport the felled trees within the forest (School Inspector, Personal Communication 2003). However, a side payment would ensure theentryofmore contractors than permitted in a particular season.Asthelocal people were unable to pay bribes, they were left out. I drew my conclusions based on long conversation with locals who felt that the outside commercial loggers were given permits because they gave bribes to the forest officers (Personal Communication 2003). Witnessing such acts often instigated them into indulging in amoral acts. One villager commented that because they are com-pletely excluded from acquiring any form of privileges from the park, they have lost interest in conserving or caring for the wild animals, to the extent that they would be happy if the animals all died, because anyway they stood to gain practically nothing from the park. This was also brought out in yet another account where the villagers reported that the forest officials were corrupt them-selves which gave them the perfect excuse to break forest laws and regulations. On occasions when visits were made during the leisure time of the people, gathering information and initiating conversation was relatively easier. These were times when men and women came out of their houses and sat in a gathering, drinking the local liquor known asmahua.You heard stories about the privileges that the locals enjoyed when they were young. One narrator ex-plained that when he was young he could enter the forest with his father and grandfather easily. They could collect wood and hunt freely. Those were happy days when they ate meat and col-lected berries and could climb trees. They could also take their cattle inside the forest to graze. But currently, they felt miserable as they not only faced restrictions on entering the forest but their children missed out on a carefree childhood. Sometimes this caused frustration among them and they wanted to move away elsewhere, where there were better employment opportunities. These narrations were usually followed by more probing ques-tions regarding feelings and attitudes towards forests and forest animals when they eventually die, especially tigers which they revered traditionally. The response to this particular question was very revealing.At first the respondent was quiet and then said “yes” it would be bad if all the animals died. This response evoked a trail of re-actions from the women around him. His wife’s response was quite forthright. She jumped up, broke a stick on the floor in an-ger and remarked with an element of sarcasm,Humarra kya! Chahe jiye ya mare, mare to marne do, agar humarra bas chale, uhm saare maar de! (what do we care, whether they live or die, if they die, let them die. In fact, if we could we would kill all the tigers in the forest). Erosion of Socio-Cultural Practices: Historically speaking, the Gonds and the Baigas were known for their spiritual and cultural affiliation to the forests. According to both Baiga and Gond folklore, the tiger held a prominent place. For the Gonds, it was connected to concepts of life and fertility (Thapar 2002: 87). The Baigas had certain superstitious beliefs surrounding them. In fact, the tiger was worshipped to ward off evil. With the sudden dispossession of land and the use of its resources, the Baigas and Gonds gradually began to forget their relation with the wild. With restrictions on their customary practice of bewar cultivation (which ensured re-generation of jungle cover), they were moved away further from their world. The anger and frus-tration vented out by the respondent’s wife indicated that pro-longed disassociation and separation had created indifference towards the wild. The gradual erosion of these values gave them a reason to indulge in practices that were deleterious to the environment. Environmental historian Ramachandra Guha and colleagues (1992) had earlier pointed out that unlike crimes like poaching and larceny that enhanced an individual’s self-interest, these practices were destructive acts borne out of spite like setting the forest ablaze or killing keystone species such as tigers which would jeopardise the very institution of wildlife preservation. Moreover such acts were not committed for any personal gains. Local members in Kanha would sometimes maliciously shoot wild animals or join hands with animal poachers and kill the very same animals that conservationists or other members of the society were trying to preserve (Personal Communication with Forest Range Officer, 2003). These were antagonistic acts and prompted me to probe further for other causes of discontentment as these were mostly questions about moral indignation, legiti-macy and rights. Resistance as a Survival StrategyEven though peasants in Kanha appeared antagonistic towards the strict forest regime they were unable to organise an overt confrontation. Their engagement in illegal practices were ran-dom acts of larceny, illegal grazing of cattle and my research shows that these were survival strategies resorted to in order to seek vindication for the hidden subversive script of the powerful. The latter often openly ridiculed the protagonist class and advised outside researchers never to trust them. The narrative on illegal practice points towards an obvious consequential reality, i e, the retaliation of the dominated against the dominant hegemonic group. Such consequentiality is inevitable when dominated groups within the society challenge the power of the dominant group (Sharp et al 2000). My data showed that the locals sought justification in breaking into the park as they were emboldened by the “hidden subversive scripts” of the powerful which was not obvious to the onlooker but obvious to the grass-roots actors. One of the incidents narrated by a local villager showed that covert form of resistance in Kanha was a regular strategy practised by locals. Faced with the loss of livelihood and economic activity on the one hand and corrupt practices of the state agencies in conservation, on the other, these actors at Kanha opted for a survival strategy. A strategy that is not violent, but antagonistic and hostile and capable of making a farce of the whole social system. They Are Thieves and So Are We: On a visit to one of the vil-lages in the buffer zone, I met a local who was herding cattle
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW june 6, 2009 vol xliv no 2357under a roof to escape from a torrential downpour. On being asked about how his lifestyle was affected by the KNP, he said that he used to live inside the park and has been relocated to the buffer zone of the park. I asked him if he faced any prob-lems after his relocation, viz, in pursuit of livelihoods and cattle grazing. He said that entering the park had become difficult but he often entered illegally. Once I reassured him that I was not from the state forest department, he remarked sarcastically that he did not care for the park or the wild animals in there because he felt deprived on having been moved out forcibly from the park. In addition, the forest officials, according to him, were “thieves” themselves and engaged in various forms of malpractices. They took bribes and often deducted a portion from compensation claims and it is only the locals who suffered at the hands of these officers. Therefore they felt justified in entering the park illegally. Relocation often meant loss of for-merly enjoyed privileges whilst living inside the park. This as-pect reflected an existing moral charge among the peasants, to protest and break the law which was provoked by the illegal practices of the lower ranked forest officials inKNP. The infer-ence was drawn from the above narrative. Feed them Chicken: In a sense, being robbed of prior rights and the existing malpractices among the forest officers vindicated the acts of pilfering in the minds of the locals, since to them these were not acts of crime. This was multiplied by the fact that employment opportunities or casual wage labour was usually dependent on whoever was able to curry favour from the forest officers. This usually involved offering officers bribes in cash or kind. This was another instance of corrupt practices prevailing within the state agencies in conservation. On being asked about the condition of the job market and employment opportunities in and around Kanha, a respondent said that there were few jobs available. Forest officers often did not hire labourers unless they were bribed and sometimes the local people had to bribe the junior forest officers, mostly in kind, and please them in order to enter their good books. This is brought out in the following quote by the respondent: Murgi khilana parta hein tab jake kam dete hein!(Have to feed them some chicken before they give you some work!) In all the discussions above, the emerging themes and concepts point towards a struggle for existence by the people. The various survival strategies resorted to by the rural poor were motivated by what they saw as corrupt practices of the state forest officials. In some instances, such practices stemmed from their “live and let live policy” and in some instances from their attitude of “they are thieves and so are we”. It also spoke of the relationship be-tween the state agency of conservation and the local inhabitants of the region and explained why local people refused to comply with park rules and regulations and resorted to park resources furtively. These strategies were everyday forms of resistance which were resorted to in order to meet their daily sustenance needs. They amorally ransacked their environment in order to vindicate as well as meet their sustenance needs (Thompson 1991:338). For poor, subjugated peasants in Kanha, a guaranteed subsistence was far more important than maximising profits and so they engaged in arrangements that reduced the risk of falling below subsistence levels. That is, they invested in building social ties at all levels (Neumann 1998). Social ties meant addressing the incumbent with words like “sir” or occasionally mai baap (my mother and father). To borrow from Scott, “with rare, but signifi-cant, exceptions the public performance of the subordinate will, out of prudence, fear and the desire to curry favour, (is) be shaped to appeal to the expectations of the powerful” (Scott 1990:2). This included wealthy patrons and junior forest officials. The relations were based on principles of reciprocity and mutual obli-gation. As Wolf (1966) explained, it is in the best interests of indi-viduals to build up a variety of relations within their moral com-munity to increase their security mainly in different contexts where they had their stakes in order to avoid being overexploited by the social system.Mutual Sharing and Caring: On several occasions, when there were difficulties in acquiring resources without getting caught, the protagonists developed an unspoken or tacit understanding between them and the junior level forest officers. A relationship based on the mutual sharing and caring of resources developed in order to ensure the survival of the weaker parties; a case where submission as subordinates to the superior was beneficial in the long run, instead of developing hostility towards them. Thus hostile attitudes between two different groups, initially gave way to a friendly relationship of mutual co-existence. The mere fact of engaging in conflict was often to bring about a common acceptance of the rules governing the conduct of hostilities. Such rules contributed to the socialisation of the contending parties by imposing restraints on both groups. Thus for instance, a conflict over the ownership of a piece of land or accessing a particular resource meant that both parties to the conflict accepted the idea of property rights or the rules regarding the access of particular resources. Having accepted the basic rules, they then modified them to suit their interests.Conflicts of this nature, where a set of rules was prevalent, re-vitalised existent norms and created a new framework of norms within which the contenders struggled. As Weber explained, the clash of interests recreated and modified the existing code of law (Coser 1956) even though these may be largely unwritten and in-formal. Such was the case in Kanha. Locals adopted a mutual sharing attitude so that both parties survived and their needs were met. Scott (1976) interpreted this as the need of the weaker party, which enabled the stronger to impose an exchange that violated the true value of things and was extortionary. As illus-trated in the excerpt below, respondents in Kanha clearly stated that in order to survive they struck a bargain with the stronger party, i e, the forest officials. The former paid a price, which is less than that of a fine but enough to satisfy the demands of the extortionary group. The survival needs of the locals in Kanha enabled those in power to impose an exchange, which was not legal or just, but helped the relatively powerless to survive. In accordance with Scott’s conceptual analysis (1976), this imposition ran the risk of treating the individual, who was the weaker of the two (i e, the forest official or the local indigene) as a kind of marketplace individualist, who ransacked his environment in
SPECIAL ARTICLEjune 6, 2009 vol xliv no 23 EPW Economic & Political Weekly58order to stabilise his subsistence arrangements. In fact, what is paradoxical is the way in which peasants in Kanha tried to exploit an official or a local forest guard in order to avoid being exploited by the dominant group. Following from Bailey (1971), in his attempt to survive, the peasant transformed the modern specialised relationship which he had with that man (the forest guard in this case), into a multiplex relationship, a type which was characteristic of his own peasant world. An excerpt from an informal conversation with a respondent from the core village of Kanha supports the above inference. I: So what happened if you got caught?R: Well, I did get caught a couple of times.I: So what happened? Did you get fined?R: Yes, if we get caught then we are in trouble.I: You know that many forest villages have been resettled outside Kan-ha. So don’t forest officials trouble you by asking you to move out from here?R: No, they don’t. I: What do you mean? R: No, they don’t trouble us too much. Only when we hide and bring our stuff they ask for a share. They say tum bhi bacho, hum bhi bache! (Live and let live policy).I: So when you hide and bring stuff, do they take them away? R: Yes. It’s more a matter of mutual sharing and coexistence. I mean you give and share a little of each. Yes, lets mutually share and coexist quietly. Interpreting Resistance and Passive Retaliation The occasional opportunity to disrupt the established social norms and to break away from the legal bindings of a social system provides catharsis to suppressed individuals within a group. The growth of a sub-culture of resistance in Kanha showed how weak and oppressed social actors (excluded socio-economically) got transformed from being exploited to being exploitative. An important finding from the study is that everyday forms of resistance in Kanha are an outcome of the third dimension of power. With it, a situation is created whereby the socio-political structure influences individual desires to the extent that they accept their condition as a fait accompli. The prevalent norms of the society are internalised (Lukes 1974). It does not require visibility in the decision-making process but an apparent internalisation of the predominant norms of the society within the existing socio-political structure. As it is deeply embedded within, it only manifests itself as quiet acquiescence and apparent passivity. Another important finding is that these daily passive expres-sions of negative emotions are a culmination of a bigger agenda. Scott’s (1985) argument that only weak political actors have hidden agendas revealed offstage where they are safe and un-observed does not take into account the fact that the powerful hegemonic groups too have hidden transcripts to propitiate their vested politico-economic agendas from above. This point is echoed by Greenhouse (2005) as well. She argued that the “hid-den transcripts” of domination existed within the framework of the state power so that they are not visible to the society at large. The case study in Kanha showed that it was not just the hidden agenda of the dominated but the hidden agenda of the dominant group which needed attention. Nuijten (2003) called this the “murky side of the state”. The ‘Murky Side of the State’: Although, the state played a central role in managing forest resources, its role was circum-scribed by two factors. First, it was not an impartial observer in such struggles and oftenwasan active participant. In addition, the state was often driven by conflicting interests (Bryant 1992; Saberwal and Rangarajan 2003). The failure of the Kanha state forestry to control daily struggles and strife was also due to the agenda-based division between the state functionaries and within the many layers of government. This is not excluding the bureaucratic structure and colonial attitude of the policymakers with regard to the management and control over natural resources within the park. Several narratives revealed the behaviour of the state functionaries in Kanha, who humiliated these weak po-litical actors, their customs and “ways of life” in order to justify their patronisation. This transformation of the relationship between the weak and the powerful into an effective weapon of the weak belied the hidden subversive script of the powerful. This was overlooked by Scott (1985) who only magnified the weak position of the power-less and their resistance against the social system. My argument is that it is perhaps the purposeful intention of the powerful to portray the weak as pilferers, poachers and rule-breakers with-out any consideration to the several other factors that are respon-sible for the local people’s engagement in deviant practices. To a certain extent the powerful instigated such deviant behaviour among the locals. On many occasions, the powerful made the mi-norities the scapegoats and stressed their weaknesses with a pur-pose, i e, to vindicate and perpetuate their daily acts of humilia-tion and their insubordination.Scott had described the patient, silent struggles carried on by rural communities as more than mere flashes in the pan (1985:28). Contrary to that, in Kanha, the nature of the struggle was largely unorganised and disunited. Other than the sharing of a moral sub-culture of resistance whereby each supported the other whilst committing an illegal act, there were occasional incidents of organised crime such as poaching. I assign these as mere an-tagonistic acts. The daily struggle against park rules was not done systematically but was in the form of a constant struggle between the peasantry and those who sought to exploit their la-bour and daily sustenance needs. Most of the forms of struggle stopped well short of collective, outright defiance. Instead, as my ethnographic observations and data showed, they assumed the form of defying the law by letting cattle inside the park and sneaking into the core region of Kanha meadow to collect re-sources that were strictly prohibited such as bamboo, wood for fuel and other minor forest produce. These daily skirmishes re-quired little or no coordination or planning. More often they rep-resented a form of individual self-help, and typically avoided any direct symbolic confrontation with elite authority.The state, however, had its own agenda of wanting the researcher to believe that it had been unsuccessful in reducing conflicts between the locals and the conservationists in the re-gion. The underlying reason for this was to purposefully overlook

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