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

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Many Faces of the Pathalgadi Movement in Jharkhand

The Pathalgadi movement has not only generated a new spate of Adivasi identity assertion around a customary practice, but also questioned the very notion of governmentality and development through the meaningful empowerment of the gram sabha as an alternative agency of village governance. It has emerged as a multifaceted movement that has political, ethnic, and ecological overtones.

The principle of democracy had captured the imagination of Indians during the nationalist struggle for independence as it had the potential to fulfil the demands of each and every section of the country. Ideally, in any democracy, the state has to be democratic in temperament, but when the state arrogates power at the cost of its people, the responsibility to pressurise the government by building public opinion devolves on civil society. Therefore, pressure groups complement the institution of democracy itself (Chandhoke and Priyadarshi 2009: viii). In recent months, this became the major issue in the Adivasi-dominated states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (mp) and Odisha, born out of the frustration of the Adivasi communities. They believe that their nativity, and close and continuous linkage with the landscape, which are the markers of their collective selfhood, are being threatened in order to sustain the development model of the state. We have witnessed a spate of Adivasi struggles in the colonial and post-independence eras over issues of jal, jungle and jameen (water, forest and land). The modality of protest has been legal and extralegal. Interestingly, they often used their traditional cultural symbols to organise popular movements in defiance of the state and the machinery that imposes it. The Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand, in this sense, is a reminder of the renewed struggle of the Adivasis to assert their authority over their landscape.

Pathalgadi, the act of erecting stones to mark a happy, sad, or significant occasion is the traditional practice of the Adivasis. This practice is generating debate amongst the Adivasis of central India, scholars, academicians and government agencies. It has helped in polarising Adivasis under the umbrella of a customary practice and has given sheen to the issues of power of the gram sabhas, and assertion of identity. Furthermore, it presents a challenge to the statist idea of governmentality and development that had relegated these issues to the background in the growing political rhetoric of development. No doubt, heightened activities around this issue are occupying the centre stage in India’s tribal-dominated states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, MP and Odisha (Singh 2018).

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Updated On : 18th Mar, 2019


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