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

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The New Land Settlement Act in Arunachal Pradesh

The social systems of the north-eastern hill tribal communities have remained deeply embedded in their unique land relations. The emerging political economy in the region—as manifested in the various infrastructure projects, urbanisation, cash crop plantations, etc—has, however, accentuated an onslaught on these customary land relations. The new Arunachal Pradesh (Land Settlement and Records) (Amendment) Act, 2018 has generated fresh apprehensions about further dispossession of the hill tribes.

North East India’s specificity as a region remains much discussed. This specificity is emphasised by the distinctive sociocultural practices of the region’s numerous tribal communities, which hinge on their unique ways of use and ownership of land. Traditionally, many of these tribal communities, both in the plains and the hills, practised shifting cultivation and enjoyed communal ownership of land. While colonial rule changed much of this in the plains, these practices have continued in the hill areas in different forms till today. This remained possible despite many challenges, due to the various protective measures that the Constitution provides for the hill states in the region.

However, in recent times, the traditional landownership pattern in the tribal societies of the region is undergoing rapid transformation. At the centre of this is the onslaught of massive encroachment of the tribal community land (Sarap 2017). Various development projects as well as the process of urbanisation in the region are contributing to this process of change, leading to an increasing privatisation and commercialisation of tribal community land. The state has been the main perpetrator of this process (Sharma 2001). Simultaneously, the emerging tribal elites, including politicians, bureaucrats, contractors, businessmen, etc, are also engaged in large-scale usurpation of the community land for various purposes, especially for cash crop plantations (D’Costa and Chakraborty 2017).

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