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

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Dalits and the Environment

Caste and Nature: Dalits and Indian Environmental Politics by Mukul Sharma, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017; pp 296, ₹995.


[A shorter version of this review was published in the Contemporary South Asia journal on 2 August 2019.]


The scholarship and practice of  environmental politics in India has consistently attributed the decay in the environment to the invasive practices ushered under colonialism and taken forward by the post-colonial state in the name of development. As a standard of critique and a site of alternative, scholars, activists, all have relied upon and produced a romanticised discourse of the pre-colonial past. As a student interested in environmental politics, I had also grown up within this discourse, which had developed the binary opposition of evil modernity and virtuous tradition.

Mukul Sharma’s book makes a powerful dent in this line of thought. Two key themes that Sharma addresses are: One, discerning and problematising the homo­geneous, romanticised and Brahminical interpretation of environment in the various movements and writings in post-independence India; and two, highlighting the agency, resistance and assertion of Dalits on the question of environment. The intent is to showcase the play of power and caste within the environmental politics and highlight the multiple perspectives on environment that have been neglected. At a time when “going native” and “indigenous lifestyle” is being propagated as a pill of the environmental ills, Sharma brings in a cautionary interjection.

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Updated On : 28th May, 2020
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