Antje Linkenbach presents a working paper on ‚Adivasi perspectives on ‘development’, ‘self-determination’ and ‘rights’‘

The following paper presents experience-near perspectives and aspirations voiced by female and male Adivasis from Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, who engage in countering mainstream development. The paper also attempts to bring the micro-concepts into conversation with scholarly (macro-)conceptual reflections.

The subsequent considerations take inspiration from a) two workshops with scholars and Adivasi activists held in Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Delhi in 2014, and b) the documentation of a workshop held in Kalunga (Odisha) in 2015, with Adivasi and members of NGOs. All workshops laid the focus on experience-near narratives, descriptions and concepts, as well as aspirations communicated in the vernaculars as well as in English.

The workshops showed clearly and convincingly that ‘development’, as conceptualized and enforced by the Indian state and the related economic players (like corporations), is experienced by Adivasi as violent, destructive and expressing a lack of recognition of their own life-worlds. However, despite marginalization and suffering, Adivasis have hope and the ‘capacity to aspire’ (Appadurai), as well as the strength to fight with legal and political measures.

Central to Adivasi aspirations are visions and strategies evolving around the notions of ‘life’ (jivan), governance / self-control over the vital resources like water, forest, and land (ham loogoon kaa khud shaasan), and rights (adhikaar). Adivasi increasingly emphasize their status as equal citizens and part of a common humanity. In this capacity they claim to have the legal and the moral right to pursue the life they want, and they are prepared to realize these rights through grassroot democratic means.