arcadian spaces beyond
the shadows of the state
There is every reason to be sympathetic to indigenous rights activists,
particularly when they seek to influence policy in contexts where
state practices have treated marginalized populations as expend-
able. However, such sympathy needs to be combined with reflection
and sensitivity to the violence that may result from well-intentioned
but simplistic arguments and claims. Though the situation in Jhar-
khand is by no means uniform, either spatially and historically—and
though the politics of indigeneity might play out di√erently there
than elsewhere in the world—it does suggest that there is an im-
portant class dimension to indigenous rights movements that gets
lost in the identity politics they produce. In Jharkhand, the indige-
nous rights activists come from urban, educated, middle-class back-
grounds. Their visions and values are often very di√erent from those
of their poorer counterparts, such as the Mundas of Tapu, whom
they claim to speak for, and whose lives and livelihoods they may
unintentionally be further marginalizing. As John Gledhill suggests,
the danger of indigenous rights propositions is that they create an
identity-based politics which ultimately divides people and prevents
the formation of a more significant, redistributive class struggle.∞
While a class-based struggle that better represents adivasi people
is clearly important for the Mundas, I have reservations about the
promises of the revolutionary Naxalite movement—inspired by
Marx, Lenin, and Mao—based on its initial expansion in this part of
Jharkhand. The movement’s tactics may change in the future, and of
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