Conservation—A Contested Story: The State and the Kadar Adivasis, India

Divya Kalathingal
PhD Scholar,
School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Deonar, Mumbai-400088

The Adivasis’ ownership rights over resources are intertwined with the history of managing, conserving and governing the Indian forest by the colonial and post-colonial State. This history has been divided into three different phases in this paper. In the first phase, the forestry was merely understood in terms of managing the forest and enforcement of the colonial rules and regulations. This model was primarily based on the commercial and economic significance of the forest. In the second phase, there was a shift from management to conservation of the forest. In both these stages, rights of the Adivasis over resources were curtailed. In the third phase, the forestry was turned to forest governance and the Adivasi rights started getting recognised in a greater degree compared to the past. In this historical context, this paper explores the impact of State-led forest management in India on the cultural, social and economic life of the local community through an empirical analysis of the Kadar Adivasi community in Kerala, India. Kadar community is one of the severely marginalised groups due to the State’s various development and conservation programmes. This paper unravels the various ways in which post-colonial laws in India have consistently failed to offer any legal protection and eventually marginalised the locality specific knowledge on conservation developed by the indigenous people through their cultural institutions, which have been informed by their lived experience in the forest areas over a long period of time. The paper concludes by delineating the complex interface between conservation practices of the Kadar Adivasis and the State initiated policies and programmes for conserving the forest and its resources.


Conservation, cultural institutions, kadar adivasis, social interface, state.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893