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Debating Land and Development at the Margins: Political Discourse, State-Society Relations, and the Maoist Conflict in India


· Denise Ripamonti IICRR, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University (Dublin, Ireland)


07/28 | 15:50-16:10 UTC+2/CEST


This paper investigates the construction of dominant discourses on land and development in the context of the Indian state’s response to the Maoist conflict after the neoliberal turn of India’s economy in 1991. In particular, it explores the discursive processes lying at the basis of a counterinsurgency policy paradigm which, over the years, has consolidated the conflation of development and security priorities of the Indian state in territories under Maoist influence. In an attempt to contextualise the institutionalisation of this policy approach within its historical and socio-political processes, the paper focuses on a discourse analysis of parliamentary activities, official documents, media and civil society reports which have shaped the political debate on key development policies/schemes formulated by the Indian state to respond to the Maoist insurgency post-1991. In particular, the analysis uncovers the political-discursive strategies enacted to normalise state practices in relation to land claims/rights and socio-economic development of marginal communities in Maoist affected areas. Grounded at the intersection of discourse theory and critical security/conflict studies, the paper argues that the formation of hegemonic narratives on development and economic growth in the current political debate on the Maoist movement is based on discursive processes aimed at creating political imaginaries which ultimately define state’s legitimacy and regulate political communities on the margins in conflict-ridden societies.