Thematic Module 4: Normative Conflicts and Transformation

Siddharth Sareen  (Copenhagen)

Siddhart Sareen

Governing the conflicted commons: Authorising resource access in the Indian tribal belt

This project is based on a study of how government action impacts access and authority in local political spheres in the state of Jharkhand. In this central eastern Indian state, the state-building takes place in a resource-conflict region with strong implications for local governance and state formation.

A central claim is that the state currently comprises both governmental and extra-governmental authorities at the local level, based on their provision of access to benefits arising from natural resources and welfare services. Local contestation is not only over rights, but also about access through structural and relational mechanisms. This leads to inequitable benefit distribution that differs from legal entitlements – another key claim. While rights claimed from afar centralised authority, access based on power relations sets up new institutional configurations. The third claim is that this produces the local state, one that is largely top-down, lacks accountability, and perpetuates inequitable access to resources benefitting locally powerful actors. Yet at the local level there is not only conflict but cooperation, not only struggle but negotiation and an effort to organise. The writing will capture how this occurs but is constrained, and suggest how it can be enabled in the future towards equity and inclusion.

Siddharth Sareen has just completed his dual PhD in Development Studies from the University of Copenhagen and Padova University (Italy). His research focus is on authority over and access to resources in the state-building, resource-conflict context of the Indian state of Jharkhand. Prior to his fellowship at ICAS:MP he had a research stay at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), Copenhagen. While at ICAS:MP, he will continue this research and writing-up about his doctoral work. Siddharth was trained as a development researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and also spent time at the Contemporary India Study Centre, Aarhus (Denmark). His further research interests include social and environmental equity and justice, and plans to investigate into the politics of solar energy in the near future.

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