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Vagrant Community Life

Jagannath Ambagudia

By Daniel Buckles and Rajeev Khedkar with Bansi Ghevde and Dnyaneshwar Patil
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2013, pp. xviii 230, Rs. 595.00


The age of liberalization, privatization and globalization has raised a number of issues, which are central to the tribal life in India. One such important issue is the land question, which is generally considered as a ‘philosophy of tribal life’. The tribal society has been experiencing a series of struggles and conflicts around the land question. The book under review deals with such a struggle of tribal communities in the context of Karjat, Khalapur and Sudhagad talukas of Raigad district, Maharashtra. It discusses the struggle of the Katkaris, formally recognized as a particularly ‘vulnerable tribal group’, for land and housing rights.   The book begins with the origin of the gaothan (village site) problem in the broader framework of the changing relationship between the Katkari and the caste-based agrarian societies of the coastal districts of Maharashtra. The history of the gaothan problem is associated with three aspects, such as Katkari migration from forested hills to the outskirts of caste villages on the coastal plain, integration into rural and migratory livelihood where the Katkari could easily be bonded and systematic exclusion from the caste communities (p. 16). The authors argue that the vulnerable position of the Katkari community is not due to their cultural identity but due to the changing nature of their relationship with the landholders who once invited them to settle near their private lands in order to get cheap labour for their agricultural activities and to protect their crops from destruction by wild boars. Depicting the lifestyle of the Katkari community during the colonial period and how they were dependent on forests for their livelihood, the book focuses on their changing approach to livelihood.   Land tensions between the landholders and the Katkari community of Raigad district emerged during the 1990s due to the booming Mumbai economy. The nature of this economy helped to generate interest in those private lands by the middle classes. The establishment of film studios in Karjat definitely contributed to increasing the value of land and the landholders became greedy and thought of selling their lands to the middle class. The landholders do not allow them to either build new houses or expand their existing hamlets. The landholders also explore opportunities to sell the land, for instance, when the Katkaris migrate to brick kilns for six to eight months each year leaving their households unattended; this situation has cleverly been utilized by the landholders who initiate the ...

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