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The Mirage of Permanent Boundaries: Politics of Forest Reservation in the Western Himalayas, 1875-97

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Chhatre, Ashwini
Journal: Conservation & Society
Volume: 1
Date: 2003
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3287
Sector: History
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): forests--history
property rights--history
Abstract: "Forests of the Western Himalayas, particularly the hill districts of colonial Punjab in India, became sites of intense negotiations over issues of demarcation of state property and definition of user rights in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, even as the debates over the Indian Forest Act came to a close. In implementing newfound powers, the Forest Department was frustrated, first, by the characterisation of the region as anomalous by the Revenue Department, and second, by overt resistance from local communities. In the web of interests and ideologies, emerging interactions between state and social actors were crystallised, and defined the contours of state society relationships. In the process of negotiating the demarcation of forests, interdepartmental rivalries between the Revenue and Forest Departments intersected with the tension between central direction and local autonomy. Legal categories enshrined in the law were reinterpreted in imaginative dimensions to correspond with local practices and new ways of imagining forests emerged that defied, and sometimes contradicted, the spirit of the law. The result could be seen as a compromise between positions of extensive and intensive territorialisation within the state, which graded forests hierarchically in new categories, nested within the law and created a supra-tenure that went beyond legal categories. Such an optic helps in better understanding and explaining the variation in the project of territorialisation in colonial India."

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