Colonial Influences on Property, Community, and Land Use in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

"British rale in the western Himalayan hill state of Kangra, which began in 1846, represented both continuities with, and disjunctures from, precolonial notions of sovereignty, property, and rule. Early colonial administrators, like their predecessors the Katoch rajas, were attuned to the importance of symbolic representations of state power. The early British revenue assessments in Kangra were also modeled after those of the prior Sikh government. However, the first land settlement of Kangra in 1850 facilitated changes in the control, use, and area of agricultural and forest lands in Kangra. These changes resulted from three interrelated processes. First, during the inherently contentious process of recording rights to land, settlement officers in this hill region applied models of property rights and the village community that had developed on the plains and that were informed by European notions of private property and agricultural development. The result was the creation of new 'traditions' of land use and control. Second, Revenue Department officials emphasized the notion of property as a transferable economic resource that was allocated to individual property owners, in contrast to precolonial conceptions of property as an instrument for securing political legitimacy by distributing 'interests' in property among different groups. Third, the Revenue and Forest Departments' use of land ownership as the sole criteria for assigning rights to forests and uncultivated areas increased local inequities; landless and nonagricultural groups were disenfranchised from resources to which they had previously possessed usufructuary rights of access and use."
colonization, property rights, land tenure and use, village organization, agriculture, economic development