Dispossession and Resistance in India and Mexico


, by BASTIAN DUARTE Angela Ixkic, JAIRATH Vasundhara

Alpuyeca : Lucha contra la minera canadiense. Photo : Eneas De Troya, mars 2013

Dispossession and Resistance in India and Mexico

This file is the result of an experiment in cross border collaborative research and documentation across Global South contexts. It brings together academics, researchers, students, activists, and journalists to explore the multiple forms and shapes of dispossession produced through a development imperative, in two distant lands that share a similar location in the global political economy. It has drawn people not only from different fields, but also people that speak different languages, and who are familiar with different kinds of literature and styles of writing. The experience has been a truly enriching one while also challenging at the same time. We hope that such an experiment will galvanize similar efforts in building bridges and dialogues across Global South contexts. Putting the experiences in India and Mexico in dialogue with each other offers new angles of analysis, brings to the fore new questions in order to think about our own realities, and opens up the possibility for collective reflection about shared concerns.

Through this file of fifteen articles on Dispossession and Resistance in India and Mexico, we have put together a range of articles that engage with, on the one hand, the mechanisms, structures and policy frameworks of dispossession, most often in the form of physical displacement (though not always), and on the other, on strategies of resistance to such processes. The articles focus on dispossession from land to understand, first and foremost, the institutional framework put in place by the State that facilitates the process of dispossession. With an understanding of state policy and mandated procedures, as laid out on paper, the file explores a range of case studies in India and Mexico to examine the several ways in which these play out on the ground. The cases together include representative instances from public-sector undertakings, private initiatives, land acquisition for the purpose of defense by state armed forces as well as dispossession bolstered by non-state armed groups, and dispossession without physical displacement from land in the form of loss of control over productive processes. It further looks at instances where attempted forcible dispossession has been successfully resisted, to understand when and how such projects are stalled by the power of popular mobilization. Finally, we draw on these cases to lay out the broad contours of the structures of dispossession and resistance in India and Mexico. It further addresses an increasingly important issue of concern across the globe – that of criminalization of resistance in the context of anti-dispossession social movements.

Through this analysis we find several points of convergence and similarities, as well as specificities in the form of dispossession in India and Mexico. We find, for example, that the State in both countries plays a significant role in allowing and expediting the entry of private capital across sectors, including strategic and traditionally state sectors; corruption and impunity of state actors and government institutions have worked towards facilitating the process of dispossession of people from their lands. It is noteworthy that criminalization of resistance, legal and illegal, has intensified, where environmental activists are being persecuted, jailed, even killed in both contexts. Amongst the specificities of the two contexts, we may highlight that despite the common factor of violence in both countries, the presence of organized crime in the case of Mexico has played a critical role, particularly in the last decade. With strong connections with development projects, these organized crime groups are often the more direct face of dispossession and displacement from land, even as figures are hard to assess given the nature of the problem. Therefore, while development-induced-displacement takes a more direct and concrete form in the case of India, in Mexico it comes to be mediated by organized crime, making for a dangerous concoction of violence, capitalism and state power. Further, resistances acquire particular expressions, inasmuch as their cultural comprehension of the world and specific historical trajectories influence the manner in which communities express their opposition and, in some cases, search for alternatives.

This has been a collective project and many people have contributed in different and important ways to see it through completion. We would like to thank the authors who have contributed through studying a range of cases in the two countries. Without the critical help of the translators in Mexico – Belinda Cornejo Duckles, Manuela Arancibia Macleod and Julio Pisanty-Alatorre – this task would have been immensely more difficult. Finally, Apoorva Gautam’s contribution to editing the articles was most crucial to the completion of this project. We are deeply thankful and appreciative of every individual’s contribution to this collective project.


Angela Ixkic Bastian Duarte – She is a Research Professor at the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos (UAEM). Her areas of interest include gender, ethnicity and environment.
Vasundhara Jairath – She is an Assistant Professor at the department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Assam. Her areas of interest include social movements, development, displacement and indigenous politics.