Standing up for Forest: A Case Study on Baiga Women’s Mobilization in Community Governed Forests in Central India


Tyagi, Niharika, and Smriti Das. 2020. “Standing up for Forest: A Case Study on Baiga Women’s Mobilization in Community Governed Forests in Central India.” Ecological Economics 178 (November).

Authors: Niharika Tyagi, Smriti Das


The forest history in India is fraught with struggles between the forest dwelling communities and the state. While the state usurped power over forests, excluding the communities and privileging commercial interests; the alienation of communities from their own land and homes resulted in mobilization across different sites. The movement for protection of forest commons assumed significance through the decade of 1970s that saw the famous Chipko movement in Uttarakhand and other forms of resistance across the country. The demand upon the forests that had intensified with subsistence, commercial and urbanization pressures, further enhanced with pressures of globalization. The consequent environmental degradation and dispossession of the communities of their resources resulted in varieties of environmentalism. In the arena of environmental conflict, Central India has been a hotbed of contest with forcible evictions, increasing base of extractive industries and steady militarization. The tribal communities in Central India faced serious threat from a monolithic state as it prioritized ‘national development’ goals over social equity and environmental justice. Rooted in this inequity was widespread discontent and social mobilization across the forested landscape. The local mobilization in Baiga Chak area of Central India clearly marked recognition of their socio-cultural embeddedness in their natural setting, particularly forest. What was unique in this movement was the uprising of Baiga women to assert their rights over the forest contrary to their traditionally defined role. It gradually led to collectivization of demand for recognition of Baiga communities’ historical relationship and claims over forest resource. Using the framework of Feminist Political Ecology, this paper examines Baiga women’s movement against Forest Department’s unlawful practices in Baiga Chak region of Central India. Using a case-based approach, the paper addresses the following questions: What factors led to the feminized grassroots environmental movement? How have women’s bargaining power and gender relations evolved at the local level consequently? What effect does women’s resistance have on community governed forest systems? In response to state usurpation that threatened the livelihood and household well-being, Baiga women collectively struggled to regain control over local forest resources. The analysis of this gendered environmental movement establishes an intersection between local structural, economic and ecological concerns and signals possibility of several gendered social movements in contested resource geographies.

Keywords: women's movements, feminist political ecology, gender roles and relations, forest commons

Topics: Environment, Extractive Industries, Feminisms, Feminist Political Ecology, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Indigenous, Land Grabbing, Livelihoods, Rights, Indigenous Rights, Land Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2020

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