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Making pickles during a ceasefire: Livelihood, sustainability, and development in Nagaland

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Development projects in the North East are packaged as economic interventions to improve the lives of people, but are detached from militarised ground realities. These initiatives to rebuild post-conflict societies mainly focus on training entrepreneurs and promoting livelihood schemes while overlooking how violence has transformed the very foundation of these societies. Generalising from the example of a workshop on food preservation in Nagaland that had no participants, this paper points out that governance should be rooted in the political and social history of a place - it should not be categorised as a time-bound crisis management project.
... This was not unusual. Portraying cultivators as people lagging behind development and progress was a theme that emerged in government schemes and projects focused on agriculture and livelihood (Kikon 2015). But officials I met during my fieldwork praised the hybrid seeds as harbingers of science and progress. ...
... Economic empowerment programmes on the ground are often linked to larger issues of land ownership, distribution, and privatisation, and it is insufficient to limit it to workshops. Linking gender relations and infrastructure projects in Northeast India forces us to ask different questions such as the new composition of households (female headed houses), employment opportunities, decisions making powers and the institutional support systems for women who are increasingly losing their land to extractive resource companies involved in coal mining, timber and limestone (Kikon 2015). ...
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The recent post-insurgency years in Assam, one of the eight states of India’s northeastern periphery, are marked by a strong desire for peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. This paper, however, contends that advances in this direction were already being made during the most violent decades of Assam history. It delves into the transformative impact of violent ethno-nationalist conflicts and argues that they caused, among other changes, a realignment of ethnic relations and redistribution of political rewards and holdings; attempts by civil society organisations at identity reformation and redefinition of ethno-nationalist goals; the mainstreaming of ‘ethnic’ and fusion music, jewellery and clothing; and an unprecedented growth of local, successful entrepreneurial ventures. Violent conflicts are sustained because they are lucrative for everybody: armed forces, insurgent armies and state machinery alike. This paper argues that peace and reconciliation can also be equally rewarding. The need is for an adjustment of approach and a reframing of the conflict narrative. This might prevent violent conflicts from erupting in future besides having a salutary effect on the ones that are ongoing.
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