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Alienation in Neoliberal India and Bangladesh: Diversity of Mechanisms and Theoretical Implications


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In this article, selected evidence from contemporary India and Bangladesh is analyzed to identify the diverse mechanisms of land alienation at work. A typology of such mechanisms is developed for this purpose, based on a critical review of theoretical approaches to primitive accumulation (Marx 1976) and accumulation by dispossession (ABD) (Harvey 2005). In this typology, mechanisms of land alienation and primitive accumulation can be direct or indirect and may or may not involve the use of force. Moreover, multiple mechanisms can operate in combination. The application of this typology to the empirical evidence shows that mechanisms of land alienation exist under all its broad categories. Accordingly, it is concluded that notions of primitive accumulation/ABD which are confined to extra-economic or non-market characterizations are unduly restrictive and correspond to special cases that cannot accommodate the entire range of mechanisms displayed by the evidence from neoliberal India and Bangladesh. Moreover, capitalism itself can operate as a driving force of ongoing primitive accumulation/ABD, corresponding to direct mechanisms of land alienation. Correlatively, primitive accumulation/ABD can be generated by autonomous factors and the lands so released can be potentially deployed in capitalist production, corresponding to indirect mechanisms of land alienation.
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South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic
13 | 2016
Land, Development and Security in South Asia
Alienation in Neoliberal India and Bangladesh:
Diversity of Mechanisms and Theoretical
Shapan Adnan
Electronic version
DOI: 10.4000/samaj.4130
ISSN: 1960-6060
Association pour la recherche sur l'Asie du Sud (ARAS)
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Shapan Adnan, « Alienation in Neoliberal India and Bangladesh: Diversity of Mechanisms and
Theoretical Implications », South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 13 | 2016, Online since
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Alienation in Neoliberal India and
Bangladesh: Diversity of
Mechanisms and Theoretical
Shapan Adnan
1 Alienation of land is hardly new to South Asia and has been a historically ongoing
process.1 Also termed ‘land appropriation’ or ‘land grab’, the process involves the transfer
of rights over land of one party to another. Since property rights or titles to land may not
always be clear, it is convenient to define ‘land alienation’ as the transfer of effective or
de facto control over land, rather than formal or de jure rights of ownership and operation
(Hall 2013: 1585).
2 The colonial state undertook large-scale acquisition of land in British India for building
major infrastructure such as railways and setting up state forests and plantations
(Mohsin 1997). During the decades following independence in 1947, the post-colonial
South Asian states acquired private and common lands for ‘public purpose’, typically for
large-scale infrastructure constructions and development projects (Walker 2008: 580).
Such state acquisition of land resulted in massive development-induced dispossession. It
is estimated that ‘60 million people were displaced by development projects in India
between 1947 and 2004’ (Hall 2013: 1588).
3 With the onset of neoliberal globalization from the 1970s, there has been a qualitative
shift in the nature and purpose of land acquisition in India and Bangladesh.2In contrast
to its traditional use as the means of production in agriculture and forestry, land has
increasingly become a commodity with high value that can be transacted profitably in
real estate and financial speculation. The features of land appropriation in the era of
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South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 13 | 2016
neoliberal globalization display both continuity and change in relation to corresponding
processes in earlier periods. While state acquisition of land has continued, the purpose
has shifted increasingly towards supplying private corporations and elite groups
controlling finance capital for investment. Moreover, a range of non-state actors,
including multinational corporations, have become directly involved in appropriating
land on an increasing scale. In addition to large-scale acquisitions, ‘everyday forms of
land grabbing’ targeting weaker social groups have become significant (see Feldman in
this volume). The combination of these trends has given rise to the contemporary
phenomena of land grabs in India and Bangladesh, as in many other parts of the world.
4 Given the wide range of processes, mechanisms and agencies characterizing
contemporary land alienation, an appropriate theoretical framework is necessary for
comparative analysis. The major existing theoretical approaches to land alienation are
based on (i) Marx’s (1976, 2010: 500–02) concept of primitive accumulation in the process
of capitalist development and (ii) the derivative notion of accumulation by dispossession
(ABD) formulated by Harvey (2005) in the context of neoliberal globalization (Hall
2013: 1582–83).
5 Marx’s (1976) analysis of primitive accumulation highlights the mechanism of enclosure
of land in Britain, involving direct dispossession through the use of state and class power.
However, as elaborated below, evidence from India and Bangladesh documents the
operation of mechanisms of land appropriation that are not necessarily based on force or
directly aimed at grabbing land. Some kinds of mechanism are based on agreement or
contract with the pre-existing landholders, involving voluntary processes based on
persuasion, incentives or temptation, rather than coercion. Among these are ‘market-
driven processes of dispossession’ (Akram-Lodhi 2012: 130–31, Hall 2013: 1585).
6 Significantly, certain theoretical interpretations of primitive accumulation and ABD hold
that these processes are necessarily characterized by extra-economic coercion (e.g.
Levien 2012, 2013) and/or non-market transactions (e.g. Khan 2004: 77). However, the
state itself is a non-market mechanism which uses extra-economic coercion (e.g. land
acquisition) in processes of capitalist, rather than primitive, accumulation. Consequently,
the distinction between primitive accumulation and capitalist accumulation needs to be
pitched in more rigorous and theoretically defensible terms. Moreover, as argued in this
paper, defining primitive accumulation/ABD as corresponding to extra-economic or non-
market processes cannot capture the entire range of mechanisms of land appropriation
evidenced in contemporary India and Bangladesh (Sampat 2015: 767 n. 4). In particular,
mechanisms that are based on market transactions or do not involve the use of force
would be excluded from such definitions and hence would need to be theorized in other
7 Given these considerations, the objective of this article is to develop a comprehensive and
logically consistent typology of land alienation mechanisms which could be applied to
empirical case studies from contemporary India and Bangladesh. This would provide a
comparative assessment of the roles and relative significance of different types of land
alienation mechanisms in the specific social-historical conditions of India and Bangladesh
in the context of neoliberal globalization.
8 Given constraints of space, it will not be possible to include in this paper an analysis of
the politics of land alienation in terms of resistance, repression, negotiation and co-
option, nor of ideological contestations about the justification and legitimacy of such acts
(e.g. manipulation of discourses of development and security or corporate social
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responsibility). However, these aspects are briefly noted in context wherever possible
(and are addressed in other papers in this volume).
9 The next section (2) provides a critical review of the theoretical features of primitive
accumulation and ABD, leading to the postulation of a typology of land alienation
mechanisms. This analytical framework is then applied to empirical evidence from
contemporary India and Bangladesh in Section 3 to trace the detailed operational aspects
of the mechanisms of land alienation. Conclusions and insights emerging from the
analysis on the comparative aspects of the mechanisms of land alienation are stated in
Section 4.
Primitive Accumulation and ABD: Theoretical issues
10 The discussion below is guided by the following considerations: First, how can land
alienation be interpreted in terms of the theoretical concepts of primitive accumulation
and accumulation by dispossession (ABD)? Second, what are the distinctive properties of
land and how do these affect the mechanisms of the appropriation of land by one party
from another? Third, how can the mechanisms of land alienation be categorized in terms
of a typology that can distinguish analytically between the different kinds of mechanisms
documented in the empirical studies?
Analytical features of primitive accumulation
11 The key features defining primitive accumulation as well as distinguishing it from
capitalist accumulation are twofold (Marx 1976: 873–95; 2010). First, primitive
accumulation involves the dispossession of non-capitalist owners or users and their
separation from erstwhile lands and inputs, such that these resources become potentially
available for deployment in capitalist production.3 Second, the accumulative mechanisms
of primitive accumulation are analytically distinct from expanded reproduction and
centralization of capital, which are components of capitalist accumulation. Expanded
reproduction involves deployment of profit (surplus value) into successive cycles of
production on an increasing scale. The centralization of capital pertains to transfer of
resources (land) between capitalist production units, e.g. when a capitalist firm goes out of
business and its assets including land are bought on the market by a surviving firm, or
during mergers of capitalist units. Accordingly, while appropriation of the land of a
capitalist unit by another corresponds to centralization of capital within the domain of
capitalist accumulation, the transfer of lands of non-capitalist producers or institutions
to capitalist producers corresponds to primitive accumulation.
12 The crucial theoretical distinction between primitive and capitalist accumulation
therefore lies in differences in the nature of the respective accumulative processes and their
potential outcomes. Provided the resources (lands) are transferred from non-capitalist to
capitalist units, the varied mechanisms mediating alienation of land noted above—
whether coercive or voluntary, market or non-market, direct or indirect—can be
regarded as alternative means of primitive accumulation (Adnan 2013: 93–94). This
formulation of primitive accumulation goes beyond simply the use of force (extra-
economic coercion) or specific institutional means (non-market transactions), and holds
the possibility of incorporating the wide range of land appropriation mechanisms noted
in the empirical evidence from neoliberal India and Bangladesh.
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13 Moreover, Marx’s (2010: 536) notion of primitive accumulation entails not only the
quantitative transfer of resources, but also qualitative transformation in the form of
property and social-institutional relations. Through the process of separation, different
classes come to control (i) the resources to be converted into capital such as land and (ii)
‘labour power’. Thus, what is involved is a process of transformation of ‘social-property
relations’ which creates the classes of employers and workers who can potentially come
together in capitalist relations of production (Dobb 1963: 185–86, Wood 2002: 31–37,
2006: 19–20, Brenner 2006: 97–98).
14 These general features of primitive accumulation require further refinement when the
concerned resource is land. As it is non-producible and location-specific, there can be only a
fixed stock of land in a given place (Marx 1981: 915–24, Kautsky 1988: 72, 145, Banaji
1976: 17–39, Adnan 1985: 57). This gives rise to a ‘zero-sum game’ situation in which the
acquisition of land by one party necessarily entails an equivalent loss for another.
Consequently, when non-capitalist social groups/classes (e.g. peasants) already hold (‘pre-
occupy’) a particular plot of land, capitalists wanting to produce in the same location
have no option but to acquire it by any possible means, whether by force or otherwise
(Kautsky 1988: 146–47, Banaji 1976: 31, Brenner 1977: 74, Hussain & Tribe 1981: 124–25).
Primitive accumulation as a historically ongoing process
15 In Marx’s writings, the notion of primitive accumulation varies between (i) a one-off
event at the ‘genesis of capitalism’ and (ii) a historically ongoing process that continues
to take place over time in different countries and economic sectors.4 Even when capitalist
producers emerge and co-exist with non-capitalist classes, primitive accumulation does
not cease but continues to take place because the reproduction and expansion of
capitalist units generates recurrent demand for production inputs (Marx 1976: 912, Hall
2013: 1585). In particular, given fixity in the stock of land, capitalists have no other way of
obtaining incremental plots except by appropriating them from the non-capitalist
holders (Kautsky 1976, Adnan 1985). Consequently, the very functioning of capitalism
drives a continuing process of ex novo separation’ of land and other resources from
classes possessing them in co-existing non-capitalist sectors (De Angelis 2001: 9, 2004: 63–
64, 77).
16 It follows that, once capitalist production has begun, it becomes a critical driver of
primitive accumulation in subsequent phases (Perelman 1984, MNC 2001:1–2). However,
this does not explain why and how other kinds of primitive accumulation may take place
that are not deliberately driven by capitalism, but nonetheless make available resources such
as land for potential deployment in capitalist production (cf. Adnan 2013, 2014: 26). To
understand how that can happen, it is necessary to identify other kinds of processes
through which non-capitalist property rights are undermined and the released elements,
particularly land, become available for possible use by capitalist producers. In so far as
such processes are not deliberately driven by capitalism or any other force, they
correspond to indirect forms of primitive accumulation, leading to the release of land and
other resources as unintended consequences. These ideas pertaining to different types of
mechanisms of primitive accumulation are fleshed out below with empirical evidence
from India and Bangladesh and reiterated in the concluding section.
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Analytical features of Harvey’s ABD and critical issues
17 Harvey’s (2005: 144–61) formulation of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (ABD) broadens
and updates Marx’s construct of primitive accumulation by incorporating newer
mechanisms emerging in the context of globalized capitalism (MNC 2001: 4) and
‘neoliberal imperialism’ (Brenner 2006: 102, Ashman & Callinicos 2006: 115–17, Fine
2006: 143–44). The concept highlights the effects of neoliberal policies, including
structural adjustment programmes, illustrated by the imposition of devaluation on
vulnerable countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and
powerful capitalist states. Such pressure can result in forced commoditization and
privatization of resources leading to drastic reductions in the prices of land and other
assets, which can then be ‘profitably recycled back into the circulation of capital’ (Harvey
2005: 150–56, Hall 2013: 1585–86). Neoliberal globalization also puts private corporations
under intense competitive pressure, impelling them to grab land at very low or near-zero
costs, e.g. by undermining the social and legal institutions protecting the rights of the
pre-existing holders (Harvey 2005: 149, Luxemburg 2003: 348–51, Brenner 2006: 99,
De Angelis 2004: 73–76).
18 The concept of ABD highlights the unprecedented growth and manipulation of the global
financial and credit system. Large-scale loss of land and assets can be orchestrated by
powerful institutions of finance capital through speculation and fraud, constituting ‘the
cutting edge of accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey 2005: 142–47, 2006: 142; cf. Moyo
et al. 2012: 193). Financialization is a ‘key mechanism of ABD’ and involves the conversion
of appropriated land ‘into an object of financial investment and speculation […] including
securitization and the emergence of private equity funds dealing in farmland’ as well as
‘the deepening financialization of nature’ (Hall 2013: 1593–95).
19 In a critique of Harvey, Levien (2012) contends that extra-economic coercion is the
defining characteristic of ABD. However, functioning of the ‘real estate and financial
markets’ explicitly incorporates economic mechanisms, over and above extra-economic
ones, in the conceptualization of ABD—a point forcefully reiterated by Harvey (2006) in a
rejoinder to critics. Also, the notion of ABD has been subject to other criticisms, which are
not presently taken up (however, some of them are addressed by Gardner & Gerharz in
this volume).5
20 In comparative terms, there are certain differences in the conceptualization and
empirical manifestations of primitive accumulation and ABD (Adnan 2013). Moreover,
viewed in a long term perspective, the mechanisms and mediating institutions of
primitive accumulation have been undergoing change with shifting social-historical
circumstances. It is therefore arguable that new mechanisms of primitive accumulation
are likely to emerge in the future as the underlying economic, political and social
structures continue to change. Given these considerations, I have used the term primitive
accumulation below to designate the generic capitalism-facilitating process by which
resources from non-capitalist classes become available for capitalist production, cutting
across different historical periods (Adnan 2013: 123, 2014: 39). Correspondingly, the term
ABD is used to designate the distinctive forms of primitive accumulation that have arisen
in the specific social-historical conditions of neoliberal globalization, as pointed out in
context below.
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Mechanisms of Land Alienation
21 Given monopoly control over land by current holders, voluntary transactions may not
always be a feasible option for converting non-capitalist landed property into
transactable commodities that can be deployed in capitalist production (Brenner 2006: 98–
99). Nonetheless, direct use of force—‘extra-economic coercion’—is not the only possible
means by which land can be made available for capitalist needs (Kautsky 1988: 146–47,
Banaji 1976). For instance, imposition of money taxes or unfavourable changes in relative
prices can undermine the viability of self-employed producers, constraining them to
undertake distress sale of their lands (Perelman 1984: 46–58, Burawoy 1985: 216–19,
De Angelis 2004: 78, Deininger 2003: 96–97). Such mechanisms correspond to indirect
forms of primitive accumulation, because dispossession is a by-product’ of processes
primarily geared to other objectives. In this sense, processes quite unrelated to those
driven by capitalism can lead to land alienation, corresponding to ‘negative externalities’
(De Angelis 2004: 77–79) or unintended consequences (Adnan 2013: 122, 2014: 26).
22 Even though a variety of mechanisms are listed illustratively in Marx’s (1976) exposition
of primitive accumulation and Harvey’s (2005) formulation of ABD, neither orders them
into a systematic typology. In the discourse on land alienation in South Asia, while the
direct role of force or extra-economic coercion has received pre-eminent attention (e.g.
Walker 2008), the significance of the indirect role of credit-land (or credit-lease)
interlocked market contracts leading to constrained sale of mortgaged lands to settle
cumulative debts has also been noted by scholars (Bharadwaj 1974, Bhaduri 1983: 41–2,
85–87, 106–07). These considerations point to the need for a systematization of the
diverse mechanisms of land alienation within a logically consistent typological schema,
which can distinguish between forced and voluntary acts as well as direct and indirect
structures of causation.
23 Given these considerations, I propose a typology of land alienation mechanisms based on
the combination of two binary divisions: (i) forced and unforced and (ii) direct and
indirect. This leads to a fourfold classificatory schema of such mechanisms, represented
in Figure 1 below.
Use of Force/ Directness Direct Indirect
Forced 1. Direct-Forced 3. Indirect-Forced
Unforced 2. Direct-Unforced 4. Indirect-Unforced
Figure 1: Typology of mechanisms of land alienation
24 In the discussion below, I illustrate this typology with empirical evidence from
contemporary India and Bangladesh, specifying the details of the particular mechanisms
subsumed under the broad categories in each of the quadrants of the figure.
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Mechanisms of Land Appropriation in India and
Direct mechanisms using force
25 A major type of mechanism of land appropriation in contemporary India and Bangladesh
corresponds to the category ‘Direct-Forced’ in the first quadrant of Figure 1. Even when
the concerned laws, policies or commands do not involve use of overt violence, they are
nonetheless backed by the coercive apparatus of the state or powerful private agencies
and individuals.
State-mediated land appropriation
26 The most well-known institutional framework for attracting foreign and domestic
investment within a delimited territorial location has taken the form of ‘special zones’ of
various kinds for particular projects, set up by the state. In India, these were termed
Special Economic Zones (SEZ), with the stated purpose of providing ‘incentives for the
private sector to invest in the creation of world-class infrastructure’ including ‘tax
concessions and regulatory exemptions’ (Jenkins 2014: 39, Sampat 2015: 766). Such Zones
constituted ‘hyperliberalized economic enclaves’ aimed at ‘promoting exports, attracting
FDI, developing infrastructure, and generating employment’ (Levien 2012: 934).
27 In Bangladesh, comparable enclaves were established with a variety of designations,
including Export Processing Zones (EPZ), Economic Zones (EZ), Shrimp Zones and
investor-specific enclaves such as the Korean EPZ in Chittagong. State acquisition of land
has also taken place for standalone projects of private multinational corporations, e.g. in
the case of the Bibiyana gas-field in the Sylhet district of Bangladesh operated by Chevron
(Gardner 2012: 87, Gardner et al. 2014: §5–7, Ahasan & Gardner in this volume). In the
Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, the state forcibly acquired the private and
common lands of the indigenous peoples and leased these mostly to absentee Bengali
elites for raising commercial plantations (Roy 1995, Mohsin 1997).
28 The territorial dimension of these various special zones and projects made land
acquisition an integral element of setting them up (Levien 2012). In both India and
Bangladesh, government agencies signed contracts with private domestic and foreign
corporations which transferred large tracts of land and mineral rights to them on highly
concessionary terms (Walker 2008, Bharadwaj 2009, Jenkins et al. 2014, Sampat 2015). This
applied to the ‘special zones’ as well as standalone projects for purposes such as mining,
commercial farming, physical infrastructure and economic development in general.
However, the specific terms and conditions of the land concessions given to the various
individual zones and projects varied due to policy differences, local politics, commodity-
specific requirements, etc. (Jenkins 2014, Vijayabaskar 2014).
29 In India, regulatory changes led to successive shifts in the minimal proportion of a SEZ’s
territory that had to be devoted to the ‘processing area’ concerned with ‘export-oriented
activities’. This was eventually raised to 50% of the total area in 2007 (Jenkins 2014: 46–
47). The remainder of SEZ areas were thus left free by policy design, and were usually
utilized for building profitable commercial facilities catering to upper and middle class
‘life-styles’, e.g. residential complexes, shopping malls, hotels, golf-courses, and tourist
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resorts (Walker 2008: 588–89, Levien 2012: 934, Jenkins 2014: 48). Such patterns of land
use frequently gave rise to thriving financial speculation in real estate in and around
these special zones and project areas, particularly in sites close to major urban centres
(Sampat 2008, Das in this volume). In Bangladesh, a proportion of grabbed lands in the
Noakhali Shrimp Zone and the Chittagong Hill Tracts was deployed for speculation in real
estate (Adnan 2013, 2014, Adnan & Dastidar 2011). Such connections between land grabs
and financial speculation correspond to Harvey’s (2005: 158) conception of ABD.
30 The forcible appropriation of land involved dispossession of the erstwhile inhabitants by
invoking the respective state acquisition laws operating in India and Bangladesh. Despite
variations, this genre of laws contained sweeping provisions based on the legal principle
of eminent domain, which empowered the state to acquire private land for public purposes,
overriding objections by those dispossessed in the process (Vasudevan 2008: 41, Benjamin
2000: 38). For example, in the CHT of Bangladesh, a particularly draconian law6 has been
used that empowers the state to use force for acquiring land without having to give prior
notice or providing the right of appeal to the dispossessed landholders (Adnan & Dastidar
2011: 45–46).
31 In India, the archaic Land Acquisition Act (LAA) of 1894 has been widely used for this
purpose, inclusive of procuring land for SEZs (Walker 2008: 589). The law had been
subject to widespread criticism for inefficient, corrupt and inequitable outcomes, as well
as the ‘insufficiency of the protections for land-owners’ (Jenkins 2014: 56). In 2007, an
official decision was taken which ‘prohibited state governments from using the LAA to
compulsorily acquire land for SEZs. This went to the heart of the land issue, addressing [
] the appropriateness of forcibly acquiring land for SEZs at all’ (Jenkins 2014: 48–49).
These developments created the grounds for drafting a new law, termed the Land
Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Bill (LARRB) 2011, which was enacted in
2013 (Jenkins 2014: 55).
32 Moreover, not all those evicted and displaced by state acquisition of land have been
adequately compensated and/or rehabilitated by the concerned authorities. Typically,
only those with formal land rights or titles were recognized as being eligible, while all
those whose livelihoods depended upon common or customary ‘rights of use’ on open
access lands and water bodies were denied compensation and rehabilitation (Walker
2008: 582–90; Gardner 2012, Banerjee 2014: 276–77). Even when compensation was paid,
the acquired lands were usually valued well below open market prices (see Das in this
volume). In such cases, the state would be in a position to acquire lands at cheap prices
and then sell or lease them to private investors at much higher rates (Levien 2012: 947–
48, Walker 2008: 582–89, Banerjee 2014: 277). As specified above, such practices of
undervaluing resources to enable them to be acquired at rock bottom prices are
characteristic of ABD in the context of neoliberal globalization (Harvey 2005: 149–50).
33 In practice, the laws and procedures of state acquisition, compensation and rehabilitation
were flouted in varying degrees. Even though government departments and security
forces are required by law to follow formal land acquisition procedures, there are
instances where they have taken over the territories of relatively powerless and
politically weak social groups by using illegal force and fraudulent means, violating the
very laws and property rights that they were supposed to uphold (Adnan & Dastidar 2011:
45–60, Banerjee 2014: 295, Feldman in this volume).
34 In India, the West Bengal state government ignored its own land use policy when
agreeing to transfer agricultural lands to a major ‘Indian multinational’ for constructing a
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car factory in Singur (Basu 2007: 1283). It also failed to pay due compensation and provide
the land titles promised to resettled families in Falta SEZ (Banerjee 2014: 279). The
Hyderabad Urban Development Authority disregarded the Urban Land Ceiling Act in
order to give retroactive legal sanction to illegal encroachments by powerful groups
(Whitehead 2012: 32).
35 Furthermore, the legal-institutional rules and procedures that had formerly protected
the land rights and entitlements of vulnerable groups were repealed, along with the
promulgation of new laws and policies that facilitated corporate interests in getting hold
of land and natural resources (Sebastian 2012: 10, Walker 2008: 590, Bharadwaj 2009).
Promulgation of the National Mining Policy and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,
2008, provide instances of new rules and policies facilitating state-led land grabs in India.
Existing constitutional provisions and laws protecting adivasi rights were dismantled or
ignored by the state in order to enable private corporations to gain access to forests,
minerals and other resources. For instance, the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act of 2005
was used to evict tribal groups in order to take over their mineral-rich lands for
subsequent allotment to private corporations (Walker 2008: 558). Restrictions on
acquisition of tribal lands without the consent of the concerned communities, stipulated
in the PESA7 (1996) Act, were often circumvented by illegal means (Bhaduri 2008: 13).
36 What is noteworthy about the current neoliberal period is that not only is land being
acquired by the state for transfer to private corporations, but also that it is being justified
under the pretext of ‘public purpose’. In these instances, the state has served as ‘land
broker’ par excellence for profit-making private corporations and commercial agencies
(Bhaduri 2008, Walker 2008: 580, Levien 2012: 941–46). Such practices have been deeply
unpopular, contributing to the erosion of the legitimacy of the state as an agent of
development during the neoliberal era.
Land appropriation by non-state agencies
37 A wide range of non-state agencies have also been significantly involved in land
appropriation in contemporary India and Bangladesh. These include private corporations
and business houses, political party organizations, ‘commercial NGOs’, powerful
individuals and interest groups, as well as organized mafia and criminal gangs (Benjamin
2000: 47).
38 Case studies of land appropriation in India ‘highlight a key trend: the use of officially
sanctioned criminal violence at the level of the state and by private landholders against
the rural poor’ (Walker 2008: 559, 591–93). In the SEZs of Chhattisgarh and the aborted
SEZ in Nandigram, West Bengal, security forces of the state were joined by cadres of the
respective ruling parties or criminal thugs in operations to crush the resistance of
dispossessed groups (Nigam 2007: 6–7, Banerjee 2014: 282–83, 293–97). In the case of the
POSCO SEZ in Odisha, ‘forces funded and instigated by the [private] SEZ developer
allegedly led the crackdown on local expressions of dissent’ by protesters (Banerjee
2014: 293–94).
39 In Bangladesh, non-state agencies including private corporations, ‘commercial NGOs’,
influential elite groups and political party leaders have been using violence by hired
gangs to grab lands of weaker social groups and ethnic minorities (Feldman & Geisler
2012: 982, Adnan & Dastidar 2011: 86–94). Case studies of land grabs by multinational
corporations extracting gas and minerals in Bangladesh indicate that they follow double-
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edged strategies that attempt to show a ‘smiling face’ while manipulating techniques of
corporate social responsibility (CSR), public relations (PR) and ‘partnerships’ with local
communities and reputable NGOs to rebrand themselves (Ahasan & Gardner in this
volume). One multinational distanced itself from the unpopular task of land acquisition
by delegating it to the administrative agencies of the state, while gaining from the
process and facilitating it with higher rates of compensation and faster procedures of
implementation (Gardner 2012).
Direct mechanisms without the use of force
40 The mechanisms in this category involved the direct appropriation of land without the
use of force or violence (corresponding to the category ‘Direct-Unforced’ in quadrant 2 of
the typology in Figure 1). Instead, other methods such as informal mediation,
negotiations, persuasion, temptation, fraud, or forgery were used to orchestrate transfer
of the lands, often through manipulation of the state and/or the market.
41 A remarkable instance of this mode of direct land acquisition with the use of relatively
little coercion can be found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Vijayabaskar (2014: 305)
notes that compared to other states, there was very little organized resistance to the
procurement of land for SEZs in this state, resulting in what he terms ‘the politics of
silence’. One of the key factors underlying this outcome was a set of conscious ‘strategies
deployed to curb resistance’ by the Tamil Nadu government, inclusive of ‘market
mechanisms, facilitating negotiations between landowners and private firms
(Vijayabaskar 2014: 306). As early as 1995, a Government Order (GO) established official
committees that were empowered to acquire lands through private negotiations rather
than the state acquisition law (LAA) (Vijayabaskar 2014: 313). Further scope for the
operation of market-based pricing systems and streamlining the acquisition of land was
formalized through conducive legislation—the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for
Industrial Purposes Act (TNALIPA) of 1999 (Vijayabaskar 2014: 313–14).
42 Moreover, substantive material incentives were offered to those who agreed to give up
their land without fuss. In some cases, land acquisition was linked to provision of
alternative land and new jobs as part of a package deal. ‘Housing plots in a planned
residential zone would be provided to owners who sold their land, the size of the plots
based on the amount of land sold’ (Vijayabaskar 2014: 320). The state finance minister
promised ‘at least one job to each family that cedes an acre or more of land for an SEZ’s
establishment’ as well as training facilities to equip such persons with requisite skills
(Vijayabaskar 2014: 316).
43 Another instance of this kind of package deal to obtain land for the Mahindra World City
SEZ in Rajasthan in India involved the use of material incentives to persuade landholders
not to oppose the acquisition of their lands. The affected landowners were offered smaller
but high-value developed commercial and residential plots in exchange for their acquired
holdings, which effectively served to ‘buy peace’ by dissuading them from resisting land
acquisition (Levien 2012: 953).
44 In the case of the Perambalur multi-product SEZ in Tamil Nadu, farmers are reported to
have decided en masse to sell their land voluntarily ‘when the prices offered were much
higher than anticipated’, exceeding the prevailing market price (Vijayabaskar 2014: 320).
Similarly, in Bangladesh, opposition to the Bibiyana Gas Field began to dissipate when
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land owners were offered higher rates of compensation and promises of contracts by the
land-acquiring corporation (Ahasan & Gardner in this volume).
45 Comparable techniques of appropriating land and water resources were based on sheer
market bargaining power and/or technological superiority, reflective of direct
mechanisms of primitive accumulation without the use of force and violence. For
instance, municipal authorities in Bangalore acquired areas in IT corridors through ‘e-
titling and GIS planning’ in ways that simply ‘erased’ from the city’s land records the
erstwhile customary rights of local landholders (Whitehead 2012: 32). Correlatively,
private corporations producing soft drinks in India extracted ‘pure groundwater as a free
raw material’ from great depths using expensive capital-intensive technology that could
not be matched by local peasant agriculturalists (Bhaduri 2008: 13, cf. Walker 2008: 564
Indirect mechanisms backed by force
46 This category applies to mechanisms of land appropriation that are indirect, but backed
by public or private force (and corresponds to the label ‘Indirect-Forced’ in quadrant 3 of
the typology in Figure 1). These are not driven with the direct objective of land
appropriation by capitalism or any other factor. Nonetheless, their outcomes are
comparable to those of enclosure, working indirectly through processes triggered by
policy and development interventions or autonomous factors that are primarily
concerned with other objectives.
47 The operation of this type of indirect mechanism is illustrated by the consequences of
setting up the Noakhali Shrimp Zone in Bangladesh with the avowed objective of
promoting shrimp production for the export market (cf. Adnan 2013: 117–22).
Paradoxically, establishment of the Zone did not lead to the realization of this intended
objective. Instead, it raised land values in the area and triggered violent repression and
land-grabbing by state agencies and private interest groups among dominant classes,
which resulted in the mass eviction of the poor peasantry. In this instance, primitive
accumulation was the indirect outcome of mechanisms activated by neoliberal policies and
development interventions concerned with very different objectives (e.g. setting up an
export-oriented shrimp zone).
48 The operation of such processes on a wider scale is illustrated by the impacts of the
neoliberal policies followed by the government of India, which led to the restructuring of
agricultural production. Among these policies were fiscal contraction and other measures
deflating income and reducing support to agriculture and the entitlements of the poor
(Patnaik 2008: 109, 2012: 35–37, U. Patnaik 2012: 249, Shah 2008: 80). Apart from
impoverishing peasant producers in the short term, the cumulative impacts of these
neoliberal policies also undermined their long term viability (Patnaik 2008: 113). As a
result, peasant production units faced collapse when they could no longer afford to
purchase necessary inputs, eventually leading to the sale of their lands and other
49 The implementation of such neoliberal policies and development projects was clearly
backed by state power, even if the state did not always apply overt violence. Moreover,
such policies and project interventions were often promoted by international donor
agencies and regulatory organizations, including the IMF, World Bank and WTO (Walker
2008: 573–74). Since the primary objectives of these nationally and internationally
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generated policy interventions were quite different from the capture of land per se,
outcomes involving land alienation constituted unintended consequences, corresponding to
indirect forms of land appropriation and primitive accumulation.
50 Accounts of land alienation frequently include instances of molestation, rape and sexual
violence on women of the targetted communities. Such acts have been perpetrated by
security forces and officially-mobilized vigilantes and criminal gangs in the SEZs and
peasant villages of India (e.g. Chhattisgarh and West Bengal) (Walker 2008: 590, 599–605,
Nigam 2007: 7), as well as various parts of Bangladesh (Feldman in this volume). These
acts were frequently undertaken with the ulterior motive of grabbing land by targeting
women in order to demoralize their entire communities, thereby pressurizing them to
move out or give up their resistance (Walker 2008, Mohsin 1997: 178, Adnan & Dastidar
2011: 96–97). Such tactics reflect the use of complex and multifaceted mechanisms of land
appropriation which operated indirectly through human rights violation aimed at women
of the targeted social groups and communities.
51 It is, of course, quite possible that those initiating such indirect policies and interventions
were not entirely unaware that land alienation would be a possible outcome—even if that
was not explicitly declared as the objective. In this sense, the actual ‘degree of
intentionality’ behind such acts and policies may remain somewhat uncertain and
Indirect mechanisms without use of force
52 This category of mechanisms neither involved the use of force, nor was directly
concerned with appropriating land, even though the eventual outcomes led to such
dispossession (corresponding to the label ‘Indirect-Unforced’ in quadrant 4 of Figure 1).
As with the previous category, these mechanisms are not directly driven by capitalism or
other forces with the explicit objective of land appropriation.
53 This type of mechanism is illustrated by the eventual sale of mortgaged land (collateral)
to settle outstanding debt, noted above (Bhaduri 1983, Bharadwaj 1974). The borrower
enters the credit-land interlocked market transaction, requiring mortgaging of land as
collateral, but there is no intent to sell. However, the cumulative build-up of the principal
and interest can eventually constrain the borrower to settle the outstanding debt
through ‘distress sale’ of the mortgaged land. This credit-based mechanism does not
involve external coercion, nor is it directed at land alienation in the first instance;
nonetheless the outcome in terms of land loss is similar to that of direct dispossession.
54 Hall (2013: 1591–92) regards this as one of the basic means by which land alienation takes
place: ‘people who cannot keep their heads above water as farmers take on more and
more debt and, eventually, have to sell their land to survive. Such ‘economic’ or ‘market
sales’ are ‘voluntary’ in the sense that people are not coerced or legally obliged to sell to
any particular party or at any particular price’. It is, of course, possible that the initial
decision to enter the loan contract was a constrained choice, e.g. neoliberal agricultural
policies had undermined the viability of the peasant production unit, impelling it into
debt. In such instances, this would constitute an indirect mechanism which is partly
driven by exogenous forces (see the next section for further elaboration of combinations
of multiple mechanisms).
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55 A more general formulation of this broad category applies to varied instances in which
pre-existing forms of production have been undermined by factors that are not
deliberately aimed at such outcomes, but nonetheless lead to the separation of the
erstwhile landholders or producers from their lands. For instance, agricultural
production can be undermined by a whole range of factors that are not directly aimed at
land alienation, nor involve the use of force, such as rising market costs of production,
defective water control structures leading to waterlogging, ecological degradation
resulting from the advent of new technology, adverse impacts of climate change and
saline inundation, etc. Such a process is illustrated by Mishra’s (2011: 3) account of
‘dispossession in slow motion’ in the Indian state of Odisha, which has ‘involved
‘voluntary’ transfers of land over longer time periods in which the pincer movements of
rising production costs, indebtedness, and neoliberal policy have led to agrarian crisis
and the longer term movement of the rural poor from their land’ (Gardner & Gerharz in
this volume). Correlatively, in Dhaka city in Bangladesh, the filling up of wetlands due to
environmental pollution and illegal constructions as well as the blockage of water
channels have forced people to abandon or sell their land (Gardner & Gerharz in this
56 Another instance of this kind of mechanism is provided by ongoing socio-economic,
political and legal changes that bring about situations of legal pluralism and multiple
titling, creating the ground for potential land loss. The sequential ‘stacking of laws’ and
customary rights can lead to the co-existence of multiple de jure and/or de facto rights on
the same plot, making conflicts about land endemic (cf. Jansen & Roquas 1998: 83–85, 92–
94, Assies 2007: 12). Such ‘ambiguous’ lands (Sato 2000) with unclear titles have been
particularly susceptible to expropriation because the fuzziness in their legal status
provided scope for manipulation and expropriation by powerful agencies (Benjamin
2008: 725, Adnan 2013: 100, Banerjee 2014: 291–92).
57 For instance, the system of landed property in the CHT became highly complex and multi-
layered with overlapping rights, following the emergence of pockets of private property
in the context of pre-existing state lands and common property under customary rights
(Roy 1995, Mohsin 1997). While the prevalent laws acknowledged and codified some of the
customary common rights of the indigenous peoples, there were ‘grey’ areas which
remained undefined, even when such lands were used by the locals for everyday
livelihood needs (Roy 1995). In many cases, (i) individual households, (ii) the village
community, and (iii) the state could simultaneously hold distinct rights over the same
land. Such coexistences of partially overlapping state, common and private land rights
was symptomatic of a situation of legal pluralism and multiple titling in the CHT. The
resultant ambiguity (Sato 2000) in the status of these lands provided the basis of
subsequent appropriation through more direct mechanisms. Accordingly, loss of land by
the indigenous peoples of the CHT was partly the ‘unintended consequenceof endemic
contestations resulting from the plurality of legal systems and multiple land claims by
contending parties.
58 In certain circumstances, it may be difficult to distinguish between the outcomes of
indirect mechanisms that use force and those that do not. For example, this applies to the
experience of the indigenous peoples in the CHT where extra-economic coercion by
security forces resulting in violation of human rights (as contrasted to direct land
grabbing) operated in parallel with the more diffuse long term processes generating legal
pluralism and multiple titling, jointly leading to alienation of their lands.
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Combination of multiple mechanisms
59 While the exposition above has considered individual categories of land alienation
mechanisms, in reality these do not necessarily operate in isolation. The experiences of
India and Bangladesh provide instances in which the structure of causation underlying
land alienation involved several different mechanisms operating in combination, as
60 Constrained sale of land by agricultural producers for settling cumulative debts have
sometimes been the eventual outcome of income deflation triggered by neoliberal
measures such as structural adjustment programmes advocated by the World Bank and
IMF. Such a ‘distress sale’ (Deininger 2003: 96–97, Fortin 2005: 164) in the market thus
constituted only the terminal link in an extended chain of causation driven by antecedent
variables, ranging from global institutional pressures to state policies, violence and
intimidation, legal harassment through false litigation, etc.
61 In the Bibiyana gas-field in Bangladesh, the acquisition of land was made feasible by the
combination of several direct and indirect mechanisms and involved the use of force as
well as the (deceptive) tactics of negotiation and making promises (Ahasan & Gardner in
this volume). The specific factors included state acquisition of land, steps taken by the
local administration which deployed security forces against protesters and intimidated
those unwilling to give up their lands, raising of the compensation rates by Chevron
through direct negotiations, as well as (false) verbal assurances of hope to the
dispossessed villagers in terms of including them in development and modernization
programmes (Gardner 2012: 87–90).
62 The use of multiple mechanisms of land alienation is also evident in the continuing
takeover of the land and property of the minority Hindu communities of Bangladesh by
the state and powerful elite groups. Specifically, this has involved invocation of the
sceptre of ‘enemy property’, constructed through the Vested Property Act and a series of
discriminatory state laws, social and cultural ‘rhetorics of othering’, as well as
exclusionary practices by bureaucrats, political leaders and power holders (Feldman in
this volume). Security forces such as the military have systematically expropriated lands
of Hindus and other religious and ethnic minorities in different parts of Bangladesh on
the pretext of ensuring ‘national security’ (Adnan & Dastidar 2011; Gardner & Gerharz in
this volume). Such ‘slow motion’ land grabs, through which members of various ethnic
and religious minorities have lost much of their erstwhile property, even while
continuing to stay in their original homesteads, corresponds to the notion of in situ
dispossession put forward by Feldman & Geisler (2012, cf. Mishra 2011).
63 In Tamil Nadu, land alienation has to some extent been propelled by the joint operation
of voluntary market transactions and decisions made under threats of coercive state
action. Thus, ‘[p]rivate firms have long acquired land through market transactions for the
development of plantations and other purpose’ and such
‘reliance on the market may seem to indicate that land acquisition in Tamil Nadu is
accomplished more through consent than coercion. Still, […] the veiled threat of
compulsory takeover by government, non-recognition of interests in land due to
lack of clear title, and the takeover of ‘wastelands’ and ‘dry’ lands using misleading
classificatory systems—all reflect the power of the state backed by privileged
interests’ (Vijayabaskar 2014: 326).
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64 The crucial role of political factors in influencing the actual outcome of land acquisition
by the state and the market is brought out by the diverse experience of the Indian states
of West Bengal and Odisha (Banerjee 2014). In West Bengal, this became evident from the
factors leading to the abandonment of the Singur project, where the state authorities
aimed to acquire a thousand acres of land for a car factory to be built by an ‘Indian
multinational’ (Banerjee 2014: 275). Strong grassroots resistance by the social groups
threatened with eviction, joined by movements of the major opposition political parties,
eventually compelled the government to give up the project, while the concerned
corporation moved its factory elsewhere (Nielsen 2010: 146, Banerjee 2014: 275–76).
65 Comparable political contentions arose in the case of a proposed SEZ in Nandigram in
West Bengal. Official notification of state acquisition of land was met with immediate
opposition from the majority of the local population, most of whom consisted of
marginalized communities threatened with the loss of their existing access to lands and
livelihoods (Banerjee 2014: 281–84). The intensity of the resistance made ineffective the
local political organization of the Communist Party of India (CPI-M), the leading force of
the Left Front government ruling the state. Its attempt to enforce the land grab by
unleashing ‘state-sanctioned terror’ through armed violence by its cadres seriously
backfired, eroding the CPI-M’s legitimacy not only in the local arena but also the state of
West Bengal as a whole (Walker 2008: 591–92: Banerjee 2014: 282–84). This political
blunder was seized upon by the major opposition parties of the state, led by the Trinamul
Congress (TMC), which were successful in capturing popular support, resulting in the
scrapping of the Nandigram SEZ (Banerjee 2014: 281–84).
66 Following the Nandigram debacle, the West Bengal government desisted from state
acquisition in the proposed Rajarhat IT SEZ and delegated procurement of land to two
private developers who were to undertake direct purchase from landholders. However,
the land market was not allowed to operate unfettered by the pressure exerted by
political forces. Local landowners were forced to sell their plots at set prices under
threats from ‘“politically inclusive” land mafia syndicates’ involving ‘members of both
the ruling and the opposition parties’, enforced by a ‘violent gang’ operating ‘in close
collaboration with the state administration’ (Banerjee 2014: 286–87). Such experience in
West Bengal corroborates the insight gleaned from Tamil Nadu that ‘market-based
mechanisms are not [necessarily] neutral instruments’ that will automatically and
inexorably lead to fair outcomes. In practice, their operations ‘are rendered “successful”
in conjunction with political processes’ (Vijayabaskar 2014: 327).
67 As Hall (2013: 1593–94) has persuasively argued, ‘a dichotomous conception of economic
and extra-economic means of accumulation in land acquisition will be difficult to
maintain’ given that ‘land [transfers] are usually shaped by the powers of legitimation,
regulation and force’. ‘In general, then, the economic/extra-economic distinction may be
better seen as a continuum rather than a dichotomy’ (cf. Sampat 2015).
Concluding comments
68 In this section, I integrate the major conclusions of the preceding analysis of the
mechanisms of land alienation in neoliberal India and Bangladesh and draw out their
theoretical implications. As compared to the pre-eminent role of ‘enclosure’ in Marx’s
analysis of primitive accumulation, involving deliberate and forcible dispossession, the
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evidence on land appropriation in India and Bangladesh shows the operation of
additional mechanisms with distinct features. While the range, diversity and complexities
of the mechanisms of land alienation have been demonstrated above, the causal processes
underlying them can be ordered into a few major patterns in terms of the typology put
forward earlier.
69 On the one hand, there are clear instances of deliberate and forcible expropriation of land
by the state and private interest groups. On the other hand, comparable outcomes have
resulted indirectly from the working out of complex processes triggered by autonomous
factors, including policy and development interventions that were primarily concerned
with other objectives (cf. Adnan 2013: 122).
70 As noted in the discussion of direct mechanisms (quadrants 1 and 2 of the typology),
capitalist production itself has been a force undertaking land appropriation through the
deliberate dispossession of politically weak groups such as peasants and indigenous
peoples. Viewed from this perspective, ‘actually existing capitalism’ has been directly
expropriating stocks of land via primitive accumulation (in addition to the appropriation
of flows of surplus value or profit by employing wage workers ) (cf. Marx 1976: 912, Adnan
2014: 40). In these instances, the structure of causation is one in which the needs of
capitalist production drives primitive accumulation in the form of direct land
71 However, not all mechanisms of land alienation have been deliberately driven by
capitalist production or necessarily aimed at procuring its inputs. This consideration
applies pre-eminently to the indirect mechanisms (quadrants 3 and 4 of the typology),
such as neoliberal policies and development interventions as well as autonomous social,
economic, demographic and environmental processes that were not directed at the
dispossession of non-capitalist landholders but nonetheless led to such outcomes. To the
extent that the lands released by these processes were subsequently deployed in
capitalist production, such outcomes were ‘by-productsor unintended consequences of
these indirect mechanisms (Adnan 2014: 40). In these instances, the structure of causation
is one in which primitive accumulation processes generated by autonomous factors lead
to the release of land for potential deployment in capitalist production.
72 These two diametrically opposite structures of causation correspond to the direct and
indirect mechanisms of land alienation, designated respectively by quadrants 1–2 and 3–4
in the typology postulated above. They also serve to provide a logical closure to the
questions raised earlier about the differences between the mechanisms of primitive
accumulation that are, or are not, deliberately driven by capitalism and other forces.
73 The evidence from contemporary India and Bangladesh cited above indicates that there
are land alienation mechanisms corresponding to each of the categories in the fourfold
typology presented in Figure 1. Moreover, each of these broad headings can be broken
down into more detailed sub-types. In this sense, the 2x2 typological schema of
mechanisms of land alienation proposed here is relatively simple. It provides a first
approximation in the attempt to order and categorize the numerous specific mechanisms,
which can be further elaborated as necessary. Correlatively, more complex mechanisms
of land alienation can be viewed as combinations of the various individual categories
posited above, operating through an extended chain of causation and subject to the
possible influence of political forces.
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74 In sum, many different mechanisms of land alienation, mediating primitive
accumulation/ABD, have been at work in neoliberal India and Bangladesh. These range
from direct land acquisition for a variety of special zones and standalone projects to
income deflation induced by neoliberal policies and adverse impacts of development
interventions, leading to indirect forms of land loss. Taken together, these varied
mechanisms constitute a diverse repertoire from which alternative options and strategies
for land grabs and primitive accumulation/ABD have emerged under particular
circumstances (cf. Peluso 1992, Burawoy 1985: 214–19, Harvey 2006: 159, Tilly 1978: 151–
58, Adnan 2013, 2014: 37).
75 As argued above, mechanisms of primitive accumulation/ABD are not confined solely to
the use of extra-economic coercion or non-market transactions. Definitions based on
such conditionalities are unduly restrictive because of their focus on only particular traits
(e.g. force) and mediating institutions (e.g. non-market agencies), and correspond to
special cases. Consequently, these formulations of primitive accumulation/ABD are
unable to accommodate the entire range of mechanisms of land alienation that have been
empirically observed in neoliberal India and Bangladesh.
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1. Comments from four anonymous reviewers are acknowledged with thanks.
2. See Levien’s (2013) persuasive attempt to construct a periodization of modern Indian economic
and political history in terms of ‘regimes of dispossession’.
3. This conditionality is necessary to exclude deployment of appropriated land for a variety of
other (non-capitalist) purposes, including extraction of precapitalist ground rent, enhancing
social status and cultural prestige, political and particularistic conflicts, etc. (Adnan 2013, Hall
2013: 1592).
4. See Marx (1976: 875–76, 2010: 501–02 & 527–31) and Perelman (1984: 8–12).
5. The objective of this article as well as constraints of space preclude detailed discussion of the
theoretical criticisms of ABD. However, I have discussed these in earlier publications
(Adnan 2013, 2014).
6. The CHT (Land Acquisition) Regulation, 1958.
7. The Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA).
In this article, selected evidence from contemporary India and Bangladesh is analyzed to identify
the diverse mechanisms of land alienation at work. A typology of such mechanisms is developed
for this purpose, based on a critical review of theoretical approaches to primitive accumulation
(Marx 1976) and accumulation by dispossession (ABD) (Harvey 2005). In this typology,
mechanisms of land alienation and primitive accumulation can be direct or indirect and may or
may not involve the use of force. Moreover, multiple mechanisms can operate in combination.
The application of this typology to the empirical evidence shows that mechanisms of land
alienation exist under all its broad categories. Accordingly, it is concluded that notions of
primitive accumulation/ABD which are confined to extra-economic or non-market
characterizations are unduly restrictive and correspond to special cases that cannot
accommodate the entire range of mechanisms displayed by the evidence from neoliberal India
and Bangladesh. Moreover, capitalism itself can operate as a driving force of ongoing primitive
accumulation/ABD, corresponding to direct mechanisms of land alienation. Correlatively,
primitive accumulation/ABD can be generated by autonomous factors and the lands so released
can be potentially deployed in capitalist production, corresponding to indirect mechanisms of
land alienation.
Keywords: land grab, alienation, primitive accumulation, accumulation by dispossession, India,
Bangladesh, neoliberalism
Alienation in Neoliberal India and Bangladesh: Diversity of Mechanisms and Th...
South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 13 | 2016
Associate, University of Oxford, Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme
Alienation in Neoliberal India and Bangladesh: Diversity of Mechanisms and Th...
South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 13 | 2016
... Moreover, in such a context, land grabbing can also be analysed as the process of primitive accumulation and accumulation by dispossession (Adnan, 2013). In particular, land alienation along with grabbing is produced by a variety of actors, processes and mechanisms, as part of the complex interactions of neo-liberal globalisation, state policies and interventions, and involving power struggles, threats, violence and resistance (Adnan, 2016). The approach exhibits, overall, that the degradation of biodiversity resources is "not only about the non-existence of the market but also about unequal power-sharing by the stakeholders over the management of resources" (Fig. 3.8) (Titumir et al., 2020, p. 74). ...
... Note For more clear understandings about the concepts can see: Kelly (2011), Benjaminsen & Bryceson (2012), Adnan (2013Adnan ( , 2016 Source Prepared by the authors based on Adnan (2013Adnan ( , 2016 however, does not suggest any measures to solve the problem. Moreover, it could not internalise the 'human-nature' relations into the resource governance framework. ...
... Note For more clear understandings about the concepts can see: Kelly (2011), Benjaminsen & Bryceson (2012), Adnan (2013Adnan ( , 2016 Source Prepared by the authors based on Adnan (2013Adnan ( , 2016 however, does not suggest any measures to solve the problem. Moreover, it could not internalise the 'human-nature' relations into the resource governance framework. ...
This chapter considers the case of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh—the largest mangrove ecosystem in the world and a hotspot of biodiversity resources—to explore the underlying causes behind the continuous and unabated loss of those resources. The chapter also seeks viable means or measures for halting the degradation process, revitalising the conservation process and ensuring the sustainability of the resources. By challenging the mainstream approaches, the chapter presents an alternative analysis to the sustainability of biodiversity resource management by means of a harmonious human–nature relationship. The findings exhibit that the fragile institutions, lax regulatory regime, nature of political settlement, unequal power sharing arrangements and the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in the conservation framework cause the degradation of biodiversity resources of the Sundarbans. The chapter, at its core, argues that the well-being of the biodiverse ecosystem essentially depends on human sociality constructed by norms, values and other formal and informal institutions.
... In post-1992 India, the character of dispossession (defined by Levien as 'a social relation of coercive redistribution'; 2018, 4) has crucially changed towards state facilitation of private corporate investments. While these continue to be justified as developmental, they can also be seen as 'dispossession without development' (Levien, 2018) or 'everyday forms of land grabbing', mainly targeting weaker groups in society (Adnan, 2016). A 'predatory theory of dispossession' (Levien, 2018), then, looks beyond the narratives of national progress and development, while focusing attention on dispossession. ...
... Adnan (2013), for instance, analyses deltaic land grabs as processes of primitive accumulation and accumulation by dispossession. The same author (Adnan, 2016) has argued that land alienation in Bangladesh requires scientific attention to how it is produced: by a variety of actors, processes, and mechanisms, in complex interactions of neoliberal globalization, state policies and interventions, and involving power struggles, threats, violence, and resistance. Land alienation mechanisms can, for instance, be coercive or voluntary, direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, and market-based or nonmarket-based (Adnan, 2013(Adnan, , 2016. ...
... The same author (Adnan, 2016) has argued that land alienation in Bangladesh requires scientific attention to how it is produced: by a variety of actors, processes, and mechanisms, in complex interactions of neoliberal globalization, state policies and interventions, and involving power struggles, threats, violence, and resistance. Land alienation mechanisms can, for instance, be coercive or voluntary, direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, and market-based or nonmarket-based (Adnan, 2013(Adnan, , 2016. Feldman andGeisler (2012: 1971) stress the importance of paying more attention to loss of land and livelihoods, and human displacement through the 'more banal, less legible dealings that are internal to particular national contexts'. ...
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... The takeover of the wetlands by representing them as empty is about 'using misleading classificatory systems -all reflect the power of the state-backed by privileged interests' (Vijayabaskar 2014) as mentioned in the work of Adnan (2016). The Environmental Assessment report declared that the land was 'barren and partly single crop agricultural land' and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) subcommittee said that the site was suitable for the coal power plant based on which the company got the environmental clearance (MoEF 2010). ...
The article is a case study of state-mediated wetland grabbing and dispossession and the people’s struggle to reclaim a coastal wetland at Sompeta in India. It examines the nature and mechanisms of dispossession as well as the resistance to wetland grabbing. The study shows that the apparatuses used by the state to capture the wetland, unleash a coercive process of land dispossession from above. It also uncovers a composite dispossessory politics, which is a convergence of the physical loss of wetland used as commons, loss of livelihoods and exclusion based on socio-cultural identities of gender, caste and class. Resistance from below counteracted both the coercive process and the dimensions of dispossession. We find that wetland commons is a geography of social embeddedness and ecological sustainability which has to be protected from commercial exploitation. Moreover, wetland conversion implies water scarcity and loss of social safety net for the disadvantaged communities dependent on the wetland. As long as the state continues to neglect this social reality, the rural communities will resist. To break the impasse, it is imperative to have ‘a dialogue’ among resource users with competing claims encompassing equity and sustainability.
... One group of scholars argue that primitive accumulation is an ongoing process that contributes to generating or expanding capitalism as well as redistributing existing surpluses (Adnan 2013(Adnan , 2016Baird 2011;Borras and Franco 2012;De Angelis 2001;Hall 2013;Harriss-White 2012;Harvey 2003;Luxemburg 2003;White et al. 2012). Luxemburg (2003) critiques Marx's narrow understanding of primitive accumulation by arguing that the idea of expanded reproduction does not alone contribute to expanding or sustaining capitalism; it is dispossession-driven by imperial force, war, fraud, and plunder-that continuously provides capital (raw materials and labor force) to the production sites. ...
Full-text available
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... The Marxian concept of primitive accumulation has been criticised by scholars like Levien (2015) as just being a precondition, a departure for the transition to capitalism and a 'history of emergence of proletariat and not a political economy of land dispossession'. But there are others like Adnan (2016) who see it as still pertinent in the contemporary context, as capitalist reproduction has been a driver of land grabs, generating continuous demand for production inputs. Harvey's conception has been central to the land grabbing literature and is an ongoing dispossession, stressing the neoliberal necessity for the 'reproduction of the capital' (Devine & Ojeda, 2017). ...
A discourse analysis of land grabbing literature, in general, reveals that it is dominated by the political economy approach, and that dispossession remains a governing theme. But dispossession due to land grabbing in India is not that simple. It is contingent upon the cultural subjectivities such as gender, caste, indigeneity, region and religion, which are local relations of power impacting land use and possession. In fact, the empirical studies prove the inseparability of the sociocultural realm with the economics of state-led land expropriation or market compulsion in the country. Thus, it is imperative to understand that the experiences of land grabbing and dispossession are highly contextual and diverse with an assemblage of perceptions over land.
In recent years, Bengali Muslims in India have faced harassment and scapegoating as the trope of the illegal Bangladeshi has gained political currency. India's Bangladesh Problem explores the experience of Bengali Muslims on the Indian side of the India–Bangladesh border in the context of neoliberal policies, unequal bilateral relations, labor migration, contested citizenship, and increasingly xenophobic government rhetoric. Drawing on extensive research in the borderlands and hinterlands of both countries, Navine Murshid argues that ever-deepening neoliberal policies across the border have shaped how certain ethnic groups are valued and have reconfigured social hierarchies. She provides new insights into the strategic inclusion, exclusion, and invisibility that characterizes Bengali Muslims' lives, rendering them a group susceptible to manipulation by virtue of their ethnic kinship to the majority of Bangladeshis. In turn, Bengali Muslims simultaneously resist and utilize received neoliberal ideas to sustain their lives and livelihoods at a time when neoliberal development has largely bypassed them.
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People around the world are confused and concerned. Is it a sign of strength or of weakness that the US has suddenly shifted from a politics of consensus to one of coercion on the world stage? What was really at stake in the war on Iraq? Was it all about oil and, if not, what else was involved? What role has a sagging economy played in pushing the US into foreign adventurism? What exactly is the relationship between US militarism abroad and domestic politics? These are the questions taken up in this compelling and original book. In this closely argued and clearly written book, David Harvey, one of the leading social theorists of his generation, builds a conceptual framework to expose the underlying forces at work behind these momentous shifts in US policies and politics. The compulsions behind the projection of US power on the world as a "new imperialism" are here, for the first time, laid bare for all to see.
India's attempt to spur growth, boost exports, and create jobs by establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is a paradox: the policy represents an intensification of the country's increasingly market-oriented development paradigm, but implementation has required active government involvement. More than a decade after importing the SEZ concept from China, India has hundreds of these walled-off, deregulated, low-tax enclaves. But an industrialization strategy pioneered in authoritarian China has faced huge political resistance in democratic India. Protest movements arose in many localities where SEZs were proposed. Resistance varied in terms of the intensity and sustainability of opposition, the grievances articulated, and the tactics employed. A central issue has been the alienation of privately owned land by business interests, abetted by the state. To date, no systematic study of the politics of India's SEZ experiment has been undertaken. This book remedies this gap, examining variations within and between eleven states. Detailed case studies investigate differences in the nature and extent of SEZ-related political mobilization and the means employed by governments to manage dissent. By covering a broad range of regional contexts, industrial sectors, and political conditions, this volume furnishes a comprehensive picture of the politics surrounding one of India's most controversial reform measures.
The appearance of systematic barriers to economic advance in the course of capitalist expansion—the “development of under-development”—has posed difficult problems for Marxist theory. There has arisen, in response, a strong tendency sharply to revise Marx’s conceptions regarding economic development. In part, this has been a healthy reaction to the Marx of the Manifesto, who envisioned a more or less direct and inevitable process of capitalist expansion: undermining old modes of production, replacing them with capitalist social productive relations and, on this basis, setting off a process of capital accumulation and economic development more or less following the pattern of the original homelands of capitalism. […].