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Monday, February 15, 2021

    Nature-Society Relation – a Critical Interrogation

    We have created a world, where nature is losing its spiritual and aesthetic meaning day by day. A world, where nature has more exchange-value than a used one. Now, we are living in an era of continuous production and consumption of nature. In a way, nature has been commodified. The process of commodification of nature has unfolded the complex relationship between power and wealth, or to be more precise between state and nature. To sustain the continuous production of nature, many ‘resource frontiers’ have been reproduced by ecological politics, the politics of access, control and management of natural resources.

    The recent episodes of Baghjan Oil well fire, coal mining in DihingPatkai Biosphere Reserve, and the proposed extended-reach drilling under DibruSaikhowa National Park unfolds how ‘capitalist globalization’ continuously reproduces the frontiers and connects them to the global production chain. However, the process of continuous making and remaking of the frontiers is marked by informality. The informality is bringing the frontiers close to the core of capitalist production and again ‘peripheralized’ them through uneven spatial development and marginalisation. Under such informality, corporates are allowed to extract the resources, however, the local communities who have been residing in that land for centuries are denied from minimum right over their immediate Nature. The entire process of creating or demarcating the resource frontiers can be best understood as a process of “accumulation by dispossession”. The commodification of nature to sustain capitalist accumulation is not only disposed of the local communities from their land and livelihood but also breaks the ‘moral economy’ (an economy based on the principle of sharing, social cohesion and sustainability) of the tribal societies residing in these frontier regions.

    While the protest and dissent voices against such informality have gained sufficient momentum, it is also important to understand how ‘natural identity’ is linked with ‘national identity’ in the North-eastern part of India. Under the aegis of National Register of Citizens (NRC), ownership of land can no longer be considered as ‘right over nature’ alone, but can directly be linked to the ‘national identity’ of the people of Assam. The question of land alienation or to be more precise, dispossession from nature has been a major concern in the North-eastern States for a quite long time and protection of the ‘natural identity’, therefore, has been a consensus within the region.

    All these scenarios have continuously been indicating that ‘politics of nature’ has become more evident than ‘politics from nature’. The continuous transformation of resource frontiers of the country has forced us not to view nature and society as two separate ontological domain, rather conceptualize them as inseparable with a hybrid assemblage of entities in relation. For us, it is important to understand that nature is not a politically inert subject. The definition of nature has always been political. The commodification of Nature with a politically power-laden process for ownership and inheritance of resources always results in the marginalisation of the local. Furthermore, there is a need to critically engage with the character of the state, administering nature-society relations and managing resource allocation, which carries critical intellectual and political meaning. The role of the state is to regulate the environment, not to manage it. The present-day environmental crisis urges the state to go beyond the technical managerial approach to recognition of the sustainable nature-society relation, a relation where nature is inseparable from people’s life and livelihood.

    Dr. Monjit Borthakur is an Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Cotton University

    The views expressed by the writer are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8


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