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Beyond Depoliticization? Caste, NGOs and Dalit Land Rights in Maharashtra, India


  • Suryakant Waghmore

    1. Associate Professor and Chairperson at the Centre for Environment Equity and Justice, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai 400 088, India ( His areas of research revolve around politics of identity and development. His forthcoming book with Sage (2013) is titled Dalit Politics beyond the Impasse? Caste, State and Civil Society in West India.
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I would like to thank the journal's anonymous referees for their insightful comments. This paper has also benefited from suggestions and criticisms of Hugo Gorringe and Roger Jeffery.


In India, Dalit mobilization for land rights and the cultivation of gaairan (grazing lands) in the last decade has attracted the attention of international civil society actors who participate in such mobilization through local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This article contextualizes the debate on the growth and role of NGOs by presenting the politics of formation and working of a funding-driven network of NGOs on Dalit rights and livelihoods in India. It cautions against exaggerating the role of international civil society actors in local democratization processes, and also argues that the feared depoliticizing of public interests as a result of INGO involvement is misplaced in the case of Dalit politics.