Development and Urbanization
The proposed study is an in-depth exploration of settlements and settlers on the hills of Guwahati, the largest city of Northeast India. The study will examine how the settlers – who largely belong to tribal communities from the states of Northeast India and who mainly work in the informal urban economy – negotiate a place to live in the city. Some of these hills settlements have come about due to ‘forced migration’ resulting from conflicts and natural calamities in different parts of Northeast India, while others have been formed by people displaced by the development of a new capital city of Dispur near Guwahati. The study will explore the strategies and practices of settlers in claiming space in the city amidst allegations – commonly made by state and civil society actors – that their settlements are illegal and have caused ecological degradation, leading to frequent evictions. The study will also document the modes of resistance to displacement by settlers, including legal steps as well as direct protests and action. The research will probe into the ways in which ‘environment’ in the city is constructed in this context, and how the goals of environmental preservation or sustainability are asserted and used by different actors within contestations around the hill lands. The study will thus interrogate the political ecology of migration, urban expansion and informal settlements in Guwahati.