“We have achieved great feats…but our struggle is far from over”: Centering caste difference in feminist discourse of the Bodhgaya Land Movement of Bihar, India

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Abstract

This paper situates ‘difference’ in terms of caste to deepen feminist discourse about the Bodhgaya Land Movement (BGLM) of Bihar, India. Urban, educated, elite activists initially read the BGLM as a successful women's movement because it resulted in landless and marginal peasant women obtaining titles to land. Activists and scholars then saw it as having had only limited success when some of the women passed the land to men in their families. The recollections of Bhuiyan Dalit elders who participated in the BGLM provide a more capacious reading of the movement. Stories of their early history as kamia (bonded laborers), the increased caste violence that accompanied the state's attempts at land reform and redistribution, and their activism in the 1980s show that the movement not only intervened in the patriarchy, caste hierarchy, and other power inequities in the region, but produced a new subjectivity amongst formerly subjugated, disenfranchised people. Accounting for caste difference in women's experiences of the land movement uncovers a complex process of Dalit becoming and belonging. Their narratives push feminist scholars to broaden historical readings of the movement to understand how women who have been involved in social activism may be empowered and gain agency despite an intransigent patriarchy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102438
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Volume85
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bihar
  • Bodhgaya Land Movement
  • Caste difference
  • Dalits
  • Feminism
  • India
  • Kamia bonded labor
  • Women's land rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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