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Lucy student, Deepti Minj, shares her research on the social, political, and ecological consequences of military action.

Image: Road Transport Hoarding saying, “Welcome to Jharkhand’s Pride- Netarhat”

Deepti Minj is a researcher at the Centre of South Asian Studies from the Oraon community of Jharkhand and is currently studying an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies at Lucy Cavendish College. Deepti has worked with local and national think tanks such as the Institute for Human Development and the Centre for Developing Societies researching electoral politics and development. In today’s blog, Deepti shares her fascinating research into the social and environmental impacts of military practice.

Deepti Minj

What is your research about?
The research explores people's resistance to state-sanctioned military projects. With the focus on the Netarhat Range, it theoretically engages with the larger movement of Jungle Bacho Andolan (Save Forest Movement) against the state and corporations’ projects in the name of development and national security. While the research focuses on liberal India post-1990s, it investigates colonial and pre-colonial history to map the trajectory of regional and indigenous peoples' exclusion, unequal development, and the lopsided “owner-protector” narrative of the environment. The study is based on both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include the state’s laws, acts, policies and reports regarding the practice ranges, rehabilitation and resettlement, maps, demography, and geography. The secondary sources include journals and books that document the opinions, dissent, and movements of the communities.

Can you describe your research in one sentence?
This is a detailed study of the impact of the Netarhat Firing Field Ranges in the Chottangpur plateau of Jharkhand in India.

Does your research relate to any of the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
This research relates to Goal 10 (Reduced Inequality within and among countries), Goal 13 (to take urgent actions against climate change and its impact, and Goal 15 (Protect, Restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification...). Developing countries such as India have seen a core-periphery model of development where the periphery states and regions such as Jharkhand are exploited for resources, land and labour to extract wealth for bigger and richer urban regions. This study can probe us to rethink this model to acquire equal welfare. The military project can threaten the sustainable ecological relations between the forest and the Indigenous peoples. It relates to Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns) as new military and operations fields are produced, the environment and social assessment of issues such as forest depletion, mining, displacement, and unemployment are highlighted. Moreover, the research hints to include economic and social welfare into the domain of “environmental” sustainability. It is also related to Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide access to justice for all...) as the demands and participation of the indigenous people in the decision-making processes of the governments are highlighted. Despite the constant protests and resistance due to concerns of loss of homes, employment and community identity, the government has failed to address these issues.

Why is this research interesting to you?
The study is interesting because it can contribute to the relevant issues of environment and democracy. This study shows the integrated nature of the environment and democracy. Despite the environmental issues related to the project, it is interesting that the relationship between the military (para-military and police forces) and the local people is stressful due to wrongful incrimination. The government has failed to provide the basic welfare of education, health and meaningful employment. In such conditions, the land acquisition will lead to further exploitation. The study comments on the status of democracy on its ability to acknowledge and include the voices and demands of its most vulnerable minorities. Moreover, given that military and commercial projects are required, this research provides scope for discussing sustainable development and equitable distribution.