Judicial Justice for Special Economic Zone Land Resistance
Journal of Contemporary Asia
The context for land resistance in liberalising India is dynamic. As the state promotes capital investment, lines between public and private are blurred. Land is central to these efforts, as new industries, mines, large-scale agricultural projects and infrastructure initiatives all require vast amounts of land. The introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in the Indian state of Goa highlight land deal tensions. Following protests rallying thousands and widespread public mistrust of land and regional planning processes, the state’s chief minister halted the zones. This action mollified public unrest and temporarily appeased anti-SEZ social movements. However, scepticism arose as the chief minister failed to legally de-register the zones and return SEZ lands to original owners or collectives. Amidst state inaction, movement members sought judicial justice. Protest and corruption theories are integrated with political interpretations of liminality in this article to frame how social movements shift their patterns of intervention in response to or in anticipation of inaction. Enhanced opportunities for corruption, exemplified by the SEZ model, lead movements to adapt strategies of resistance beyond state-oriented protest. The interventions discussed represent a shift in the ritual form of protest and the degree of political engagement with the judiciary. The multi-faceted contestation altered power structure, while politicising and scrutinising land deals.