The analysis of the role of law and courts in the Narmada valley struggle to understanding the relationship between law, social movements and counter-hegemonic globalisation.
This working paper by the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University offers an analysis of the role of law in the Narmada valley struggle, especially that which was waged by one of India’s most prominent social movements in recent years, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), with a specific focus on India’s Supreme Court. The NBA rose in reaction to the Indian government’s plan to construct a large number of dams along the Narmada river, contesting the relief and rehabilitation provided for displaced families at first, and subsequently challenging the dams themselves as being destructive.
The paper focuses on the role played by law at multiple scales and by the Indian Supreme Court in the struggle waged by the NBA and is particularly useful for understanding the role of law and courts in counter hegemonic globalization for several reasons. The author probes answers to several questions in this paper like -
- What levels of law (international, national, local) did the NBA engage and where and when was it able to have an impact on the legal terrain?
- Conversely, how did law shape the NBA’s strategies and goals?
- Did its resort to law produce a hegemonic or counter hegemonic outcome?
The paper analyzes the relationship between law, globalization and counter hegemonic globalization and tries to identify some key theoretical issues which are relevant to the NBA struggle. It discusses the evolution of the NBA’s struggle and provides background to the litigation before the Indian Supreme Court. It discusses the judgment of the Indian Supreme Court and critiques what is called the dominant scripts that reveals the limits of law in counter hegemonic globalization and more broadly in the use of law in social movement struggles.
It discusses three possible modes of assessing the relationship between the NBA struggle and the law, and finds that while the relationship between the NBA struggle and the law was more positive at the international level, at the national and local levels it was much more oppositional. It draws overall conclusions on the role of law in counter hegemonic globalization in the light of the NBA’s experience.
The paper appeared in the Cambridge Studies in Law and Society titled “Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality” edited by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and César A. Rodríguez-Garavito. It can be downloaded at JNU website here