Is conflicts the major cause for the decrease in tourism in Uttarakhand ?

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Aspects of tension and conflict comes into focus, when we place the colonial developments against the cultural ecology of the Himalayas in particular and Indian sub-continent in general. Let us take the example of Uttarakhand (the hill tracts in U.P.) to understand this aspect better. Traditionally, the area of Uttarakhand did not witness a sharp class classification, unlike the extremely stratified villages of the Indo-Genetic plain. This diffused class differentiation prevailed in all the mountainous regions. The absence of sharp class cleavage within the village society, owed its origin to the ecological characteristics of mountain society. The limited extent of the cultivable land restricted the possibility of extensive cultivation. Similarly, the fragility of the soil and poor communications hampered the growth of intensive agriculture for the market.

As a result of these ecological constraints, the agricultural economy of Uttarakhand did not produce much surplus. Also, the small peasant proprietor was the dominant class in Uttarakhand, big land lord and agricultural laborers were very few. Since there was no sustained yield, there was close co-relation between the forests, pastures and the fields. In the permanent hamlets, oak forests provided both fodder and fertilizers. This enabled the hunter gatherers and pastoralists to continue their traditional mode of resource use and helped the pre-colonial communities to track a distinctive path of inter modal cooperation and co-existence.

However, the colonial intervention completely transformed the social, ecological and demographic characteristics of Uttarakhand. The traditional structure was destroyed and the new changes only benefited the Europeans. Colonial exploitation was an important part of capitalism as it emerged in Europe. An important feature of capitalism was that it produced an atomized society which was in conflict with the traditional forms of living based on collective activity and consumption by the entire community.

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Similarly, colonial state control too meant a negation of the collective appropriation of nature by the community as a whole. Colonial forest laws recognized only individual rights of users and initiated the fragmentation of social bonds. This process was hastened by commercialization and capitalist penetration. The produce of the forests no longer belonged to the hill villages. Extensive tea and coffee plantations were set up by large-scale deforestation and the appropriated produce benefited the colonial elite. In the process, Lepchas of Darjeeling and Today Ooty faced extinction as they were deprived of their sustenance from the forests.

In Uttarakhand, negation of community ownership led to a sense of alienation with their habitat. These hill dwellers, who had nurtured the forest growth by preserving sacred groves, etc. now grew indifferent to the forest. Goaded by the loss of their habitat by the ‘reserve’ forests and scientific management brought about by the colonial rulers, these forest inhabitants quickly exhausted the resources left to them, out of fear that their conservation would lead to state appropriation.

While farming systems in the Himalayas continued to be subsistence oriented, cumulative demographic, social and environmental changes undermined the hill society’s capacity to feed itself. Moreover, the rapid developments of the commercial and industrial society degraded the hill ecosystem leading to further reduction in productivity. It led to the fragmentation of the family and community structure. While the diversification of resource use between different castes moderated or removed inter-caste competition, the fragmentation of the community structure and lack of livelihood intensified the competition during the colonial times. Once the linkage between the agriculture and forests was broken, there emerged intense competition for the different source of livelihood. All this meant disaster for the traditional economic structure.

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