Pastoral Politics: A film about Gaddi Herders of Himachal Pradesh, India
Duration : 29 minutes Language : English and Hindi with English sub-titles
Migratory and nomadic pastoralism continues to be practiced in many parts of India, particularly the dry lands of the Indian Thar desert and the high ranges of the Indian Himalaya. Over the past century and a half, these herding communities have had to deal with restrictive policies of various state forest departments, which see their grazing practices as responsible for large scale land degradation. Whether or not this is the case is difficult to tell, in part owing to a lack of evidence for such degradation, but also owing to the difficulties of establishing what constitutes a state of degradation.
Pastoral Politics examines the issue of land degradation in the context of the land use practices of the Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh. The ‘Politics’ in the title refers first, to the politics that influence individual herder access to grazing resources, and second, to the politics of land degradation, particularly with regard to who frames the discourse on degradation, which particular lands are identified as being degraded and the cultural stereotypes that have historically informed forest department attribution of degradation to herding communities such as the Gaddi.
The film suggests that despite the depiction of herding as primitive and inefficient, the Gaddi have continued a successful commercial herding tradition, and that some combination of cultivation and herding may in fact be the most productive uses of these mountain lands. The film calls for a rethinking of Indian conservation policies, and the development of policies that are more accommodating of life-styles such as those of the Gaddi.