If you asked most Americans how many Indian reservations there are in the US, it wouldn’t surprise me that many might correctly guess several hundred. But if you asked those same people how many reservations there are in India, I suspect you’d get a blank stare.
The term “reservation” as applied to politics in India, however, refers to the highly-controversial affirmative action quota system for education and employment allocated to “Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes” by the Indian government. These reservations, distributed by lineage or clan, account for an enormous political patronage industry that impacts not only the 70 million tribal peoples on the subcontinent, but a majority of the Indian population.
In this July article from Himal magazine, Adnan Farooqui looks at India’s distributive politics and the ramifications for democratic governance there. And in this 2005 op-ed by Dolly Kikon, we get a view of how coexistence between the Indian state and the Naga is playing out in negotiations for shared sovereignty with this and other ethnic neighbors of Nagaland.