Kheti and Khadar

Land and Rights on an Agrarian Floodplain
  • Neha LalEmail author
  • Anubhav Pradhan


The floodplains of the river Yamuna in Delhi present a curious spectacle of agricultural rurality in a rapidly expanding megacity. Classified as Zone O for “Agricultural and Water Body” land use under the Master Plan of Delhi 2021, the floodplain—or khadar —has been witness to a series of contestations over the long decades of Delhi’s existence as the capital of India. The farmlands on both sides of the river have seen the establishment of thermal power plants and refugee colonies, the emergence of squatter settlements, waves of state-sponsored demolitions, and the quasi-legal construction of private and state structures. Most recently, they have attracted the punitive gaze of planning and judicial machineries as the larger project of cleansing, beautifying, and gentrifying the river and its banks become a symptom of worlding Delhi. Despite these varying, and often contrary, pulls and claims upon itself, the khadar remains predominantly agricultural, its resident farmers managing to exercise a tenuous right to stay put. This paper is interested in examining the political and cultural framework of this right being exercised and claimed by the khadar ’s residents. Given the intense transformative—or disruptive—pressure being brought to bear upon the khadar by various state and private agents, these farmers’ homes and livelihoods are in constant danger of being uprooted. Their identities as citizens of Delhi and as farmers in a megacity are, consequently, always almost-unsettled. Premised on archival and ethnographic work involving land records, court orders, oral life narratives, and key planning and policy documents, this paper will view the contested and constantly changing space of the khadar as emblematic of the deep unsettling wrought by models and mechanisms of urbanisation in contemporary Delhi.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mahila Housing SEWA TrustAhmedabadIndia
  2. 2.Jamia Millia IslamiaDelhiIndia

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