Designating rights for nature is a potentially powerful way to open up the dialogue on nature conservation around the world and provide enforcement power for an ecocentric approach. Experiments using a rights-based framework have combined in-country perspectives, worldviews, and practices with legal justifications giving rights to nature. This paper looks at a fusion of legal traditions, religious worldviews, and practices of environmental protection and advocacy in the context of India. It takes two specific legal cases in India and examines the recent high-profile rulings designating the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and their tributaries and glaciers as juristic persons. Although the rulings were stayed a few months after their issuance, they are an interesting bending of the boundaries of nature, person, and deity that produce Ganga and Yamuna as vulnerable prototypes. This paper uses interview data focusing on these cases and document and archival data to ask whether legal interventions giving rights to nature can become effective avenues for environmental activism and spiritual ecology. The paper also assesses whether these legal cases have promoted Hindu nationalism or ‘Hindutva lite’.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.