Fishery conflicts in the Ganga River in Bhagalpur district of Bihar have had a long history of over 200 years. These two centuries have witnessed three broad phases: 1) systemic oppression of local traditional fishing communities at the hands of private feudal landlords (zamindars) who also claimed private rights over the Ganga River fisheries (1790s to 1990-91), 2) ecological degradation after the construction of the Farakka barrage and the National Thermal Power Corporation Plant in Kahalgaon (1975 to 1990), and 3) criminal (mafia) control of the fisheries after 1991, following a social movement by fishers to overthrow the previous private regime. The stretch of river from Sultanganj to Pirpainti (80 km) was privately owned by two families in Bhagalpur, who claimed that these rights were granted to them since the Mughal period (Gadgil & Guha 1995, Sharma 2006). The Permanent Settlement of Bengal by the British administration in the 1790s (of which Bhagalpur was a part then), only reinforced this private control of fishing rights and access in the Ganga, in order to consolidate the revenue earnings from the highly productive fisheries to agricultural assets of powerful and dominant landlords (Reeves 1995, Sen 2015). The principle of ‘riparian rights’ (as in English laws) was applied to the Ganga River and the banks and they came to be owned free-hold by the zamindars (known as Jalkar Zamindars or Panidars) (Hill 1990, Reeves 1995). The Panidari system in this part of Bihar was thus the riverine counterpart of Zamindari and was fortified by land tenancy acts of the British colonial administration in the 18th and 19th centuries. Zamindari establishments could sublet water areas for fishing to smaller entrepreneurs who would hire traditional fishers to work the fishery. The Panidari control continued to increase in its brutality and coercion over the years. Fishers had to pay at least 50% of their catch to the Panidar’s ‘men’ or often face harassment, physical assault, and threat. Although the Panidar would ensure that no criminals threatened fishers and stole their catch, their own control led to severe exploitation of fishers who worked their fisheries under this private regime.