In this paper, I trace the checkered history of ?community? in one south Indian locale — the coastal belt of Kanyakumari District –from its immediate post–independence role as a mechanism of state intervention in fisheries development, to its use in the 1990s in fisher claims to rights and resources and as a means for devolving conflict management to the local level. I show that the expansion of the state system, in part through development intervention, opened up a charged political arena where Kanyakumari?s fishers acquired new tools to negotiate political authority, redefine community, and articulate new rights of citizenship. Most importantly, I demonstrate that the development process furthered the mutual implication of state and community, a process which the state has been reluctant to acknowledge. I end the paper by arguing that the Tamilnadu State government?s neglect of marine conservation is a function of a bureaucratic sensibility that distinguishes ?state policy? from ?community politics,? and resource conservation from social justice, an attitude that has hardened with economic liberalisation. This perspective has prevented the government from taking seriously artisanal fisher demands for trawler regulation and from recognizing artisanal activism as a defense of both sectoral rights and of conservation.