In her book Harmony Ideology Laura Nader demonstrates that dispute resolution practices within minority ethnically distinct communities may serve not only a quasi-legal, but also a political, hegemonic, function. National governance structures and relations between the state and non-state entities provide a critical context for understanding dispute resolution practices within such communities. This paper examines how the historical legal and social ‘othering’ of a tribal minority, the Santal, in India and Bangladesh has created two opposing counter-hegemonic strategies, manifest in the people's dispute resolution practices. The paper begins by exploring the historical backdrop of the Santal's exclusion and subordination in the two countries. The paper then examines disputing strategies to assess how dispute processes act as a mirror reflecting back this exclusion, reforming the nuances of separation as a symbol of defiance. My fieldwork data shows that strategies of disputing are closely linked with the spatial proximity of and perceived locality of oppression. Inward looking strategies that promote harmony and re-enforce minority hegemonies act as strategies of resistance where an oppressor takes the form of a distant and untouchable state or power elite. But where the politics of struggle is local and immediate disputing turns outward and confrontation replaces harmony as a counter-hegemonic strategy.