The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Monday, September 18, 2017
I am a voracious reader so reading by itself was not a problem but at that point of time I was a diehard Marxist, even if an unorthodox one and also paradoxically a Vedantist and so deeply into Upanishadic spiritualism!! So literature that appealed to me at that point of time was that which had a proletarian political tinge or a spiritual flavour and steered clear of romance. I read many of the proletarian classics in Hindi by Premchand, Renu, Rahi Masoom Raza, Balraj Sahni, Yashpal and the like. But that was all prose and as we all know one's literary education in a language is not complete without reading and appreciating poetry. Hindi poetry, however, is dominated by romance and so initially I did not find anyone who could pique my interest, even such modern greats like Harivansh Bacchan and Mahadevi Verma. Then slowly I got to know the proletarian poets, Nagarjun, Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, Adam Gondvi and Dushyant Kumar. However, the poet who really inspired me with his explosive mix of content, style and form was Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh. I have no hesitation in saying that I would not have been what I am today without having read him. This happens to be Muktibodh's centenary year and I feel the least I can do is to celebrate the lyrical power of this great poet.
I started the celebration of Muktibodh's centenary by first planning a consultancy that came my way by putting in it a trip to Sheopur which is his birth place. This is a small town in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh that was once a small princely state owing allegiance to the Scindias in Gwalior. Consequently, there was a small community of Maharashtrians there into one family of which Muktibodh was born in 1917. There is an active group there that researches Muktibodh's poetry and keeps his memory alive. After that I went back to a renewed reading of his poems which I have not done much of after the initial reading more than three decades ago. How things change over time. The context has changed considerably over the past three decades and I found that those of his poems which impress me now are not those that had inspired me earlier. Without much ado let me quote one such poem that now ranks for me as one of his best -
मैं तुम लोगों से दूर हूँ
तुम्हारी प्रेरणाओं से मेरी प्रेरणा इतनी भिन्न है
कि जो तुम्हारे लिए विष है, मेरे लिए अन्न है।
मेरी असंग स्थिति में चलता-फिरता साथ है,
अकेले में साहचर्य का हाथ है,
उनका जो तुम्हारे द्वारा गर्हित हैं
किन्तु वे मेरी व्याकुल आत्मा में बिम्बित हैं, पुरस्कृत हैं
इसीलिए, तुम्हारा मुझ पर सतत आघात है !!
सबके सामने और अकेले में।
( मेरे रक्त-भरे महाकाव्यों के पन्ने उड़ते हैं
तुम्हारे-हमारे इस सारे झमेले में )
असफलता का धूल-कचरा ओढ़े हूँ
इसलिए कि वह चक्करदार ज़ीनों पर मिलती है
छल-छद्म धन की
किन्तु मैं सीधी-सादी पटरी-पटरी दौड़ा हूँ
फिर भी मैं अपनी सार्थकता से खिन्न हूँ
विष से अप्रसन्न हूँ
इसलिए कि जो है उससे बेहतर चाहिए
पूरी दुनिया साफ़ करन के लिए मेहतर चाहिए
वह मेहतर मैं हो नहीं पाता
पर , रोज़ कोई भीतर चिल्लाता है
कि कोई काम बुरा नहीं
बशर्ते कि आदमी खरा हो
फिर भी मैं उस ओर अपने को ढो नहीं पाता।
रिफ्रिजरेटरों, विटैमिनों, रेडियोग्रेमों के बाहर की
गतियों की दुनिया में
मेरी वह भूखी बच्ची मुनिया है शून्यों में
पेटों की आँतों में न्यूनों की पीड़ा है
छाती के कोषों में रहितों की व्रीड़ा है
शून्यों से घिरी हुई पीड़ा ही सत्य है
शेष सब अवास्तव अयथार्थ मिथ्या है भ्रम है
सत्य केवल एक जो कि
दुःखों का क्रम है
मैं कनफटा हूँ हेठा हूँ
शेव्रलेट-डॉज के नीचे मैं लेटा हूँ
तेलिया लिबास में पुरज़े सुधारता हूँ
तुम्हारी आज्ञाएँ ढोता हूँ।
Muktibodh's poetry gained in popularity and critical acclaim only after his untimely demise at the age of 47 in 1964 with the publication of his first anthology "Chand Ka Muh Teda Hai" or "The Face of the Moon is Crooked" in the same year. Surprisingly despite his continued popularity and the respect that he holds, very few of his poems have been translated into English and I could not immediately get hold of a suitable translation apart from the atrocious one done by Google!! So perforce I have to provide a translation of this poem myself so that I can convey why it is so appealing to me in the present context and give some idea of Muktibodh's genius to English speaking readers even if I haven't been able to do much justice to it!!
I AM FAR FROM YOU
I am so far from you
My inspirations are so different from yours
That what is poison for you is food for me
In my friendlessness my constant companionship,
In my loneliness the hands of comradeship,
Are of those whom you consider to be the dregs
But it is they who are mirrored in my pained heart
And so you continuously attack me!!
In public and in private.
(The pages of my blood filled Epic fly
In this fracas between you and I)
I wear the dust and waste of failure
Because wealth is available on the spiral stairs
through cheating and lying
But I have run on the straight tracks of life.
Even so I am angry with my righteousness
Unhappy with the poison
Because we need to be much better than what we are
We need janitors to clean the world
And I am unable to be a janitor
But everyday someone inside me shouts
That no work is bad
Provided that the person is good
Even so I can't push myself towards that.
In the world of movement outside that of refrigerators, Vitamins and Radiograms
That hungry girl child of mine is there in nothingness
In my intestines there is the pain of the small
In the cells of my chest is the shame of the deprived
Suffering surrounded by nothingness is the truth
The rest is all an unreal impractical lie
There is only one truth
That is only a continuous pain
I am an outcaste
lying under a Chevrolet-Dodge
in oily clothes repairing the parts
bearing your orders.
Like all great poetry this one too has many meanings and I will leave it to the readers to enjoy this poem and if interested read more of Muktibodh's poetry and the vast literarcy appreciation of his oevre. But what comes out clearly is its strong criticism of the caste ridden society in India that has been one of the main factors in preventing socio-economic justice for the majority. In the current context of our country literally being drowned in municipal waste I particularly like the mention of the fact that we need janitors to clean this world and make it better but that we, even those of us who reject caste, are not prepared to take up the role of janitors whether in the real or the figurative sense.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Monday, September 4, 2017
This meant on the one hand that people like Bava Mahariya of Jalsindhi village and Surban of Kakrana village in Alirajpur district who had steadfastly refused to move from their village and not taken any compensation or land had Rs 60 lakhs deposited in their accounts while on the other thousands of landless people and those who had taken monetary compensation earlier for their land were left with very little apart from residential plots in inadequately developed resettlement colonies. The administration began issuing threats that people would be forcefully evacuated prior to July 31st if they did not move to the rehabilitation sites.
The NBA began mobilising these other people, who had not been compensated and rehabilitated properly, to resist their forcible displacement without adequate rehabilitation. Finally as the deadline of July 31st approached, Medha along with other displaced people began an indefinite fast to press for a just rehabilitation. The Government in its usual repressive way arrested the fasting activists after a few days and slapped criminal charges on them and put them into prison. Medha and others continued the fast inside the prison. In the meantime a petition was filed in the Supreme Court regarding the inadequacy of rehabilitation. However, the Supreme Court said that it had already decided the case and that complaints of inadequate rehabilitation if any should be filed individually by the concerned affected person in the High Court as no further public interest litigation would be entertained in the matter.
This closing of all doors finally forced the NBA to withdraw from the fast. The picture shows stalwarts of the mass movements of this country convincing Medha to break the fast in prison. The person offering the glass of juice is veteran Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Parikh who has fought most of the cases for the NBA and other public causes pro bono. A major such case is that against the illegal clinical trials being conducted by foreign and Indian pharmaceutical companies in this country and another is the landmark victory for the Dongria Kondhs in Niyamgiri against Vedanta's bauxite mining. The others in the picture are Dr Sunilam a veteran socialist and activist fighting for farmers' rights, Arundhati Dhuru formerly of the NBA and now a gender activist, Akhil Gogoi a firebrand farmer's rights activists from Assam, Vinit Tiwari, an activist of the Communist Party of India who is at the forefront of the struggle against communalism and veteran activists of the NBA. All these activists have fought and are continuing to fight diligently against the oppression and repression of the Indian state but they know that it is difficult to succeed. Primarily because the state and those who run it have no conscience. Stokely Carmichael, the Afro-American Black Power Activist of the 1960s, once famously remarked that passive resistance of the kind being practiced by Martin Luther King can succeed only if the oppressor has some conscience which can be triggered into compassion by actions such as sit ins and fasts but that the American State had no conscience. The Indian state too has no conscience. Even the judiciary which did show some conscience for seventeen long years, finally decided to switch it off.
That is why this picture is so disturbing because it spells out the helplessness of activists fighting for justice in the face of state impunity and oppression. Medha had to stay imprisoned for more than a week after this breaking of her fast as the police had slapped serious charges like abduction and attempt to murder on her for which she was refused bail by the lower judiciary and so had to approach the High Court. There was a time earlier when Medha and other activists of the NBA had refused bail on being arrested on trumped up criminal charges and had eventually been freed on personal bonds. However, with age the resilience of Medha had declined. Once the great Indian socialist, Ram Manohar Lohia, had said that the only way to break the impunity and power of the state was to fill its prisons to bursting point with activists. However, not only did Lohia and the socialists or the communists not succeed in this but later on the activists of the mass environmental movements too have not succeeded and so prisons still remain a major instrument of oppression in the hands of the state. So instead of masses of people courting arrest in protest against the injustice being meted out on the NBA, eventually Medha had to seek bail and get out of prison.
I was reminded by the helplessness which is the underlying theme of this photo, of the plight of another stalwart of the NBA, Khajan, of Anjanwara village. He fought on against the dam refusing to take rehabilitation until he was the only one left in his village. Then just a year before he finally gave in and accepted land in Gujarat with a broken heart. After three decades of opposition and fighting and many trips to prison he finally had to opt for rehabilitation. Its not just the NBA but most other mass movements of the oppressed that all have to succumb to the power of the state and the forces who control it.
This inability on the part of social movements to break the wall of state power is a major reason for their not being able to sustain mass mobilisation against it. Another is the inability to convince the masses to fight in a sustained manner for their rights in accordance with an alternative vision of development and society. Reading a detailed new biography of Stalin last year, I came across an interesting bit of information that the Bolshevik party in its grassroots meetings used to promise the workers that bringing about the revolution would automatically put an end to their misery and this acted as an inspiration for them!! Today unfortunately we cannot offer such a simplistic solution to the problems that the masses face and yet that is what most people want - a simple solution to their problems!!
The many Godmen and people like Modi still offer such simple solutions to the people and carry themselves off for some time on the strength of their charisma. A charlatan like Gurmeet Ram Rahim can motivate lakhs of Dalit and backward class supporters to fight a pitched battle against the state against his conviction for rape while another charlatan, Modi, can subject the whole population to the utmost inconvenience of demonetisation and remain their darling, whereas a person like Medha has to break her fast in a prison surrounded by a few forlorn activists. The charlatans are backed by the wealthy and powerful who rejoice in the way these charlatans are able to take the masses for a ride and keep them away from the activists of social movements who would want them to revolt against the power of the wealthy on shoestring budgets. It's a catch 22 situation wherein people demand simple solutions which we can't give and so we are not able to build up big mass movements which in turn reduces our ability to give any solutions whatsoever.
This is possibly the last time that Medha at least will be breaking a fast undertaken for justice given her advancing age and the final closing of gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam. its been a long and gruelling journey after all from the first fast that she undertook in 2001 for all of 21 days during the Sangharsh Yatra which has taken a heavy toll on her health. The Last Supper of Christ and his disciples did not put an end to the social revolution initiated at that time by them and so we too must hope that this last break of fast by Medha will only mark a passing phase and we can look forward to a day when justice shall prevail. Woh Subah Kabhi to Ayegi!!
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
This year we have gone about it in a more systematic manner. We have built a centre on the farm and there is an Adivasi couple who are expert in farming who are supervising our farming operations. Even so it is a very difficult task to keep the birds off the ripening bajra. Two scare crows have had to be planted in the bajra and a wire with empty tins has been tied to the scarecrow which has to be regularly pulled so that the empty tins bang against each other and make a noise. This is not enough, however, and so a slingshot has to be used to fling stones at the birds as Budibai is doing in the picture below.
To spread this kind of indigenous farming among the farmers nearby, they too will have to be subsidised to do so. Since there is very little likelihood that the Government is going to provide this subsidy, we will have to implement a project to do this and build up a big enough base of indigenous farmers so that a few years down the line indigenous farming can be revived in the area. In fact developing and establishing an indigenous and sustainable ecosystem of farming which is also climate change resilient, requires considerable investments in soil, water and forest conservation, composting and decentralised energy generation from biomass for post harvest processing. This is a herculean task at present given the Government's support for chemical agriculture in collusion with the agricultural multinational corporations who rule the world of agriculture globally right from production to consumption.
Friday, August 25, 2017
Recently I had an opportunity to visit Sheopur and meet up with Jaisinghbhai after a long time. He is out of his house by 6.30 am every day on his motorcycle and off to the field as he says that people have to be buttonholed in their houses as they get up from sleep!! He then comes back to the Ashram office in Sheopur around 10 am to supervise the various projects that are underway. One such project is a subsidised canteen at the bus stand in Sheopur. This is a Government of Madhya Pradesh project and the Ashram has taken it on because it provides cheap food to the poor visitors to Sheopur who are mostly Sahariya Adivasis. On any given day there are fifty or so members of the Ekta Parishad in Sheopur on some work or other and they benefit from the subsidised canteen which sees a clientele of 300 or so every day.
The land rights movement of the Ekta Parishad has sustained for three decades and has had many achievements because of people like Jaisinghbhai who are the dedicated foot soldiers of this mass organisation.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
If wishes were horses then pigs would fly it is said. But Modi's wishes are such that even without their becoming horses, the pigs are flying on shit!!! No wonder that in the galaxy of achievements that Modi listed from the ramparts of the Red Fort today he quietly left out any mention of freeing India from shit!!