Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

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.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Anarchism Revived

Continuing the story of the NGO, Sampark, the most fascinating aspect of its work has been that of the revival of a traditional Bhil anarchist practice that had fallen into disuse due to the onslaught of modern market economics. The Bhils living as they did at subsistence levels had perforce to rely on each other for communitarian labour pooling to see their agricultural operations through. Labour pooling was also necessary for such work as house building. However, with the decimation of their resource bases and the decline of subsistence agriculture and the penetration of moneylender traders who monetised the economy this excellent practice had fallen into disuse and people had begun charging money for labour rendered. This further aggravated the situation of the already resource strapped Bhils. They began putting in less and less into their agriculture leading to its further decay. This is where Sampark stepped in by rejuvenating the traditional practice of labour pooling( variously known as dhas, laas and adji-padji) and also getting the people to begin common savings funds for seeds and money so as to obviate the need to go to the moneylenders. The net result is that over the past decade or so from 1996 onwards the Bhils in about a hundred villages in Petlawad tehsil of Jhabua district have saved on cash payments by pooling in their labour on each other's farms, they have stopped the debilitating leakage of cash to moneylenders by pooling in their savings in Self Help Groups and then using these funds to leverage largers loans from banks at a lower interest rate and they have pooled in their resources to buy agricultural inputs at whole sale prices. The savings that have resulted in monetary terms are worth crores of rupees. But what is more important is that in the process an anarchist movement in support of decentralised and sustainable development and governance has been built up that has the capacity to resist the continuing onslaught of modern consumerism.

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