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.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

King Khajan and I

Khajan's latest flourish in his long battle against the dam took me back many years to the first time I met him in 1987. He attracted my attention because of a lovely piece of silver jewellery he had around his ear and because of his bubbly conversation. He had gone away to till forest land in Arda, his wife's village in Maharashtra across the river Narmada from Anjanwara as he and his five brothers had too little land. He had come back because the people of Anjanwara along with those of other villages had organised themselves under the banner of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath and begun tilling forest land in Anjanwara also. He soon became a leader of the movement against the Sardar Sarovar dam also because of his leadership qualities and his amazing articulation. He was the preferred spokesman for the adivasis in parleys with the government and in press conferences. He travelled far and wide across the country exhorting one and all that he and his people were residents in the belly of the river Narmada and they could not be kicked out unceremoniously as the government was proposing to do.
His gift of the gab cost him dear on one occasion, however, after a major skirmish against the police at the height of the struggle. The people of Anjanwara beat up a police party that came to forcibly survey their land. But later the police came in greater force and the people had to flee and their houses were wrecked. Later still when Khajan along with others went to hold a press conference in Indore about these police excesses he was arrested. When he told the police that they could not beat him up as it was against the law to torture people in custody he was given a round thrashing. Eventually Khajan had the last laugh because the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath moved the Supreme Court against these atrocities and all those police men who had beaten him up were hauled up by the Judges who passed strictures against them.
Khajan and I had a great time till we parted ways because I felt that the fight against the dam was a losing battle and there were other more important ones to concentrate on. I along with some others felt that the dam could not be stopped and so it would be better to fight for a proper rehabilitation instead. The Narmada Bachao Andolan and Khajan demurred. Nevertheless a meeting was held in Anjanwara to try and sort out the differences. While some of the oustees were trying to raise the issue of fighting for rehabilitation Khajan got up majestically like one who is a monarch of all he surveys and declared that he would never give up the battle against the dam and it was necessary to look far into the future and not take any hasty defeatist decision. He was greeted with a resounding slogan from his supporters - koi nahi hatega, baandh nahi banega - no one will move, the dam will not be built.
The dam of course has been built and people have had to move. Khajan has had to give up his residence and move up into the hills and forests where he is cultivating his forest land now to which he has no legal title. Far from being a monarch he has been reduced to being a pauper despite having reigned as the sarpanch or elected head of the local governing body.
Khajan reminds me of Cassabianca the boy who stood on the burning deck in the famous poem by Dorothea Hemans. He has shown exemplary steadfastness to a lost cause and sacrificed everything for it and so despite my differences with him I still respect King Khajan. Some day if we humans do see sense and desist from pursuing the destructive course we are on at the moment, then we will have people like Khajan to thank for our deliverence.

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