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 30, 2007

Lost Atlantis

Today Gulab bhai came to our house. He is a veteran Gandhian who has given his whole life to the cause of the Sarvodaya movement. He comes from very humble peasant origins and it is an indication of the great influence that the idealism of Gandhism had in the immediate post-independence era that Gulab bhai as a young adolescent was attracted by it and he joined the movement as a grassroots worker. He has, however, now resigned from the Madhya Pradesh Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and at the age of sixty has to make a living as a driver. Gulab bhai gave his whole life to the movement but in the end with the marginalisation of Gandhism in modern India he is not only left without any money but worse without any respect. All his family curse him for having wasted his life in social work. Society too does not today value the voluntary contribution of Gulab bhai because this is the age of professional social workers.
Gulab bhai came to talk about Medha and Khajan's incarceration in jail. He said that there was a time when such an incarceration would have evoked widespread protests but today there is not a cheep being raised anywhere. He said that he felt angry that he could not do anything as he was on the verge of penury and somehow making ends meet as a driver.
That in short is the crux of the matter. Khajan and Medha are standing in a desolate landscape where very few people have time for the issues they are fighting for. At the peak of the Narmada Struggle during the Sangharsh Yatra of 1990-91 there were over a ten thousand people mobilised. Today it is difficult to get a hundred people together. All the best people available are now in jail.
Gulab bhai's outburst made me reflect on my own situation. I do not go out into the field to launch agitations any more. Primarily because I see no point in fighting such useless battles in isolation. But the fact remains that if all of us withdraw from the field like this then there will be no one left to carry the torch forward anymore. What will happen to the cause of the adivasis. It is indeed a tragedy that we live in times in which rebellion and revolution have become passe. In the first decade of my work in Jhabua district I never had to think about money and I could work without any brakes. After that I had to start earning money also and that began reducing my efficacy. Simultaneously the burgeoning NGO culture made it impossible to get people mobilised on rights issues. When NGOs are paying people to do social work even down to the villages then who will take part for free in mass movements and get jailed and then have to bear the expenses of court cases.
The dream of creating a just society for the Bhils which we had fought so hard to actualise lies shattered like a Lost Atlantis. I have never felt so sad.

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