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 16, 2007

Oh for a piece of land - 2

Khajan of Anjanwada village in Jhabua district is a modern tragic hero. He has fought continuously against the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada which has submerged his agricultural land. He has fought for more than 20 years. Initially there was a lot of euphoria as everyone felt that the fight would bear fruit. However, slowly the fight became a losing one and eventually three years ago Khajan's land along with that of others in his village was submerged permanently. Since Khajan and his other village co-oustees had refused to go to Gujarat and instead insisted that they be given land in Madhya Pradesh as mandated by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and upheld by the Supreme Court of India they had been literally left high and dry by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. After many complaints to the administration and the government had not borne fruit Khajan and others like him from the submergence zone have launched a novel satyagraha from the 13th of July. They have seized control of 90 acres of government land in Barwani district and begun tilling it and sowing seeds in a cooperative farming operation to assert their right to land. The response of the administration has been typical in treating this as a law and order problem and threatening to file cases against the satyagrahis. There is no sympathy at all for the plight of the oustees who have been deprived of their main source of livelihood without being given an alternative in blatant violation of the Supreme Court's orders.
Throughout the last sixty years since independence each and every large and medium sized dam has involved the ousting of landed peasants without adequate compensation. Indeed without this cheating of the people in the submergence zone such dams cannot be built because just and adequate rehabilitation and resettlement would increase costs tremendously making the dams economically unviable. So in the case of the dams on the Narmada too the same phenomenon of cheating of oustees is taking place.
Khajan's tilling satyagraha is possibly his last stand but it does underline once again the attachment of the Bhil adivasi peasant to land.
Under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan the oustees have now served notice on the concerned officers stating that unless they are provided with proper rehabilitation and land they will sue them under the provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act.
The battle will never end even if all the lands are submerged. Khajan will fight on as best as he can.

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