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.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Oh for a piece of land

Bhil adivasis are mostly subsistence peasants and so are very attached to their land. They normally fight and die for their land. They fight among themselves and also against the state which tries to deprive them of their land for various development projects. Recently I had to do some statistical analysis of baseline data collected by an NGO working in Khandwa district among the Bhil adivasis. The analysis revealed that as many as 37% of the households were landless. Now from my experience of the region I felt that this was an incorrect figure because even though the Bhils are marginal farmers they still mostly possess some land or other and very few are absolutely landless. Yesterday I went down to Khandwa and into the villages to verify this startling piece of data and I was vindicated in my doubts. In Madhya Pradesh the rule is that the title holder to a piece of land remains so till his death even though in reality his land may have become sub-divided among his progeny or in some cases among his grandchildren. Thus technically these heirs of his are without any land recorded in their names in the government data base and so had been put down as landless by the inexperienced surveyors.
What is more revealing however is the fact that the people too did not correct this mistake on the part of the surveyors happily putting themselves down as landless which is unthinkable for a Bhil adivasi who has land. The reason was that these people thought that registering themselves as landless with the NGO would ensure that they would be given greater benefits. Thus the income ranking done by the NGO by the use of participatory methods too did not reflect the actual income distribution among the households and led to a wrong targetting of benefits towards comparatively richer households.
This shows how the NGO culture and the culture of doles through development programmes initiated by the government has made the adivasis who would have earlier been prepared to die rather than declare themselves as landless lie about their land holding for the few crumbs that may come their way. NGOism has thus put paid to both militant mass mobilisation and the possibility of an anarcho-environmentalist challenge to the modern system of destructive development by incorporating the adivasis into it at the bottom without giving them any substantial say in the control of resources.

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