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.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The same old story

I was in Bajna in Ratlam district in the western corner of Madhya Pradesh day before yesterday among a group of young adivasi men and women charged with the responsibility of improving the education and health status of the children in their villages. I had been invited by the NGO that had employed them for this work to train them to do it better. The common refrain was that the people were not at all interested in getting their children to be educated and healthy. I felt a sense of deja vu. I had started off my career as an activist in Jhabua all of twenty two years ago trying to teach adivasi children and had come up against the same reluctance on the part of their parents to put in some time to see that their wards did indeed study. It is impossible to ensure that adivasi children will learn anything in a day school system if they do not have some pressure on them from home. However, the parents being illiterate are themselves not very impressed by the arguments that we peddle about the advantages of being educated. Thus even today the mobilisation of parents for the education of their children still remains a problem. My friends and erstwhile colleagues in Jhabua, Amit and his wife Jayashree, who currently run a residential school for adivasi children in Sendhwa in Barwani district too lament that the parents of the children are not motivated enough to exercise themselves over the studies of the children and expect the teachers to take all the responsibility. In a residential setting there can still be some pressure on the students but in a day setting it is very difficult. So now I have been given the responsibility of devising some programme for the mobilisation of illiterate adivasi adults in Bajna to give time to the education of their children. A tall task indeed. Especially as i am sceptical of the school system itself and am struggling with the education of my own son. I would have liked to take him out of school altogether but my wife demurs saying that he will become unsocial. I will have to draw something from my experience of spending four hours a day with my son to inspire the adivasi parents in Bajna also to do something for their children.

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