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.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Virtues of Living on the Margin

The Bhil Adivasis living in the slum next to the Soyabean Research Centre in Indore have hit pay dirt in more ways than one. An international NGO promoted by American Christians - World Vision has adopted their slum and is pouring in money to build roads, toilets and a community hall. It sponsors their children's education so much so that some of these children are studying along with my son in a fairly expensive school given their low income. They are also being provided with training in income generation activities. However, their is also a clandestine side to this munificience. As many as twelve of the Bhil families have surreptitiously been converted to christianity and in the evenings their homes resound to the singing of hymns and shouting of "halulia" (their rendering of halleluiah). So from praising the Bhil God of sustenance - Kansari they have now graduated to praising the Lord of the Americans. This is indeed an effective pincers movement with soyabean on the material side and halleluiah on the spiritual side.
The Indian state too not to be left behind has instituted the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or Education for All Campaign wherein one mid day meal is provided free to all primary school children to entice them into attending. The children are not to be foxed however and so they make a pretence of studying till the food is served and then make a quick exit. On being queried as to why they do not stick around to study they reply that their future is in labouring on the fields of the Soyabean Research Centre and not in sitting in its air-conditioned offices and labs splicing genes so why should they study. The day begins for these children with a free meal at the playschool followed by another at the primary school and then one at the community hall sponsored by World Vision. The way to people's hearts and minds is always through their stomachs.
There are two teachers in the primary school teaching two hundred children of varying ages. The teachers are old and want to retire but the government does not let them. So they go around with canes beating the children to keep them quiet. Nobody studies and they all yell for the food to be served till they are caned into silence. So even if they do not learn anything at the end of the day their stomachs are full. Which is itself an achievement in this country. They are in any case better off than their relatives still in Jhabua who have to rely on migration to make ends meet and so have neither food nor education.

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