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.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bhili Poetry

The Bhils too are great poets and songsters. Their epic songs are really beautiful in their praise of the magnificence of nature. There are some weak translations of these gayaanas as they are called by some anthropologists but they are not digitised. I dont know whether I myself will find the time to do so ever. But the Bhils also have small couplets that they sing all the time and especially during the festivals when boys and girls dance together. Here is a lovely couplet about a young boy courting his lover -

From atop the hill he mischievously reflects the sun
With his small mirror making dabbles on the kitchen door
She is hot and smoky cooking bread squatting on the floor
The light weaves magic and she feels her heart run

another more patriarchal one goes like this -

Like the water bucket in the well
So is rudely buffeted the new bride
When with her in laws she goes to dwell
No escape as she must swallow her pride

Some of the modern Bhili poets have used the traditional style and put in new revolutionary lyrics and this has been most effective in mobilising the Bhil masses to rebellion. The greatest of them all are the poems of Vaharu Sonowane. Vaharu Sonowane was one of the leading activists of the Shramik Sangathana movement of the Bhils of Shahada in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra against the practice of bonded labour. Here is one song by him -

Coming and going to and fro to the police station
Spending time in jails and eating government ration
Courts are our kindergartens we have nothing to fear
Dont bother us brother policeman dont bother us dear

and yet another -

The forest guard comes demanding chicken
The forest guard comes demanding chicken
Now brothers do not give it to them anymore
The sons of tigers we are brave Adivasi men
The sons of tigers we are brave Adivasi men

The Shramik Sangathana in fact was kicked off by another great Bhil singer Amber Singh Maharaj who began singing against the exploitation of the Bhils by the non-adivasi upper castes in the early 1970s. It soon attracted not only the Bhil peasants but also activists from the cities who were disillusioned with the mainstream left and became a beacon for adivasi liberation struggles. In our early days in Jhabua we took a lot of inspiration from this movement.

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