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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An Oasis in an Educational Desert

The Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala situated on the banks of the River Narmada in Kakrana village of Jhabua district has been providing quality educational services to Bhil adivasi children in this corner of corners for almost a decade now. The villages nearby are all affected by submergence due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat and are severely deprived of all basic amenities including proper education services. There are government schools but these are mostly understaffed and the teachers do not attend. These villages have been traditionally neglected ever since independence and so are very backward in economic and social terms. Moreover, the rich forest resources with which this area, situated on the border with the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, was once blessed, have been systematically denuded by the forest contractors in collusion with corrupt Forest Department staff. Thus the people of the area who are dependent on these forests have found their livelihoods jeopardised and have fallen into the clutches of moneylenders. They have to migrate seasonally to Gujarat as their agricultural income is insufficient to make ends meet. So funding the education of their children is a distant dream for them.
Yet this school which charges fees, albeit nominal ones, has a long waiting list of parents wanting to put their children there. Goddess Rani Kajal who in Bhili mythology rescued them from trouble in a time of pestilence symbolises the main aim of the school, which is to revive the traditional Bhili culture and establish a strong identity for the Bhils.
Even though the school was initially set up to cater to the needs of the children of the submergence areas near the Narmada River the results of the students in the board examinations over the years has been so impressive (ninety percent pass with a few winning distinctions) that the fame of the school has spread far and wide. This year the first ever girl from Bhitada village has passed the class eight board examination. These results have to be compared with those of the government schools, which can muster only about thirty five percent passing students even after massive cheating. Now children come from villages some thirty kilometres away on the Gujarat border to study in the school. Many parents who go off to Gujarat to work find this school a haven to park their children in.
Of course the expenses of running the school are not totally met by the fees charged and so funding has to be sought from various sources. But despite all kinds of problems the school has evolved into a veritable oasis in an educational desert.

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