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, November 15, 2007

Legitimacy Revisited

I have always been bothered about the legitimacy of writing about the Bhil adivasis given the fact that I come from a privileged background and so have been able to extricate myself from their problems in a way that they can never hope to do. There has been a debate in an earlier post on this issue.
This uneasiness of mine was triggered off the other day by a phone call from Delhi. A lady called to tell me that she was the secretary of an organisation called the Madhya Pradesh Foundation. This organisation was involved in advocacy around development and rights issues in Madhya Pradesh and every year they awarded two persons from the state for having done exemplary work for the empowerment of the poor and deprived. This lady said that their organisation had come to know of my work and they had also gone through all the stuff that I have parked on this blog and on my website and were impressed enough to want to award me this year for my work.
I of course demurred saying that I do not believe in taking awards for the work that I do and instead suggested that if their organisation was indeed sincere about promoting the empowerment of the poor then they should award an adivasi activist and gave them the contact number of my colleague Shankar Tadavla who has over the past year been very active with getting justice for the silicosis affected tribal labourers of Jhabua. This lady did follow up and call Shankar but nothing materialised from this eventually.
This incident has revived some important questions that I have been grappling with for quite some time. First about the legitimacy of my blog and website. Many people visit both my blog and my website led to them by search engines when they look for resources on the adivasis and especially the Bhils. So gradually I am becoming a known expert on these issues and some people are even thinking of awarding me for my work. Now this is not why I had set up these sites. But such is the way in which our society works that I despite being a non-adivasi have become an expert on the Bhils. Secondly what is even more disturbing is the way in which the lady in Delhi who had in a similar way to me with my blog and website, set up a non-representative Madhya Pradesh Foundation did not think anything of Shankar, one of the most dedicated adivasi activists in Madhya Pradesh who has been fighting for their rights for over twenty years, and passed him over for the award.
This kind of Brahminism which is deeply ingrained in our society is a tremendous barrier to the emancipation of the poor and will remain so for quite some time to come. How can there be socio-economic justice when those in control of society do not have any real respect for the poor.


anish said...

I agree. No one accepts that there can be anything that 'our' mainstream society can learn from adivasis. It is the same condescending Brahminical attitude preached by the caste system that is subconsciously applied by default to them. In all fields - cultural, religious, education, development.
Brown man's burden!

Rahul please don't start thinking that who are you to write about your Bhil friends. Write for yourself and for us readers. Let the Foundations all go to hell.

Rahul Banerjee said...

dont worry anish i am not about to shut my trap because there is still a lot that i have to write about the Bhils. however, one does have to tread carefully given the fact that one is not oneself an adivasi. one particular reader of this blog continually berates me for being conceited!

checkmate said...

Perhaps you and Shankar are both aware of this as Shankar was deeply involved in this. Wondered if there is follow-up on the GoMP's response to this. Amd pasting below a notice to the issue by NHRC to GoMP in Oct. 2007

'NHRC sends notice to Chief Secretaries of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on Silicosis deaths

New Delhi October 23, 2007 The National Human Rights Commission has expressed deep concern at the death of tribals from Alirajpur tehsil of Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh, who worked as labourers in the quartz crushing factories of Godhra and Balasinor in Gujarat due to Silicosis/Silicotuberculosis. The Commissions' distress came to light when it went through a news report captioned "Death Stalks Godhra again, in the form of silicon dust" in the "Indian Express" on September 19, 2007. As per the report, these tribals were exposed to Silica dust and no protection was given to them at their work place. The report also said that about 200 tribals had died in the last four years. The report added that those labourers who returned to their villages in Jhabua and died of Silicotuberculosis in their villages were not getting any compensation or retribution as they didn't have documentary proof to process compensation claims.

Till date, Silicosis is reportedly considered incurable with transplantation of lungs being the only cure, which is beyond the reach of poor labourers.

After going through the report, the Commission directed that the same may be forwarded to the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and also to the District Collectors of Panchmahal and Jhabua for a factual report within four weeks.'

Rahul Banerjee said...

We too had got to know of this suo moto action of the NHRC from the media but have not been able to follow it up and see what has come of it. I will check with Shankar and see if we can become a party to the case and intervene more strongly.