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, November 2, 2007

Love in the time of work

My adivasi mentor Khemla was here in Indore today to buy a quintal or two of the dry land wheat variety that we are propagating and he related a real life story that is at once hilarious and tragic. His daughter Relu, who is so named because she was born on the day in 1987 when we were taking out an important rally in support of our demands for access to forests in Alirajpur, had been regularly migrating to Gujarat to work as a construction labourer for quite some time ever since she had become sweet sixteen and given up studying in school after failing her class eight board exams twice in a row. Given her basic education and earthy beauty it was not long before she had a romantic liaison with an upper caste tile layer. This man turned out to be a sincere fellow and proposed marriage to Relu. Now the problem was of informing Khemla about this proposal. Though Khemla himself is pretty accommodating in these matters his brothers are not. Their perennial complaint is that Khemla does not put adequate pressure on the in-laws of his several married daughters to pay up the socially ordained bride price and give them a feast of goat meat. One of his brothers had even beaten up Khemla the last time a daughter of his had eloped and her in-laws had reneged on paying the bride price. Since her husband being a non-adivasi obviously did not want to pay the bride price Relu was faced with a dilemma. She finally decided to marry and keep the news secret from Khemla and his brothers. However, the news did trickle in and all hell broke loose with Khemla's brohers coming and threatening him with ostracism if he did not at once claim the bride price and give them a feast.
The net result has been that Relu even two years after her marriage has not been able to come back home even though she is now the mother of a bonny baby. Khemla who has been quite an iconoclastic Bhil finds himself unable to change the mindset of his kins in the matter of marriage and bride price. In fact many girls like Relu are these days falling in love with non-adivasis during their migration work and thus challenging age old social taboos but the deeply patriarchal Bhil society has been inhospitable to them in most cases.


girish said...

Rahul -- A very interesting story! So, the "bride price" sounds like a form of dowry in reverse--which is interesting because the conventional dowry also has its roots and rationale in patriarchical practices.

Rahul Banerjee said...

among the Bhils the women are valued for the work they do within and without the home and there is also a strong sense of honour among the men about their women. However, both these feelings arise from deep rooted patriarchy which often takes the form of physical violence towards women. Women also have to veil themselves in front of older male in-laws. Thus in this one respect Bhil society is no different from traditional Hindu society and it is very difficult to fight against this ingrained patriarchy.