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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Same Old Story

Gulabsingh a Bhil peasant of Thana village in Dewas district had become bonded for a year to an upper caste Rajput large farmer Mansingh of Khurd Pipliya village. He had agreed to work twelve hours a day for Mansingh for twelve months for a consolidated annual wage of Rs 15000. The statutory daily agricultural minimum wage for eight hours work is Rs 69 at present in Madhya Pradesh and so he should have been paid Rs 37000 for working twelve hours a day the whole year round. However, since there are many poor adivasis like Gulabsingh who are desperately looking for work given the near total collapse of the rural economy the large farmers can easily depress the wage by more than half the statutory rate and keep the adivasis in bondage cocking a snook at government regulations. Not only that they break the back of the labourers with work and also treat them like animals. After six months Gulabsingh could not take this anymore and he came back to his village without completing his term even though he had already taken the full amount as advance.
Mansingh was enraged and he got a group of his friends together and after wining them hired a car and came down to Bori village armed with rifles to Kalu's house on the 7th of March. Kalu had acted as the surety for Gulabsingh so Mansingh demanded that Kalu should pay him back the money in lieu of the remaining months of the contract dishonoured by Gulab. Kalu said that he could not do so immediately and would require some time. Mansingh and his friends were adamant and they bundled Kalu into their car at gunpoint saying that he would have to come with them to the teshil town Bagli and get the money from some moneylender and give it to them.
The villagers of Bori were away working in the fields and when they came to know that Kalu had been kidnapped they immediately phoned the police station in Bagli and some of them also took a shorter route to the town and arrived at the police station before the kidnappers and beseeched the police to intervene. The head constable, however, astoundingly said that since Kalu had acted as surety for Gulab the abductors had every right to kidnap him so as to recover their money and refused to do anything to stop them. Thus the kidnappers took Kalu away and later after reaching their village shot him dead.
That this has happened even after sixty years have elapsed since independence in this country is a telling comment on the state of our democracy. It was against such blatant distortion of democratic norms that the adivasis of Dewas had built up a strong mass organisation and established their identity and power in the last years of the last century. The government then had viewed this development as a challenge to its might and crushed the organisation by killing four of its members in cold blood in 2001.
This new instance of blatant violation of their rights provoked the adivasis to rise in spontaneous protest and they descended in the thousands on Bagli for a rally and demonstration. The government obviously was forced on to the backfoot and had to suspend the head constable for dereliction of duty, arrest the murderers and also pay compensation to Kalu's relatives but it is doubtful if any fundamental change will come about in the political economy of the area. Were the adivasis to revive their organisation again then the government will almost certainly step in to crush it like it did earlier. Justice is something that the adivasis cannot hope for from the current dispensation which may enact progressive legislation but will never implement it. So it is going to be the same old story of oppression for the adivasis.

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