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.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Those were the days

The two years 1996-97 and 1997-98 were the high point of my days as an activist among the Bhils. This was the time when under pressure from my wife Subhadra I helped her to organise Bhil women in Dewas and Khargone districts around the issue of their reproductive health and rights which also led to a campaign against alcoholism and bootlegging that was quite successful for a time. It seemed for some time that women's power could hold the state back and bring in some justice into its functioning. During this time once a group of selected women went on an exposure tour to Uttarakhand via Delhi. Here they are smiling gleefully at Connaught Place in Delhi while posing for a picture.

They were a great hit at Connaught Place. After going around the circle we finally had ice-cream at Nirula's where everybody stared at the strange dress of some of the women and their big sized silver ornaments. While going to Delhi they had to fight with some men who tried to seize their reserved berths telling them that they had got on to the wrong compartment and that they should go and sit in the general unreserved compartment. It was a great tour and the women really enjoyed themselves. The picture above is also very poignant because soon after this the smiles were to vanish as the state decided to crackdown on the women and send them to jail on false charges as it had done earlier with the general organisations in which men were dominant. So much so that eleven women had to launch into an eighteen day hunger strike in Indore in the summer of 1998 demanding that the state provide them reproductive health services, secure their reproductive rights and withdraw the false cases registered against them. The picture below shows the women stretched out at an advanced stage of the hunger strike.

The hunger strike was withdrawn on an assurance by the National Human Rights Commission that it would look into the matter. All to no avail, however, as eventually this had no effect on the state. The Inspector General of Police even went to the extent of stating to a journalist that the women could die if they so desired but none of their demands would be met. The height of patriarchal and masculine arrogance at work.
These days we can only look back in anger and sadness and reminisce that we did fight some rousing battles in our time but only to lose them.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

your post begins and ends with patriarchal and masculine arrogance - the self in the beginning, the State in the close -an extension of the same paradigm.

Rahul Banerjee said...

not only this post but the whole blog reeks of masculine arrogance given the fact that i am a man writing about my work. there is no way in which i can get rid of my masculinity without physically and socially castrating myself. now this is something i do not have the guts to do. so some woman will have to do it. and not only I but all men have to be castrated. that would also solve the problem of the ever increasing population of the human race and save the planet from environmental destruction!

Anonymous said...

such an outrage from a 'cheerful sceptic'..??!! masculinity and or patriarchy lies not between the legs but between the ears...no use castrating the entire lot. In any case, make use of the feminist idiom - personal is political. Don't wait for someone to 'deliver' you - why should a woman feel inclined to this violent task even if it meant saving the planet !!

Rahul Banerjee said...

where is the outrage? i just used a violent and outrageous metaphor to underline the impossibility of a man becoming feminine and non-patriarchal on his own however personally political he may be. women can do whatever they want but since you feel inclined to advise me to become more feminine i dont see why i shouldn't advise you about how women should go about the task of making men more feminine. after all you are free to ignore the advice in the same way as i am free to ignore yours. there is no bar on criticism here but point will always be met with counterpoint.