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.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

International Days and Declarations

The United Nations on the whole has been pretty ineffective in protecting human beings and nature from the depredations of the avaricious ruling classes worldwide. Especially so considering the immense amount of money that is spent on its upkeep. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the plight of the indigenous people who have traditionally lived in harmony with nature all over the world . For instance the Bhil adivasis have been consistently subjected to displacement, immiserisation and torture over the past sixty three years since the formation of the UN and despite many representations to it in this regard to date there has not been a single instance of the UN mediating with the Indian Government on their behalf.
Nevertheless the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and the celebration of the World Indigenous People's Day today the 9th of August, does provide some international recognition of the special existence of adivasis and gives them hope that they can some day claim a space for themselves in world polity and even turn the human race around from the destruction to which it is racing. The most contentious provision of the Declaration is the following one -
Article 26
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples
Now it so happens that the adivasis reside in areas which are immensely rich in natural resources which have to be used as raw materials for modern industrial development. So in effect this excellent provision has been continuously flouted by the Indian government and also all other governments worldwide. The result of course is that due to global warming as a result of this wanton misuse of natural resources the human race is hurtling to its doom.
The adivasis on the other hand have believed in judiciously using the bounty of nature and ensuring that it remains intact for the generations to come. One of the most ingenious methods adopted by the Bhils is that of plugging the gullies between their hilly farms with stones fortified by saplings planted next to them which later grow into trees to stop the soil that washes off during the rains. These gully plugs also delay the runoff of rainwater thus increasing recharge. One picture of such a gully plug has been featured in the side bar alongside and here is another one from the same village Attha in Alirajpur district where I first began my work as an activist.

Putting up these gully plugs is a laborious task that one family cannot accomplish on their own. So the Bhils have a labour pooling custom called Dhas in which people from all the households in a hamlet gather together to work on one farmer's gully plug on one day and another's on another day till all the farmers have gully plugs in place. This drives home the fact that environmental conservation and communitarian egalitarianism are two sides of the same coin of human goodwill and cooperation. This is an important message that the indigenous people have for the rest of humanity. This is in fact the manifestation of a spiritual relationship that the indigenous people have with their land and this has been acknowledged in the UN Declaration as follows -
Article 25
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.
The operative part is "uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard". Instead we had the whole world glued to their television sets yesterday watching the inauguration of the immensely wasteful twentyninth olympic games.

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