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, October 18, 2008

Misplaced Divine Wrath

The people of one Bhil adivasi hamlet of Katkut village are furious these days. Some families from this hamlet have opted to desert their traditional Gods and have begun worshipping Hindu Gods instead and another set of people have begun praying to a Sufi saint whose spirit comes to them. This religious eclecticism has torn the social fabric of the hamlet as now people do not sit together to celebrate the festivities of the traditional adivasi Gods. The worst part of it according to those who have remained steadfast to the adivasi Gods is that the wrath of these Gods is being visited on them who have remained true and not on the heretics! All kinds of new diseases are being visited on them as a result! Only two days ago a young teenaged boy had died of a mysterious disease that was not diagnosed by either the traditional adivasi medicine men or the local quacks. Of course the family of the boy did not have the money to take him to the city of Indore for treatment. Those who have gone over to other faiths have also been doing well economically to add to the chagrin of the Bhils.
In a world in which the power of the Gods is in direct proportion to the material rather than the spiritual wealth of their believers the Bhils who want to stick to their traditional religion are finding it increasingly difficult to do so. In fact the newer generation which has shed the traditional dress is also gradually shedding the traditional Gods. Modern myths generated by the market hold much stronger sway. The traditional subsistence agriculture based society of the Bhils is fast fading away and they are left bereft of effective social support in the absence of well functioning modern education and community health systems.
The mother of the boy who died is Karoti. She was one of the most militant women organisers of the movement in her village when it was at its peak and was a regular at the various awareness meetings that used to be held. But later when the movement was crushed by the state and the meetings stopped she lapsed back into traditional spiritualism. When Subhadra had asked her some time back why she was doing this she replied jokingly that since organised mass action had not been able to achieve anything substantial she wanted to see whether gyrating to the commands of the spirit that possessed her might end her poverty and associated ills. Ultimately that too was unsuccessful and she has now lost her young son. An instance of misplaced divine wrath if ever there was one. Below is a picture of Karoti making one of her inspiring speeches at a public meeting in the heydays of the movement.

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