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, August 25, 2009

A Black Pool of Peace

Deep Black Pool is where I went in search of peace last Saturday. Kalakund which roughly translates as a black deep pool is a village situated about thirty five kilometers from the city of Indore on the river Chorol which is a tributary of the Narmada river. The name comes from a deep pool that has been created in the river near the village due to a combination of a dam built on the river and the hard rock formation of the river bed. The dam was built by the British to create a reservoir that could supply water for the steam engines that used to operate on the railway line that passes through the village. The dam is defunct today as steam engines are not used anymore as shown in the picture below but the pool behind remains dark and peaceful.

This village is at the foot of the Vindhyas and so is the starting point of a steep climb of 250 meters by the rail line to the Malwa Plateau on which Indore is situated. When it was built in the 1880s this railway line provided an important route for the export of the produce of the Malwa plateau to Mumbai via Khandwa. The Malwa region was also the Military Headquarters of the Western Region for the British and the acronym MHOW is now the name of the cantonment town that they built and which has become a combat and electronic warfare training centre for the Indian army. The railway line was built at a time when the region was witnessing a rebellion against British domination under the leadership of the great Tantia Bhil. Though Tantia and his comrades were subdued with the help of treachery by non-adivasi upper castes who stood to gain through collaboration with the British, he has remained a legendary hero in the hearts and minds of the Bhils and this is amply demonstrated by the legend that the train on its downward journey to Kalakund stops to pay homage at the memorial erected for Tantia in Patalpani at the edge of the Malwa Plateau shown below. Actually the train has to put on its brakes before beginning the descent for safety's sake and just next to the point where it has to stop there is a memorial to Tantia built into the rock. However popular Bhil mythology has it otherwise.

Reality, is considerably more bitter and today Tantia and his descendant Bhil adivasis count for little in Madhya Pradesh. No wonder then that the dam in Kalakund has not been repaired and pressed into use to irrigate the fields of the few adivasis who reside there after it became redundant for the railways. The adivasis consequently have to supplement their meagre agricultural incomes from their small farms by smuggling small pieces of timber from the forest to Indore. They do this of course with the connivance of the Forest department staff to whom they pay bribes. Electricity supply is intermittent and so women have to go by train all the way to Mhow some fifteen kilometers away to get their wheat milled as the woman in the picture below has done. They have to travel to Mhow for purchase of most other necessities also.

Kalakund and Patalpani are both picturesque spots. Patalpani because there is a falls where the Chorol river drops precipitately down a steep cliff as shown in the picture below. Kalakund because it is in a deep valley surrounded by verdant and lonely hills all around. This heavily forested and steep hilly area is very remote despite being so close to a big city and is extremely peaceful. Patalpani is a popular picnic spot because it is close to Indore and can be reached easily by road. Kalakund being more remote is visited only by those who are a little more adventurous and who like the peaceful ambience. The area is out of mobile coverage also and so there is no way in which the peace can be disturbed.

I enjoyed a very peaceful day, especially an invigorating swim in the pool along with the young adivasi students of the primary school shown below and was taken back to the memory of the happy years I spent in Alirajpur two decades back on the banks of the Narmada when it was still beautiful and had not been submerged by the Sardar Sarovar dam. The value of this simple peace of the adivasis is immense and is a product of their natural anarcho-environmentalism that is gradually being destroyed by the onslaught of modern development.

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