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 15, 2009
Nastar then took admission in the nearest government secondary school in Sondwa village which is also the block headquarters. He passed out with eighty per cent marks in the class ten Madhya Pradesh Secondary Board examinations in 2008. When I flashed the news of this success over the internet, two of my Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur batchmates came forward with the proposal that they were prepared to fund Nastar so that he could be given proper coaching facilities to enable him to make it to the Indian Institute of Technology too. I made some enquiries and found that it would cost about 1.25 lakh rupees to educate Nastar in Indore over two years and provide him with IIT coaching facilities. There was some debate within the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath regarding spending so much money on one boy as this was an unsustainable approach to education but consensus was reached that as a one shot experiment it should be tried out.
Consequently Nastar came to Indore and began studying in a school there and taking special coaching for IIT also. However, it immediately became clear that there is a vast difference between the education of the Madhya Pradesh Board schools and that of the IIT coaching classes. So a special tutor had to be engaged at a huge cost to provide him with support. Over and above this the costs of accommodation and food too escalated and the net result was that the expenditure in the first twelve months itself came to Rs 1.3 lakhs. This raised a hue and cry within the KMCS and a huge opposition built up against the spending of so much money just to send an adivasi boy to IIT. After all it was argued there was no way in which more students could be funded in this way to go to IIT on a regular basis and so there was no point in continuing this programme. Moreover, my colleagues in the KMCS pointed out that I myself had rejected most of what I was taught in IIT and had chosen instead to fight for an alternative anarco-environmentalist developmental paradigm and so there was not much point in pursuing this expensive project of sending Nastar to IIT as a symbolic gesture. After much debate a compromise has been reached wherein Nastar's family are going to bear his accommodation and food costs which will be at a much more modest level than before and KMCS is going to bear only the cost of the IIT coaching classes and his expensive special tutor is going to be discontinued.
This whole episode brings out the vast gap that exists between education for adivasi children and that available to the elite. The cost of sending a student to an IIT these days is anything like Rs 3 lakhs and there is no way in which a poverty stricken adivasi family can foot the bill on its own and it must remain a distant dream. Of course there is also the question as to whether so much money should be expended on a kind of technical education that eventually leads to the devastation of the environment and the livelihoods of the tribals through unsustainable industrial development.