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.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Son

A small twelve year old Bhil boy ran away with his friend from his home in Alirajpur district about a decade ago and went to Surat in Gujarat. He had got tired of studying in school where he had been sent by his elder brothers. Thousands upon thousands of Bhil adivasis of all ages and sexes from the tender to the old were working as labourers in Surat and so it was not difficult for these boys to find work there. The boy named Magan, however, wanted to try something new out instead of doing just back breaking labour on construction sites and so with his friend he joined a roadside hotel as a dishwasher. Soon Magan through dint of hard work rose to become a sweet maker. He became so expert in this that his employer took him and his friend to Mumbai to work in his shop there.
In Mumbai the boys used to do their work and then take off on trips around the city to see and taste its many faceted delights. On one such trip they went to the airport and seemed to have strayed into a restricted area from where they were apprehended by the security staff. When asked to furnish their residence address and the name of their local employer they gave false information fearing that their employer would get angry and so landed up in juvenile prison. They spent six months in juvenile prison before being set free as somehow their employer came to know about their whereabouts.
Their employer then sent Magan to Hongkong to work in his sweet shop over there. But after just one month's work he was made to work as a house worker in cleaning and dusting the flat in which the employer used to stay. Magan was not allowed to go around the city like he used to in Mumbai. This was too much for him and he forced his employer to send him back threatening to drown himself if he didn't. After reaching Mumbai he decided he had had enough and came back to Alirajpur after five years to a hero's welcome from his family.
This was in 2000 and he was promptly married off to a girl by his family who hoped that this would curb his waywardness. However, Magan continued to lead the life of a vagabond and would have gone the violent criminal way as many other Bhil youth of Alirajpur do if he had not met Shankar, the leading activist of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, one day. The idea of engaging in activism towards the establishment of a strong independent Bhil identity struck a harmonious chord in Magan's rebellious mind and he became an enthusiastic participant of this movement. This was the time when considerable amount of publication was being undertaken in Bhilali and Hindi on the subject of Bhili culture and so it was decided to set up a stall in Alirajpur to sell these publications. To finance this stall it was made into a combined book store cum tea stall. Magan with his experience in hotel management took charge of the stall and is pictured in this role below.

Not surprisingly Magan was not one to be tied down to this role for a long time and soon the shop was shut down and Magan became a roving activist once again. At about this time the administration in Jhabua took it into its head to institute mass community marriages of Bhil couples to curb the tendency among them to elope and settle down without any formal marriage. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath opposed this move on the part of the administration as a blatant attempt to Hinduise the Bhils and obliterate their distinct culture. All such mass marriage events were vigorously opposed and Magan went to jail several times and eventually succeeded in getting the administration to desist from its campaign.
Magan is now a full time activist of the sangathan with broad responsibilities ranging from rights based work to development and also when the need comes intellectual production in the form of articles and poems. He is one prodigal son who has not only returned but has also immersed himself whole heartedly in the Bhils' struggles for a place in the sun and recognition by the mainstream of the positive aspects of their anarcho-environmentalist life and culture.


anish said...

magan's story is very inspiring! thanks for writing this blog rahul.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the khedut mazdoor chetna sangath may be marginal in its impact but its existence ensures that many like magan get some direction in life.

Madhya Pradesh Lok Sangharsh Manch said...

Dear Rahulji,
read about Magan...i am in regular touch with Magan and know him as a firebrand activist of Khedut Mazdoor chetna sangat..but was unaware about the past history u wrote in the is really thrilling and thought provoking....i wish all success in his endevour to fight against injustice and exploition in Alirajpur to ensure tribal rights and dignity......regards...Pramod

Rahul Banerjee said...

Magan is one of the reasons why KMCS is still so young and fiery despite the long grind of over 25 years in the face of heavy odds in its fight for justice.

Devanshi said...

Awesome story!

Priya VK Singh said...

reading this post while watching an inane debate on Times Now ---- how distressing that we see more of Suhel Seth than the likes of this intrepid young man.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the media and especially the electronic media are a macabre farce most of the time and it would do him a disservice if Magan were to feature in these talk shows!

Priya VK Singh said...

It would at least bring his story to middle class India, not all of which is tainted by indifference.

Rahul Banerjee said...

true but exposure to the electronic media is a double edged sword. my experience has been that what you gain in the swings you lose on the roundabouts if you become too enamoured of media publicity. the media should always remain as a support system to mass mobilisation. unfortunately often mass movements and especially their leaders have played to the media gallery rather than stick to hard mass mobilisation and that has been the death knell of many a movement.