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, January 16, 2010

The Dance of the Tribals

The Bhil tribals have a form of entertainment and prayer in which a gayan (bard) sings a gayana (song) which is based on a story that has no end. the gayan can go on improvising and singing. There is a burwa or shaman who dances to this song. and the song continues as long as the burwa goes on dancing under the spell of the great spirit, revealing the hidden truths of the world. Thus, this song ends only when the burwa finally stops dancing having become free of the spell of the great spirit. Without any pre-planning the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights)Act 2006 (FRA) has turned out to be like that song. Since there is no mention in the Act itself and the Rules about when the process of claims for rights is to begin and when it is to end it can go on for ever as long as the tribals under the spell of the great organisation spirit can go on dancing and filing claims and challenging the wrong dismissal of their claims in the courts. Since there are still a few spirited organisations of tribals around the country, and their number is increasing by the day, one can bet that this song at least is never going to end!
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic accidental death of the great french philosopher and litterateur Albert Camus at the relatively young age of 46 on January 4th 1960. Like all great literature Camus's works have the quality that every time you re read him you find some new nuggets of wisdom. Similarly even though I was initially very sceptical of the FRA when it was passed in 2006, trying to ensure that it is implemented in Alirajpur district has made me re read it again and again and every time I find some new points in it on which to well and truly stymie the state.
Possibly Camus's greatest philosophical essay is the "Myth of Sisyphus". the way I have understood it is that the free human being must go on rolling the rock of protest up the hill of injustices meted out by the state and that fight itself is freedom. It is possible to combine the FRA, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 and Right To Information Act 2005 to mount a significant challenge to state power in tribal areas and this is happening in pockets. It looks as if it will be possible to ensure that the FRA remains stuck eternally in the throat of the state as a fit reply to the centuries of oppression that has been heaped on the tribals in this country because this dance of the tribals is not going to stop in a hurry.

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