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, January 26, 2010

There is Still Hope

The most heartening aspect of the workshop held earlier this month in Raipur in Chhattisgarh on the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996 and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 was the participation of a new generation of young, educated and committed tribal activists both men and women. The most notable among them being Mamta Kujur from Jashpur district seen in the picture below.

Mamta's parents were both government servants and stationed in Bhopal. So after her early childhood she spent most of her time in that city and did her education up to the post graduate level there. When she returned to her village in Jashpur after that she was shocked to find it in socio-economic decay. Not only had the forests and the agriculture become less productive but the people too were malnourished. The men were mostly alcoholics drinking the bottled liquor from distilleries which was available in plenty instead of the traditional home-brewn liquour from fermented Mahua flowers or rice. An even bigger threat of displacement was looming large. After devastating the nearby districts of Sarguja and Raigarh through indiscriminate mining and setting up of factories and plants of all kinds the government and the capitalists had now begun to eye the rich mineral resources of Jashpur.
Mamta chose the path of activism instead of taking up a job to fight the injustice being meted out to her fellow tribals. She first got other women together to set up an organisation for women's rights and later joined with other organisations to launch a campaign against indiscriminate industrialisation. Over the past two years these have borne fruit and not only is bootlegging and alcoholism being tackled but also the problem of displacement. There have been militant mobilisations first in Jashpur and then a massive joint one in the capital Raipur. Mamta spent a lot of time holding meetings with tribals who are in government jobs to convince them to support this mobilisation so that their less fortunate community members could fight against injustice. This led to these government servant tribals footing the cost of the food given to the thousands of tribals who came for the rally in Raipur.
Another positive development in the workshop was the presence of Mohan Kothekar a veteran trade union activist from Nagpur in Maharashtra. He is part of a network of politically independent trade unions called the New Trade Union Initiative. The NTUI has grown out of the experience of the struggle of many independent trade unions both in the organised and unorganised sectors the most famous being that of the Kamani Tubes workers union in Mumbai and the Kanoria Jute Mills workers union in West Bengal where workers took over management of the company. The main hurdle that independent trade unions face is their isolation in an increasingly hostile market friendly world in which the labour laws count for little. That is why it is necessary to form a wider forum. A trade union working as part of a forum like the NTUI is much more stable and has greater longevity than a social movement which tends to peter out after some time due to the lack of formal structures and member contribution. The oppressed and marginalised can still hope to overcome their misery one day was the feeling with which the participants in the workshop went back to continue with their struggles.

No comments: