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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Search of Green

On a recent motorcycle trip from Indore to Jhabua I once again came across a sight to gladden the heart. There is a spot on this road where the Malwa plateau ends and there is a hilly descent into the Jhabua plains. There is a village at this spot named Machlia after which the descent is named as Machlia Ghat where the road winds like a serpent around the hills as it descends. As I approached the spot I saw that the forest department had expended considerable amount of money to dig contour trenches and plant saplings so as to regenerate the hills which had become denuded. However, as is the story in most parts of Madhya Pradesh in this regard the hills were still barren without any sign of vegetation. However, in very green contrast, a little further down the hill as soon as the Machlia village lands became visible I saw that there were trees and grass on the small hillocks on the side of the farms of the Bhil tribal residents.
Clearly, the residents of the village were well aware of the importance of conserving the environment for ensuring the sustainability of their livelihoods and they were doing so on the hillocks next to their farms. But the much larger common lands that were under the control of the Forest Department and where they must have worked for wages were barren. This succinctly underlines the deep disconnect there is between the Forest Department in particular and the government and administration in general with the tribal people. If the larger forest area was also handed over to the residents of Machlia village for protection and use, I am sure they would be able to make it green in a few years' time. However, there is an inherent distrust in the government regarding people's capacities. Indeed, the thrust of all government programmes in reality is to atomise the community and prevent it from collaborating for the common good even though the rhetoric may be one of people's participation.
Especially in Fifth Schedule tribal areas where, due to the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, the tribal Gram Sabha or village general body is theoretically empowered to control most of the important activities in the village, such communitarian cooperation for social and environmental regeneration is eminently possible. But the larger ambience of economic, social and political competition that currently prevails, sabotages communitarian cooperation.

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