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, May 1, 2010

Despite the general gloom that surrounds the lives of the labouring poor and the thoughts of those who try and fight for a better deal for them it is imperative that we remember International Labour Day and renew our commitment to the establishment of a more just and peaceful society. As far as the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is concerned, the silver lining is the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The KMCS has campaigned hard and in over fifty villages soil and water conservation works have been initiated on a large scale providing employment and also increasing the environmental sustainability. Similarly the campaign to spread cultivation of lower water demanding wheat crops has also been very successful with about forty farmers having sown these sustainable varieties of wheat with good production.
But it would be pertinent to remember that given the general milieu of thievery and skullduggery it is very difficult to sustain a people's movement. The example of Kalu Singh Chouhan is a case in point. Kalu Singh was a very enthusiastic activist of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath from Barda village. This is the same village from which Shankar Tadavla the secretary also hails. Shankar and Kalu Singh made a formidable duo in the early nineteen nineties and were able to mobilise a whole new set of villages within a space of a few years.
Then the trouble started. Kalu Singh went to meet Chhotubhai Vasava, a Bhil tribal Member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Chhotubhai ran a kingdom of his own in his constituency. He had a team of armed men and he dispensed justice to his voters and acolytes. This impressed Kalu Singh tremendously and he came back and said that the KMCS would spend years fighting the state but would never become powerful. The way to go was to build up a team of armed men and then rule over people and also manipulate the state apparatus. To support his arguments he cited the example of Tantia Bhil who had fought the British with a small band of armed men and at the same time looted and terrorised the big landlords. Thereafter he launched this programme of his and began looting and murdering people. He also aligned himself with the Bharatiya Janata Party and mobilised people to help a new candidate from that party win the assembly elections from Alirajpur for the first time for that party. His murdering spree got so out of hand that he was finally apprehended and also convicted and so he spent a few years in jail but is now out on bail pending appeal.
Such is his aura of terror in his village Barda that Shankar has had to shift residence to Alirajpur fearing that he may get murdered on the sly by Kalu Singh's henchmen. Kalu Singh managed to win the election to the post of Sarpanch from his village panchayat because no one had the temerity to file a complaint that being a convicted person he was not eligible to contest. Now he is openly defalcating the funds of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
There have been other such tribal leaders before in Alirajpur and elsewhere who have relied on criminality to command electoral support but what is a pity in this case is that Kalu Singh was once a dedicated activist of the KMCS. There are others too who have abandoned the KMCS for the more lucrative path of being a leader associated with a mainstream political party.
The KMCS in the initial years had tried to fight such criminality but the police sided with the criminals and implicated the KMCS activists in criminal cases as serious as murder when they took action against these criminal elements. Thus now Shankar and Khemla prefer to play a wait and watch game. These criminals know that they wont be able to get away with attacking the KMCS and so they too do not confront the organisation. But overall the kind of strong anti-statist movement that should have evolved is absent.
The only satisfaction is that despite such attrition of cadres and leaders to criminality and mainstream politics the KMCS continues to provide support to the large majority of the poor tribals of Alirajpur in their struggles for their rights. May Day is being celebrated in Alirajpur this year by the KMCS with a workshop on the rights of migrant labourers.

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