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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bell Hasn't stopped Tolling

Over the past few days I have received a number of mails from people who were dissatisfied with the milieu at the silver jubilee celebrations of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Badwani on the 23rd of October. They felt miffed at the huge self congratulatory jubilation when in reality the NBA and social movements in general are on the backfoot both nationally and globally and far from achieving the goals that they have set out for themselves. There has been a dissident trend among the activists of the NBA and other associated mass organisations right from the late 1980s. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath was a hotbed for such dissidence. The basic difference was with regard to the process of mobilisation. While the NBA perforce had to rely on public advocacy along with mass mobilisation and so had to give importance to the former the KMCS on the other hand continued to do intensive grassroots work with very little lobbying. Things came to a head in the early 1990s when the mass mobilisation of the NBA collapsed significantly and it had to rely increasingly on public advocacy and legal action. At this point of time most of the KMCS activists pressed for a strategy of broadbasing the mass movement instead of concentrating on stopping the dam. This was not accepted by the NBA and one of the activists of the KMCS also went over to the NBA.
Even though the NBA has in the end failed to stop the Sardar Sarovar dam and some of the other dams upstream on the Narmada and its tributaries its legal action has ensured that the dams have not been completed because of non-fulfilment of environmental and rehabilitation conditions. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the strategy suggested by the KMCS and some other activists would have been successful if the NBA had also put its might behind it. The KMCS and the other tribal organisations faced heavy repression when they fought on their own and have eventually been forced to adopt a very much more diluted agenda of action.
Actually with the turn of the century the thrust of globalisation and associated profit making has been such that the struggles for a just and sustainable development model have been severely marginalised. Under the circumstances it is better to keep the flock together rather than become dispersed in internecine squabbles. It is true that the NBA has developed an orthodoxy and public image that prevents it from doing genuine soul searching but this is something that should be publicly debated. I told the carpers who had mailed me to go public with their dissatisfaction but they declined. So I thought I would put in a word given the fact that I have voiced my opinions publicly in this regard earlier too in various forums and rather extensively so in my book. A one time activist of the NBA Shripad Dharmadhikary too has commented in his blog on the need for an in depth self appraisal by the NBA.
All in all I feel that the silver jubilee celebration is a necessary ritual that had to be organised to maintain the iconic status of the NBA and project it as a torch bearer for people's struggles not only in India but globally. Even though I myself could not attend because of pressing engagements elsewhere people from the KMCS went to Badwani despite the rather unpalatable fact that over the past few years the NBA has continually denigrated the work of the KMCS! One must remember that the bell has not stopped tolling for humanity and so it is important to continue the struggle against unsustainable and unjust development sinking petty differences. Twentyfive years of the NBA are twenty five years of relentless struggle that need to be honoured regardless of everything else.