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, December 26, 2010
A Woman of Great Importance
Then Amarbati was selected for training by The Hunger Project. This organisation in partnership with various NGOs works intensively to train elected women representatives of Panchayats throughout the country. There is first a residential training course and then the trainees are provided support in their work as Panches after they return to their villages. Amarbati learnt about the various laws and rules of Panchayati Raj and the political techniques of getting community work done through the Panchayats. She became the confident and articulate woman seen in the picture below.
A dour battle then ensued and Amarbati marshalled the other eight women panchayat ward members and filed a complaint against the corrupt practices of the Panchayat Secretary to the Subdivisional Magistrate. When this did not work she went with her team of women panchayat members to the District Collector and complained to him in writing with support from The Hunger Project. After repeated petitioning supported by documentary evidence of corruption by the Panchayat Secretary the Collector finally removed him from service.
This is a huge achievement by Amarbati and her co-panchayat members and its great importance can only be gauged in the context of the reality that prevails with regard to Panchayati Raj in Madhya Pradesh. Dindori like Alirajpur district where the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is active is a Schedule Five Tribal Area and so in accordance with the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, the Gram Sabha or general body is the most powerful body in Panchayati Raj. However, taking advantage of the illiteracy and general lack of awareness of the tribals the Chief Executive Officer of the Janpad Panchayats at the Block level through their minions, of whom the last link with the citizens is the Panchayat Secretary, effectively wields all the powers and together these officials defalcate funds at will. The Panchayat Secretaries are paid only Rupees Two Thousand Five Hundred a month as salaries. Yet they do not reside in the Panchayats but in the nearest market villages or the Block headquarters where they have built big pucca houses and commute occasionally to the Panchayats by motorcycle. The big house of the Panchayat Secretary of Umrali Panchayat in Sondwa Block of Alirajpur district is shown below.