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, March 26, 2011

Any Lessons from The Jasmine Revolutions?

Freedom of Speech and expression combined with the freedom to vote seem to be deeply cherished by people. If the lack of these freedoms are also accompanied by a lack of livelihood security then it becomes an explosive mixture. The Internet can then provide the spark for a revolt as the Internet cannot be policed like other media. This seems to have been the basis for the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. It later spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. In Tunisia and Egypt the army came out in favour of the protesting citizens and the dictators were toppled. In Yemen, Bahrain and Libya civil war situations have developed. The western powers who initially held back hesitating to move against their long standing dictatorial allies in the Arab World, have also now entered the fray either covertly or overtly. More, one suspects with the motive of securing the crude oil supplies than with any real support for the Arab citizens and their yearning for democracy. Thus, overall the situation seems to be that there is a drift towards capitalist liberal democracy but not towards a radically new dispensation that is pro-people and more importantly pro-poor. The huge power of centralised state systems in today's modern world has been driven home by the failure of these revolutions to bring about any drastic change apart from the promise of capitalist liberal democracy. Even that remains doubtful.
Many in India have sought to take heart from these revolutions without realising that India already is a functioning liberal democracy with both the right to freedom of expression and the right to vote in free and fair elections firmly established. Even though there is a serious problem of livelihood security, nevertheless there are democratic vents for expressing dissatisfaction politically right from the grassroots level to the parliament and legally through the judiciary. Moreover, the media too performs a satisfactory role as a watchdog. What we here need is a more radical change which is going to be difficult to achieve against a well entrenched state system.
Here is an example of the difficulty involved from the work of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS). The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has now been extended to private lands also. Thus, in Madhya Pradesh there is a scheme called the Bhoomishilp Yojana for soil and water conservation work on the private farms of small and marginal farmers. The KMCS this year has gone about trying to get many of its members to apply for this scheme so that along with the money received as wages they will also get their farm lands levelled and bunded. However, getting this scheme to be implemented is proving to be really tough. The Sarpanches, Panchayat Secretaries and the Block level government functionaries are all against this scheme because it involves more work for them and there is little scope for corruption. After tremendous efforts only two Panchayats have been able to get work under this scheme. Even Sarpanches elected with the support of the KMCS have opposed this scheme. The Sarpanches have considerable influence in their panchayats and so it is difficult to go against them when they prefer to side with the state.
Thus, in India politics is very complex especially at the grassroots and the Jasmine Revolutions have very little to offer to us by way of lessons and tactics to be learnt. In the ultimate analysis it is the huge concentration of resources in a few hands that constricts any movement towards genuine mass democracy and this will continue to be a problem for some time to come.

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