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, March 7, 2011

The Perils of Activism

Recently Niyamat Ansari who was fighting for the proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Latehar district of Jharkhand was murdered. Initially the news given out was that the Maoists had killed him on the basis of the fact that the Maoists do have a big presence in the district. However, it has now become clear that he was killed because of his opposition to the contractor-bureaucrat-politician nexus that controls much of the state and also the MGNREGS in Latehar. This brings out the difficulty in organising the poor for demanding their rights especially in a milieu in which the administration is controlled by armed goons. Here is a detailed report prepared by the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan of which Niyamat was an active member -

Niyamat Ansari was a resident of Kope Gram Panchayat in Manika Block, Latehar District. During the last few years, he was working with Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, a local campaign for
village self-rule, also involved in issues such as the right to information, the right to food and the right to work. Since NREGA was launched in 2006, Niyamat Ansari and his close friend Bhukhan Singh (also from Kope Gram Panchayat) have been working for the rights of NREGA workers in the area. This included helping labourers file work applications. From 2007 till February 2009, they supported  a demand for unemployment allowance for several workers in Kope Panchayat. Their efforts bore fruit when in the Latehar Lok Adalat in February 2009, more than 90 workers were paid unemployment allowance for the first time in Jharkhand. This and their fight against corruption in NREGA made them very unpopular in the eyes of local vested interests especially private contractors (who are still in control of many NREGA works in large parts of Jharkhand). In October 2008, they were attacked in their village by a gang of armed goons. They hid in a pile of wood to save their lives. In February 2009, immediately after the Lok Adalat, false cases were slapped against them. Residents of Kope Gram Panchayat were attacked by goons in March 2009. Several people were brutally beaten, including some women.In November 2010, their homes were locked up and other residents of the village were warned against helping them. 

Niyamat Ansari and Bhukhan Singh had clearly identified Shankar Dubey (a notorious local contractor) as the person behind this attack on them as well as behind the earlier attempt on their lives, in October 2008.In February 2011, Niyamat Ansari played an important role in exposing a Rs. 2.5 lakh scam in NREGA in Rankikalan Gram Panchayat. Kailash Sahu, former BDO of Manika Block and Basudev Nagesia (Panchayat Sewak of Rankikalan) played a key role in this scam. A local contractor named Babloo Dubey, son of above-mentioned Shankar Dubey, was implementing the work and masterminding the scam. After an enquiry, an FIR was lodged against the BDO and Panchayat Sewak in late February, 2011. On 2 March, 2011 a group of goons abducted Niyamat from his residence in Jerua village (Kope Gram Panchayat). He was brutally beaten for nearly one hour. According to eye witnesses, this was done by the same gang as in October 2008. It is strongly suspected that these men were acting under orders from Babloo Dubey and Shankar Dubey. After they deserted him, Niyamat's brother and other family members carried his unconscious body on a charpoy from Jerua village to Manika thana, a distance of about 10km. Niyamat's family reached Manika thana on foot, with Niyamat unconscious on a charpoy,  before the administration managed to send an ambulance to them. After this, Niyamat was brough to Latehar Sadar Hospital. Soon after reaching there, he died. 
Despite being alerted to the danger to their lives, the district and state administration failed to save his life.Bhukhan Singh was also being sought out, but he was able to save his life by hiding. On the morning of 3 March, 2011 he was brought to Latehar by the district authorities. The same day, on 3 March 2011, an
FIR was lodged in Latehar by Niyamat's sister, naming eight culprits: "Sudarshan"; Shankar Dubey; Vijay Dubey (probably the same person as Babloo Dubey); Purushottam Prashad; Arun Singh; Vashisht Tiwari;
Prem Chand Singh; Devas Singh. The Superintendent of Police (SP) Latehar, contacted on 3 March 2011 at 6 pm, gave assurances that he was making arrangements to arrest all these suspects. "Sudarshan", named in the FIR, is known in the area as a local Maoist "commander". Whether he is a Maoist, or a member of a break-away Maoist faction, or a pseudo-Maoist, is yet to be ascertained. According to eye-witnesses, Bharat (another suspected Maoist) was present on 2 March when Niyamat was
being beaten to death. The other persons named in the FIR, starting with Shankar Dubey, are notorious local contractors or their accomplices. Some of them, including Shankar Dubey and Arun Singh, are believed to enjoy the protection and patronage of local politicians or former politicians.

The Rankikala Scam (Manika Block, Latehar) for which niyamat was murdered -
Thisis an exceptional case of blatant fraud where the then acting BDO of Manika, Shri Kailash Sahu, colluded with the Panchayat Sevak of Rankikala (Shri Basudev Nagesia) to embezzle NREGA funds by
bypassing the entire record-keeping system. The Panchayat Sevak (PS) prepared two fake “Payment Advices”, for which there are no corresponding Muster Rolls, Measurement Books,
MIS entries or any other records (these Payment Advices are signed by
the PS and BDO). The BDO then signed a cheque for each Payment Advice and the money was siphoned off through Post Office accounts of the fake workers, in collusion with the
Postmaster Rankikala, Shri Ashok Tiwari. The workers listed in these Payment Advices live far away from the concerned worksites, and deny having worked there or having received any of the money that was
withdrawn in their name from the Post Office. Some of them (e.g. Sunil Mochi s/o Banaudhi Mochi, of Aholiya Tola in Rankikala Village, a bus khalasi who never worked on NREGA) did not even know that a Post Office account had been opened in their name! These facts were initially established by the NREGA Sahayata Kendra Manika and submitted to the Latehar District Collector, Shri Rahul Purwar, who
directed the SDO Latehar to conduct a joint enquiry with members of the Sahayata Kendra on 21 February 2011. The SDO Latehar came to Manika that day and examined the records available at the Block office but
refused to proceed to Rankikala to verify the Post Office records or talk to the workers listed in the fake Payment Advices (he was unable to give any valid reason for this and appeared to be under pressure to
protect some of the culprits). The Sahayata Kendra team (including James Herenj, Jean Dr├Ęze and Niyamat Ansari) proceeded to Rankikala, took photographs of the Post Office records, and talked to some of the
workers listed in the fake Payment Advices. The SDO Latehar came back the next day and was able to verify the facts for himself. Further information, including details of the relevant documents, are given in
the attached summary report prepared by James Herenj (Coordinator, Sahayata Kendra Manika). Photocopies of these documents are available on request. This is an extreme case of brazen embezzlement, violation of all the record-keeping rules, and “capture” of the Post Office by corrupt middlemen. Stern action is essential to stop the rot. 


hindu blog said...

It's sensational post. I liked it.

Anonymous said...

An Ocean of Activism ur Blog is...please keep the posts coming...

Rahul Banerjee said...

Lets hope all our efforts lead to genuine mass democracy some day!