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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Occupy Movement that Continues

One of the most heartening aspects of the past three decades or so of mass movements in this country is the longevity of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Even though the NBA has not been able to get any of the big dams on the River Narmada cancelled it has succeeded in putting a spanner in their completion by fighting a very innovative battle involving legal action and mass action on the ground. The NBA has stuck to the line that the Supreme Court's judgment that the dam cannot be built unless all the affected persons are rehabilitated in accordance with the provisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. The dour resistance of some of the people in the valley who are refusing to move out of their lands unless they are given proper alternative lands and resettlement facilities has resulted in the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat being stymied at 121 m and the gates of the Maheshwar, Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams not being closed and the reservoirs filled to full capacity.
Among the many mass actions carried out by the NBA one of the most intriguing is that of occupying government agricultural research farms. They had first done this once on the government farm in Taloon village in Barwani district during the monsoons of 2007. The government had taken a hard line then and arrested the Bhil tribal farmers from Alirajpur who had occupied the farm along with Medha Patkar. They were badly beaten up and sent to jail. However, the NBA took the government to court over this action and the High Court awarded compensation to all the arrested persons stating that it was the duty of the government to give the affected people alternative agricultural land and since it was not doing so it had no right to use violence on the protesting tribals. Thereafter, the NBA continued its struggle for land and also exposed the huge scam being perpetrated by the rehabilitation department of falsely registering land in the name of affected persons without actually handing over possession to them. The concentration on asking for rehabilitation according to the NWDT award has put the government on the backfoot and it is not being able to make much progress with completing the dams.
The NBA has once again launched an occupation movement by barging into the agricultural research farm in Jobat in Alirajpur district from November 2011 onwards. This time round the government has not taken any action whatsoever other than cutting off the electricity supply in the farm. So the occupying tribals have not only stayed put but have grown a very good crop of wheat as is evident in the picture below.
The tribals from the villages on the banks of the River Narmada in Alirajpur district take turns to stay at the farm and carry out all the agricultural activities. The crucial one of course is watering the fields and this is done with the use of a diesel pump. The man currently in charge of operations is Bhaita from Jhandana village. He is diehard fighter and has borne incarceration many times in search of justice. I met him after a long time recently when we visited the Jobat farm to see how things were progressing. Even though I myself look comparatively well heeled in the picture below having desisted from roughing it out in the field over a decade ago, the rigours of this long struggle are quite evident in Bhaita below.
This occupation has been named "Zameen Haq Satyagraha" which means passive resistance for land rights. The occupants have also parcelled out the land among themselves and are preparing for a more extensive farming operation in the coming monsoon season. They have also threatened to take over the government farms in Alirajpur and Jhabua and so accommodate gradually all the affected people in Alirajpur. The NBA is simultaneously carrying out campaigns with the government authorities seeking a just solution to the problem of displacement but is meeting with silence. It remains to be seen how long the government will sit idle if the NBA carries out its threat of occupying the other government farms also. For the time being at least this indigenous occupy movement has proved to be much more resilient and productive than the more famous one that has petered out in America. Primarily because of the staying power that the NBA has developed over the years.

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