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, April 2, 2012

A Memorial Service with a Relevance

On April 2nd 2001 the police under orders from the Government of Madhya Pradesh killed four members of the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan in Mehndikhera village in Dewas district when a big contingent of the latter had gathered to protest against the government team demolishing their houses and beating up and arresting people. Since then every year a memorial service is held on this day at the monument that has been set up to commemorate these martyrs on the main road in Bisali village near the place of the confrontation which is pictured below.
The Bhil tribals have a tradition of erecting memorials to their martial forefathers and these base relief sculptures in stone are called Gathas. In this instance apart from the four Gathas for the four martyrs of the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan there is in the center a slightly bigger Gatha for the great Bhil freedom fighter Tantia who had fought the British valiantly in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
The Adivasi Morcha Sangathan had been making very simple demands at the time - that in accordance with the  Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution the tribal Gram Sabha or village general body should be recognised as the paramount institution of governance at the village level. Even though the Government was loathe to accede to this demand the tribal organisation had gone ahead and actualised it on the ground in a small area of about twenty five villages where the tribal Gram Sabhas were effectively in control of their affairs and had marginalised the State and Central Governments. This proved to be too much for the latter and it was stated that "the might of the State Government could not be allowed to be marginalised". So a huge armed force of police and forest officials were sent down to these villages to terrorise the people through an indiscriminate campaign of destruction, beating up and arrest which did not even spare the women.
This is not surprising as the independent Indian State has continually trampled on the rights of the tribals and other peasants when it has come to usurping their lands for so called development projects. Even now there are movements going on in various parts of the country against such unjust displacement due to dams in Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, steel and aluminium plants in Orissa and nuclear power plants in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In all these instances it is possible to initiate decentralised and environmentally and socially sustainable processes for generating electricity, utlising water or producing steel and aluminium. However, such decentralised production will not lead to the accumulation of profits which is what drives the modern world. That is why the State uses the force at its disposal against the protestors to favour the rich and powerful.
The Adivasi Morcha Sangathan along with the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath and other organisations continue to fight for tribal autonomy and justice in western Madhya Pradesh and the memorial service at the martyr's monument in Bisali on April 2nd every year serves to rededicate these fighters to their cause. While the whole world gravitates around big celebrations in cities the dour Bhil tribals carry out their own small celebrations in remote corners to keep the flame of environmental and social mass movements for justice and sustainability burning.

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