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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Fight Corruption

There were two news items of interest to those fighting corruption in the newspaper recently. The first was on the front page and was about the charges of corruption leveled against fourteen Ministers of the Government of India, including the Prime Minister of India, by the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement led by Anna Hazare. The other news was tucked away in a corner of an inside page about an externment notice being served on Madhuri Krishnaswamy, tribal rights activist, by the district administration of Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh. Both the news items highlight the difficulty of fighting corruption whether high or low and merit a little more analysis.
Starting with the externment notice to Madhuri, this was done under the provisions of the statute, Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, which ostensibly has been enacted to tackle habitual criminal offenders. So, when a person has been arraigned in a number of criminal cases, then on the complaint of the police, the district administration can issue a notice to this person as to why he or she should not be externed from the district itself and the adjoining districts so as to maintain law and order. However, in this case the externment notice was not given to a criminal but to a social activist helping the tribals fight for their rights and especially against the massive corruption in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the National Rural Health Mission and the Public Distribution System. The basis for this were a few criminal cases that had been lodged earlier by the police against Madhuri and other tribal members of their organisation, Jagriti Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS). Most of these cases being of a false nature and instituted just to harass the activists had either ended in acquittals after trial in court or in some cases had been withdrawn after the JADS campaigned against this unjust oppression by the State. So when faced with organised resistance to corruption at the grassroots the administration and at a larger level the state responds by criminalising those who are protesting instead of those who are responsible for this corruption. This is the fundamental reason why grassroots movements across the country, since the time of independence, have never been able to root out corruption or coalesce into a viable political force of greater spread and depth to be able to challenge the state system.
The frustration that has built up among the common people as a result of this difficulty of tackling corruption has been the rallying force behind the IAC and given it the mandate to fight not only against grassroots corruption but also against the high level corruption which trickles down to the grassroots also. However, in the absence of a strong grassroots base the IAC has floundered after its initial heady start. Finding that grassroots activism is fraught with difficulties of the kind that Madhuri and the JADS are facing the IAC has fallen back on high profile campaigning at the central level to try and maintain the tempo. But while taking such dramatic steps as charging the Prime Minister and his colleagues with corruption may get them front page publicity it is unlikely to dent the corrupt system in any significant way.
The JADS fought this latest attack against it by adopting a two pronged strategy. It mobilised human rights organisations in India and abroad to start an Internet and media campaign against the patent injustice of the externment notice and it also began demonstrating through mass rallies at the grassroots. This had the desired effect of forcing the administration to take back the externment notice within a week. This underlines the importance of having a coordinated alliance between city based networking organisations and grassroots mass organisations so as to be able to fight corruption in any effective way. The IAC instead of trying to remain relevant by clinging on to the media through dramatic announcements should try and leverage the visibility they have gained to launch and support more movements like that of JADS instead of just targeting the high level corruption. There has to be a concerted effort to build up a wide ranging grassroots movement against the oppression and corruption of the centralised state system.

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