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.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Working Class Hero

Shantilal Meena who hails from Sagwaria village in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan is a Bhil adivasi who was initially a worker in the stone quarries in his village and eking out a hard existence. Then the tribal activist Khemraj Choudhury came to his village and began organising the mine workers to fight for their rights. Shantilal was one of the first to join this struggle and later when the trade union Khetihar Khan Mazdoor Sangh (Agricultural and Mine Workers Union) was formed he became a full time activist in 1990. Since then he has been working as a full timer. He has now spread his work far and wide and works mainly with migrant labourers in Brick kilns and in the Construction sector in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. He is pictured below in the office of the Int Bhatta Mazdoor Sangh ( Brick Kiln Workers Union) in Ahmedabad in the midst of a strategy meeting with other workers.
The workers in brick kilns throughout the country are a highly exploited lot because they are mostly migrants from other states who do not have much bargaining power in the states in which they work. For instance the workers in the brick kilns in Ahmedabad are from Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. They are paid on piece rate basis and the remuneration they get is much below the prescribed daily minimum wage despite working long hours. Through consistent work both in the field among the workers and also through lobbying and advocacy in the courts, legislatures and parliament and with the administration the Int Bhatta Mazdoor Sangh has been able to increase the remuneration of the workers. In many cases the workers are bonded labourers as they take an advance from the kiln owners and then have to work for a pittance to clear the loan. Shantilal has led the workers in striking work and also withstanding the attacks of the goons of the kiln owners and so built up the union to a position of strength.
He has now become so proficient in building up unions from scratch among brick kiln workers that his expertise is in high demand. Last year he was invited by activists working among the brick kiln workers in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh to help with their work. The workers were from Orissa and the owners were Telegus. Shantilal knew neither Oriya nor Telegu, yet he was able to organise the workers and inspire them to go on strike. He withstood the onslaught of the Telegu brick kiln owners and succeeded in getting the administration to intervene so that not only were the bonded labourers released but they were paid much better wages than they would have got otherwise. He is shown below leading the strike of the brick kiln workers in Dindigul near Hyderabad.
The future of worker's struggles in this country can be better only if the huge number of people working in the un-organised sector are brought under the aegis of militant trade unionism. And such trade unionism in turn can thrive only if there are full timers in them who have come up organically from the workers themselves. Shantilal has received education only up to the tenth class but today through dint of hard work he is capable of managing the work of the union from the field struggles to the drafting of memoranda. He has a very good understanding of the current global trends of the capitalist world system and so has a very mature head on his shoulders which allows him to take strategic decisions with regard to how to take the struggle forward. It is such working class heroes who hold the possibility of bringing in a more just dispensation in this country in their hands. 

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