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, November 27, 2012

Yet Another Life at the Margin

Binoo and Jheenabai are yet another Barela tribal pair battling it out bravely on the margins of our society. They have just 3 hectares of agricultural land which they cultivate jointly with their three grown up and married sons. Thus, four families are dependent on this land which is obviously insufficient for the total strenght of fifteen members including the small children. They have a well from which they are able to irrigate some of their land but even so the total produce of cereals like maize, sorghum and wheat is about 30 quintals while the soyabean production is about 7 quintals and chickpea production another 3 quintals. To supplement this the sons and their wives have to work as daily labourers either in the MGNREGS works in the village or as migrant labourers on the fields of large non-tribal landholders atop the Malwa plateau nearby. However, the main thrust for many years now of this couple has been to get legal rights to a tract of forest land they have been tilling on which they are shown standing below next to the stone God of the farm that they have installed next to peepal tree on it.
 Binoo is an active member of the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan and was part of the mobilisation that took place in the late 1990s for rights to forest land which was brutally crushed. He famously said once that a tree gives profit from the land only when it is cut once in its lifetime whereas crops sown on the land give profits every year or oftener!! When the crackdown on the organisation took place in 2001 Binoo was the first person to be arrested, beaten up and sent to jail. In jail he heard how the administration had butchered four of his fellow members of the organisation and crushed it and he fell into depression. He only recovered when I too became the second member of the organisation to be arrested and reached jail to buck up his morale.
Binoo has continued his fight in court and out of it and been to jail on a number of occasions later also along with his sons and today he is in control of the land even though he still hasn't got legal title to it. He has also fought the Panchayat elections and been a Sarpanch for a full five year term in his village Patpadi in Dewas district. During his tenure he implemented the MGNREGS in letter and spirit and had a number of water tanks built which have augmented the irrigated area in his village. He also constructed a road from the nearby village and 40 dugwells. He ensured that all eligible people got old age pensions and were registered for the Below Poverty Line subsidised food rations. All this when Binoo never went to school as a child and became literate and knowledgeable through his own efforts.
Jheenabai is a hard working woman who not only does the farm work but also rears a big brood of chicken which provide her family with an earning of Rs 400 a month apart from proteins in their food in the form of meat and eggs. She is feeding her chicken in the picture below.
The family has a debt burden of about Rs One Lakh Thirty Thousand on which they are at the moment paying only the interest. The debt was incurred to defray the expenses of the marriage of the youngest son and also the many court battles that they are fighting. This underlines the extremely marginal economic situation of the family and shows how vulnerable it is to shocks either natural like droughts or health related like even a small fever which not only is a financial drain but also causes loss of income through loss of labour power. The great thing is that despite their marginality they have a great zest for life and are continually fighting against heavy odds to try and make it better. Its a real tragedy that such people who work so hard have no livelihood security.


Vikram said...

Thanks for sharing these stories !

Rahul Banerjee said...

Yes Vikram they are the salt of the earth and unfortunately being treated like dirt to the detriment of the human race.