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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Thirty and Still Ticking

Social Activist Khemraj Choudhary made his way to Alirajpur from Rajasthan in the autumn of 1982 because he had heard that the Bhil and Bhilala adivasis residing there were some of the most militant people around but they were nevertheless suffering deep poverty and exploitation. Their militancy was being wasted in vendetta against each other instead of being directed towards their exploiters. He met Khemla Aujnaharia a slightly educated Bhilala adivasi youth who had earned a name for himself in fighting the corruption and apathy of government officials and they together began trying to organise the adivasis into fighting for their rights. They were soon joined by Amit Bhatnagar another social activist from Delhi. The result was that in 1983 the first ever strike by adivasi workers in the construction of an earthen dam against the non-payment of minimum wages took place. The strike was successful and this kicked off the organisation process. Today thirty years later the organisation Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is still functioning and has carved out a name for itself in securing forest rights, conservation of and control over natural resources, better education and health and greater recognition for their culture for the adivasis.
The organisation worked on a shoestring for many years up to 2007 and so there were no cameras to record the activities. Thus, there are not many photographs of the people who played a major part in its activities or the many mass actions that were undertaken in the early years. Somehow after considerable searching some vintage pictures have been found and they are shown below to commemorate the vibrant longevity of this people's organisation. The first picture shows the people on a hunger strike demanding forest rights in 1989. This strike culminated successfully and ended  more than two decades of oppression by the Forest Department on the adivasis of Alirajpur.

The next picture shows a rally being taken out in Alirajpur in the early 1990s demanding that instead of big dams small tanks should be built for sustainable and equitable water resource management.

The next picture shows a few activists and adivasi members preparing to settle down for the night at the first ever office of the Sangathan in Attha village. There was no electricity at that time in the late 1980s and the radio held by the woman activist Chittaroopa Palit more popularly known as Silvy was the only way to keep abreast with the goings on in the rest of the world.

The next picture shows a few other activists in a rural setting. In the middle are Shankar Tadavla and his wife Veena with their daughter flanked by Amit Bhatnagar and his wife Jayashree and Revji Phulia.

The next picture shows some of the activists of the organisation in the office in Alirajpur in the early 1990s.

The organisation has always stressed the importance of the conservation of the environment and the adivasi culture. The organisation used to host a "Jungle Mela' every year from 1987 onwards well into the mid 1990s as a signature of its efforts in this regard. The next picture is of one of these fairs.

Today only the adivasi full timers remain in Alirajpur to carry on the work as all the non-adivasi activists, some have been shown above while others have not, have moved on. But the great work that was done in the initial decade up to the mid nineteen nineties provided such a solid base that even today the Sangathan continues to make sparks fly!!

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