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, February 26, 2013

Back to the Grind

The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath held a big public rally today in Alirajpur after quite some time. Large public rallies and threats of legal action for their non-performance force the administration and the government to heed people's demands. The implementation of the MGNREGS and the Forest Rights Act was flagging for sometime. Schools also are not running properly as teachers do not take classes and the midday meal scheme for students is not being implemented properly. Numerous complaints to the concerned officials had not borne any results. That is why over the past month meetings were held in the villages preparing a list of demands and spreading the word that a big public rally would be held on 26th February 2013.
I normally do not go to the village meetings much these days but this time in an effort to mobilise more people I visited many villages that I had not been to for more than twenty years. It was great to meet people whom I had known as a youth, when they too were young. We have all become old now with grey hair and wrinkled faces!! The common refrain was that I should not have run away from Alirajpur like I did leaving them to their devices! Person after person lamented the fact that they had become inactive in the absence of the regular meetings and analysis workshops that used to be a hallmark of the KMCS in its heydays. One lady who had been a great beauty when she was young, was now a haggard old woman from the rigours of bearing fifteen children. I found it very difficult to adjust her present looks to the memory I had of her from twenty years ago.
Anyway efforts put in by all resulted in a big build up to the public rally which was covered well by the media during the past month leading to the administration getting into high gear and doing work that had been pending for more than a year in some cases. The big problem as always is with the MGNREGS. There are not enough staff to sanction work, evaluate it when it is completed and then make payments and so there is an inordinate delay which provides ample scope for the officials to engage in malpractices. The turnout at the rally finally was pretty good especially with a considerable number of women taking part as seen in the picture below.
We have now made up our mind to take the administration to court for violating the provisions of the MGNREGA, Forest Rights Act and the Right to Education. All the years of agitation and mobilisation by many mass organisations across the country have resulted in the enactment of these powerful statutes and it is the threat of legal action that has helped the KMCS in forcing some implementation of the these in Alirajpur. But the time has now come to carry out the threat to get more results.
The experience of this past month of intensive mobilisation shows that there is no alternative to going back to the grind of village level work for securing the rights and entitlements of the poor and powerless. Facebooking and such other social media networking may be good enough for the middle class but for the vast majority who are out of the ambit of the Internet, especially tribals, we have to trek dusty and hilly terrain to get them to come out of their remote fastnesses and hold the administration and the government to task. All in all it was a nice way to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the KMCS.


Rajarshi said...

Dear Sir,

Congratulations on the thirtieth anniversary of KMCS. While the middle classes may be content with Facebooking and other social networking tools, they are too lazy to commit themselves to the grind of grassroots activism. The protests we saw in Delhi made good television footage. This is not to belittle the fortitude of people who braved police lathis and Delhi's cold but it is worth pondering why the protests have fizzled out within 3 months without achieving anything tangible. I agree that the forces of the state are too strong. But it is a fact that most of today's middle classes want instant, "ready to consume" results and hardly have the patience to engage in long drawn out legal battles in which organizations like KMCS have engaged since many decades. That probably also explains why so few of middle class youths today plunge into the topsy turvy of grassroots activism as compared to your or Bunker Roy's times. Pavan Varma's "The Great Indian Middle Class" makes some interesting observations about the behaviour of this class which is present everywhere but is least engaged with the larger society around them.

With Best Regards,

Rahul Banerjee said...

Social Media Networking or even mainstream media advocacy is a good supportive tool to grassroots mobilisation. The huge demonstration against the brutality with which the bus rape took place and the apathy of the administration was made possible through social media networking. But as you rightly say people tend to stop at this only and do not take the further step of committing to long term grassroots mobilisation.