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.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One Billion Rising

Today on International Women's Day it would be useful to dwell on a recent campaign that was orchestrated by the United Nations - "One Billion Rising", targeted at ending the most virulent manifestation of patriarchy - gender based violence. This is important because it underlines the value of dedicated grassroots issue based campaigning over a long period of time in bringing about positive social change.
The story begins in 1994 with the staging in New York of the iconic play "Vagina Monologues" written by and starring Eve Ensler. Based on interviews with many women this play consists of many stories about women who have suffered various forms of gender based violence including the most terrible - rape and trafficking. The huge success of this play and the inspiration it provided women to stand up and speak out against gender based violence instead of quietly suffering to avoid the stigma attached to publicly admitting to being a victim of gender based violence. Ensler and some other women then formed the voluntary organisation V Day on February 14th, Valentine's Day in 1998 to combat gender based violence with the V standing for Violence which was to be ended, Valentine or love which was to be established and Vagina which was to be foregrounded as an expression of womanhood instead of being hidden by the stigma that surrounded women's sexuality and its unjust exploitation by men. Initially the thrust was to organise shows of the play and raise money to fund campaigns against gender based violence. However, over time the organisation has become a worldwide movement against gender based violence that has raised over $ 75 million for the purpose.
As a prelude to celebrating their fifteenth anniversary on 14th February 2013 V Day hit upon the idea of a campaign to have one billion women rising up against gender based violence on that day. The simple idea being that given the fact that one third of all women suffer some form of gender based violence or other during their lives, roughly one billion women are victims of this. So to counter this there should be a movement of at least one billion women rising to fight gender based violence. The tremendous credibility that V Day has achieved over these last fifteen years in its fight against GBV resulted in the United Nations putting its might behind this campaign and carrying it across the world. That is how on 14th February this year Bhil tribal women of the KMCS from remote villages in Alirajpur district too went all the way to Bhopal to participate in the "One Billion Rising" campaign event organised there jointly by various organisations.
Unlike the usual hype around International Women's Day which dies down immediately after, the V Day campaign against GBV is a longstanding one that has gathered strength over the years through hard grassroots work and continues to surge ahead on the strength of committed voluntary work by millions of people across the world.
Finally, a story about the extent of GBV and its peculiar manifestation would serve to underline the importance of the work that V Day is doing and how it should be emulated by all organisations. A Bhil tribal woman was in prison in Jhabua having been accused of murdering her mother-in-law. Suddenly one day she began vomiting in prison and complaining of severe stomach pain. She was brought to the main Government Hospital in Indore and there the doctors found that she was five weeks pregnant despite having been in judicial custody in prison for more than five months. The authorities instead of conducting an enquiry to find out who was responsible for making the woman pregnant while in judicial custory, sought to hush up the matter and got the doctors to perform an abortion on the woman and then submit a second report saying that the woman had not been pregnant. Matters would have ended there but for the fact that one newspaper in Indore decided to follow up the story and splashed it on its front page and thereafter kept up pressure on the administration to get justice done to the woman. The woman herself was terrified and would not say anything to anyone. Eventually the newspaper filed a petition in the High Court in Indore on behalf of the woman and now after judicial pressure it has been established that the woman was indeed pregnant when she was first brought to the hospital. It remains to be seen what eventually happens in this case but it just goes to show how pervasive is GBV and the importance of maintaining constant vigil to eliminate it as being the bulwark of patriarchal oppression.

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