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, October 26, 2013

The Darker Side of the Bhils

The retrograde practice of branding women as witches is still extant among the Bhil Adivasis in Alirajpur. In one such case Keramsingh, Mathri, Tuli, Bhina, Jhetri, Bhimbai, Gyansingh, Adesiah and Kelbai of village Girala had called Ranglibai, who is pictured below, a witch.
 The perpetrators ransacked her house, looted her belongings, stole her cattle goats and children and chased Rangli away from the village. Rangli with her six children were forced to flee to her parent's house in Sorwa. The matter was brought to the attention of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath which immediately carried out an investigation and submitted an application to the Superintendent of Police Alirajpur on behalf of Rangli. This led to a meeting in the village under Police pressure and now Rangli and her family are back in their house.
Notably, women are also involved in calling Rangli a witch and raiding her house with Bhimbai playing the major role. Rangli is the second wife of Jatansingh and Bhimbai is the first wife. Bhimbai thought that if she could call Rangli a witch and chase her away from the village then she and her sons would be the sole heirs of Jatansingh's property. So Bhimbai spread the canard that Ranglibai was secretly killing people in the village by her witchcraft for the past two years and so she should be chased away. She got some other people to believe this canard and together they attacked Ranglibai. In most cases witch hunting is related to property disputes as in this one. In recent years there has been an increase in cases of witch hunting arising from property disputes and there have been a few murders also.

The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has been conducting a campaign against this malpractice. The advocacy of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath with the administration resulted in the Superintendent of Police deciding to hold eight village level conventions in the district to spread awareness that there were no such things as witches and witch branding was a punishable offence that would be dealt with severely. Shri Shankar Tadwal was invited to lecture on the harmful aspects of witch hunting in these conventions and the picture below shows him holding forth in once such convention in Bhabhra.

No comments: