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, November 1, 2013

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

Remsingh, a Bhilala Adivasi youth, worked as a field worker of the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra, which is the NGO that backs up the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath by accessing grant funds, for two years and has now submitted his resignation. When he joined, he did not know anything about the mass mobilisation of people for their rights. He joined not out of a desire to fight for the rights of Bhils but to earn some money. He has some land and earns some income from cultivating it but not much. He used to migrate to Gujarat to supplement his meagre agricultural income. Even though he earned on an average about Rs 7000 a month from migration it was hard labour on construction sites. Moreover, he had to leave his wife and small children behind. Since he had studied upto Class Ten, he could read and write in Hindi. So Shankar asked him to work for Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra for a salary of Rs 4000 a month initially which was then raised to Rs 5000. Given the tough terrain and the difficult work of mass mobilisation all the staff of Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra put in about 15 to 20 days in the field only each month. Even so it is hard and frustrating work. One needs to have a fire inside to fight for justice to be able to sustain oneself.
Well, Remsingh learnt the ropes and became a capable field worker over the two years. Initially he would be intimidated by the Sarpanches and Panchayat Secretaries and was generally in awe of any Government official even a lowly contract teacher. However, slowly he developed the confidence to challenge Government officials and the elected representatives of the Panchayats. He had become an indispensable field worker of the organisation. Primarily because of the fact that he could read and write. There are many good grassroots activists of the organisation in the villages but due to the fact that they cannot read and write they find it difficult to deal with the bureaucracy. Most educated Bhil youth are not prepared to work as rights activists even for a salary and so it is very difficult to find anyone to work for the organisation as a full timer.
Then a few days ago Remsingh came and said he was leaving his job. He had got a job as a security guard in a private school for Rs 6500 a month and free education for one his children. Now once again we are left to dither along with a smaller team of workers. As one well wisher once said about the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, in the context of the fight to stop the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam - the organisation consisted of one and half persons who Quixotically took on the Indian Government and the World Bank at the same time.
Remsingh's departure made me ponder on the future of activism in this country. Given the difficulty of getting funds for such work it is not possible to pay much to full timers who work for justice for the deprived sections. Obviously the poor, for whom these activists work, cannot pay for these services that they desperately require. Governments quite naturally will not fund rights based activism as they are much more likely to put such activists behind bars. In fact both Government and Corporates have provided more options in academics  from  lowly contract teaching to the highest professorial jobs in universities to lure potential activists away from fighting for justice. Therefore both organic intellectuals from among the oppressed and middle class people these days, prefer to join academics than risk the uncertainties of a life of activism. So currently you have more people researching on people's movements than taking part in them as activists. After all if one can get a good remuneration sitting comfortably in an university as a teacher or researcher of people's movements and feel that one is contributing to a more just society then why would one bear the rigours of grassroots activism for a pittance? Thus, whether it is Remsingh who finds the job of a security guard more rewarding than the work of a field worker fighting for justice for the poor or a middle class youth who finds researching on people's movements more comfortable than actually fighting on the ground, the grass always is greener on the other side and the fight for justice continues to be fought with a skeleton staff!!!

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