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 11, 2014

Children to the Fore

One of the important activities of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS) is the conduct of Bal Panchayat meetings in which the children of the village get together to discuss their issues and seek solutions to them.  Each village has a Motia Bhil Bal Samooh or children’s group named after the legendary Bhil king Motia. In the Bal Panchayat each of the child members of this group both boys and girls are encouraged to speak out. Generally the main problem confronting the children is the lack of proper education. The villages have schools but in many cases there are no school buildings and the classes are conducted in some private villager’s hut. There are one or two temporary teachers but they do not come to teach regularly. There are no teaching aids and even the free text books are not available. This is a gross violation of the provisions of the Right to Education Act. Consequently in these Bal Panchayat meetings, the activists of the KMCS discuss at length the detailed provisions of the RTE with the children. Following this applications are drawn up listing the deficiencies in the school with a demand that these be rectified. These applications are then submitted to the District Collector in Alirajpur by the KMCS.  A combined list of these applications has also been sent to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. There has been some improvement in the attendance of teachers, but the provision of proper school buildings and teaching aids still remains a distant dream.

The Bal Panchayat meetings are also an occasion for acquainting the children with their own glorious history and culture which are not taught in the standard syllabus of the government school system. The KMCS has extensively written up the oral myths and songs of the Bhils and also the history of the Alirajpur area. These new texts which synthesise the traditional Bhili culture with a modern understanding are used to enthuse an interest in their own culture in the Bhili children.
Unless the schools run properly there is the tendency of the parents to put their children to work in grazing the animals, fishing, collecting fruits and herbs and the like. Thus, the children lose out on the chance to improve their livelihoods in future and also to increase their knowledge for upgrading their agriculture. Consequently, the running of schools is a major child rights and justice issue and has been taken up on a priority basis by the KMCS.

Occasionally the children of neighbouring villages gather together in one village for a day long Bal Mela or fair in which they play games and sing and dance and shout slogans expressing their demands for the implementation of the RTE. Thus, the Bal Panchayats are an effective medium for the mobilisation and conscientisation of the children of the area so that they grow up to be the next generation of activists of the KMCS and continue the struggle for the Adivasi Millennium.

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