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.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Time to Change the Game!!!

The new year starts with the gauntlet having been thrown down by Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party not only for the mainstream political parties but also for mass social movements. While the mainstream parties have already started thinking seriously about how to take up the challenge of the AAP that does not seem to be the case with the mass social movements. Ever since the stellar performance of the AAP in the Delhi elections I have been hearing criticism of the party from social activists saying that it is populist, it does not address the fundamental problem of globally dominant capitalism, it is mute on the question of the exploitation of Adivasis and Dalits, it has no vision for the rural areas or for the serious environmental problems that the country faces and that it has no ideology apart from the single refrain of removing corruption. Even though I too was sceptical about the AAP being able to achieve much in the elections and even now am sceptical of what they will eventually achieve after coming to power, the results have shown that Arvind Kejriwal and his team were bang on with their political strategy as far as winning the elections were concerned. Unlike the other Social Activists, therefore, I have done some soul searching and learnt some lessons about what to do in future.
The most important lesson is that the AAP had gone to the masses with a message that they could understand. Keep it simple is the motto. Even if it is true that global capitalism holds sway through its control of economic, knowledge and media systems, it is very difficult to make people understand this and be ready to mobilise in large numbers to overthrow it. However, people do understand that corruption is preventing them from getting their entitlements and inflation is eating into their meagre incomes and that a government that they elect should do something about this. The AAP made a convincing pitch that they would target these two immediate problems instead of going for the longer term solution of overthrow of the capitalist system which alone would seem to satisfy most hard core social activists. The people are able to discern that the overthrow of the capitalist system is not a viable goal in the short term while removing corruption and making social services cheap and accessible and so life a little more liveable than it is presently, certainly are. During the one year since the formation of the party, the AAP members hit the streets in large numbers and carried out an intensive mass campaign that broke the cynicism of the people and they believed that it would deliver on the simple down to earth promises it was making. That for me is the great game changer. We in the social movements have spent many years trying to convince people that we would be able to mitigate their woes but have never succeeded and remained confined to fighting losing battles in our isolated corners. Yet Arvind Kejriwal has succeeded in such a grand way in the very centre of power in this country. Along the road the AAP has been able to muster huge numbers of committed people who have volunteered their time, intellect and energy and also collected huge financial resources by social movement standards.  The greatest achievement is that the AAP has been able to politicise a huge section of the populace who had never before thought about hitting the streets but are doing so aggressively now.
There are no doubt many problems with the populist and anti-corruption centric platform of the AAP which may not be economically and environmentally sustainable in the long run and also there are doubts as to whether it will be able to maintain the same purity of purpose in future as it will certainly face many obstacles that other game changing political formations have faced earlier but the take away from its performance so far for me personally is that we must keep our message simple and believable if we want to take the masses along with us in larger numbers than we have done so far. Therefore, we in the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath are holding a two day brain storming session on the 5th and 6th of January to discuss the new political phenomenon in this country's politics that is the AAP and in what way we can learn from its immediate success and improve our own political strategies for achieving the Adivasi Millennium.

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