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.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Women Power to the Fore

Khatamri is a Bhil Adivasi hamlet of about 60 families perched on top of the Vindhyas in the extreme south west corner of Madhya Pradesh. From the highest vantage point in this hamlet it is possible to get a view of the River Narmada lower down about 10 kilometers away at the foot of the Vindhyas. This scenic beauty has lured the Forest Department into planning the construction of a tourist guest house at this vantage point to attract rich people from the towns and cities. When the people of the village protested that this would deprive them of the precise point where their cattle and goats rest after grazing the Forest Department staff said that they would not need to tend to their animals anymore as the income from tourism would be much more!! The villagers of course did not buy this blatant lie and instead asked the Forest Department to ensure that the Government opened a school in their hamlet for their children which would be a better way to ensure that they improved their livelihood situation. The Government expectedly has not done anything to fulfill this legitimate demand of the villagers.
However, the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath took heed. A primary school, the Motia Bhil Bhanai Ghar, has now been started in Khatamri village in December 2013, the third such school after the ones already running in Chilakda and Bada Amba. Like in the earlier cases this school too has been made possible by a grant from well wishers Deep Pande and Shweta Sharma who reside in the United States of America. The difference with this school is that the teacher is a woman Senabai shown in the picture below.
This is no mean achievement on the part of Senabai and KMCS. There are no Bhil women in the work area of KMCS who are educated enough to be teachers. In fact Senabai is from Gujarat and has come to Khatamri after marriage to Sunil. Ever since the grants for opening a school came to the KMCS a desperate search has been going on to set up a school in one of the villages of the organisation that do not have schools in them. Initially it was decided to start a school in Vakvi but a teacher could not be found who would go and teach in this remote village. Then the village of Khundi was chosen and once again a teacher could not be found. Then Sunil married Sena and brought her to Khatamri and the problem was solved!!! 
Patriarchy is a serious problem in Bhil society and the KMCS finds it difficult to get female field workers. At present there is only one Bhilala educated woman as full time field worker. The other two full time field workers are non-literate. While they are competent enough but the lack of literacy does hamper their ability to report and record the work they do. Thus, schooling of girls is an important goal for the empowerment of women and if there is a lady teacher then that is even better.

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