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, March 7, 2014

The Plight of the Aam Adivasi

Today the KMCS Land Rights March team reached the village of Kotra which is where the great martyr Tantia Bhil finally kept his family after going into outlawed life during British rule. Even though he was born in Barda village and later stayed in Pokhar village his descendants are now in Kotra village. Like in the case of Bhima Naik here too the people are very poor with on an average about one hectare of agricultural land per household and with the surrounding waste lands all barren. They live in small huts and do not have adequate education, health, sanitation and potable water services. The Government has built a memorial to Tantia in Barda village but his actual descendants in Kotra are totally neglected. They have got together to build a memorial to Tantia Bhil as shown below.
 Tantia was known as Mama or uncle because of his munificence. He would raid the landlords who were the oppressors of the Bhils and the collaborators of the British and then distribute the grains and clothing among the poor. The slogan above the statue says - "Jab tak Suraj Chand Rahega, Mamaji ka Naam Rahega". Which roughly transliterates as - Tantia Uncle's name will act as a Boon,  as long as there are the Sun and the Moon". 
Unfortunately the reality is quite different. While there is now government recognition of the historic role of Tantia Bhil in opposing the British and their Indian collaborators in the Nimar and Malwa regions for almost two decades in the late nineteenth century very little is being done to ensure a decent livelihood for the large majority of the Bhils in Western Madhya Pradesh. The descendants of Tantia Bhil readily lined up to sign on the banner of signatures demanding land rights as shown below.
The campaign has revealed how very neglected the Bhils are in the Western Madhya Pradesh region despite being in a majority in the region. They were once the sole inhabitants of this region. But over the centuries they have been dispossessed of their lands and forests and this process has ironically hastened after independence from the British. The Aam Adivasi remains the most deprived section of the populace in this region and yet there seems to be no end to their plight in sight. Mobilisation on the scale of the whole region will require huge resources that the adivasi organisations like Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath clearly lack.

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