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.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebration of Forests, Celebration of Life, Celebration of the Dignity of Labour

Now that the hurly burly of elections is over in Madhya Pradesh we can concentrate on what we do best at Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath in Alirajpur - celebrate nature and the indigenous identity. Every year the KMCS organises a big get together running into thousands of people to celebrate the beauty of nature and the greatness of the traditional nature loving culture of the Bhils. This year too the "Jungle Mela" will be held in Chilakda village on the banks of the River Narmada on the 13th of May 2014. There will be night long festivities in which the show piece is going to be the enactment of the "Savang" a musical comedy in which the life current life and times of the Bhils is portrayed through dance, song and drama.
The KMCS over the years has promoted the conservation of forests in the villages in which it is entrenched and some of the densest forests in Alirajpur are in these villages as shown in the picture below in which the women of Attha are seen out on a patrol through their protected forest -
The organisation has also promoted the conservation of soil and water through field bundings that have improved the productivity of the farms as shown below -
There is a very close link between the natural resource and agriculture based lifestyle of the Bhils and their cultural events. A major cultural event is the celebration of the Indal during which a family prays to the God Kansari who symbolises the staple cereal Jowar or Sorghum thanking her for her munificence and also hoping that her bounty will continue in future. The whole community congregates during these celebrations to sing and dance and feast and the whole cost is borne by the family. This was the traditional means of ensuring that surpluses were not accumulated leading to class differentiation within the society. The centrepiece of the Indal celebration is the night long singing of the Gayana in which the Gayan or bard along with his co-singers sing the story of Kansari as shown in the picture below.
The Bhils have traditionally lived away from the market economy and have had very little money. Consequently they have had to rely on community labour pooling systems to do all the work on their farms and their houses. This custom of labour pooling is called Dhas and it is from this that the sister organisation of the KMCS, the trust Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra takes its name. The picture below shows a group of people taking part in a dhas to repair the tiles on the roof of one member of the community.
The market economy, however, is too strong and so it has now penetrated the lives of the Bhils in a big way as they have to migrate to far away places to labour and augment their meagre agricultural incomes. Thus, presently they are as much wage labourers as agriculturists as shown in the picture below.
They do not have much money even after such hard labour and so have to travel by the cheapest of means in overcrowded jeeps while going to labour seasonally as shown below.
Despite all these troubles the Bhils still retain their zest for life and take pleasure in promoting their unique culture. They have even developed new songs of protest and revival that they sing during special celebrations like the Jungle Mela as shown below -
Thus, the Jungle Mela is a celebration of a decentralised, communitarian, nature friendly lifestyle which gives importance to the dignity of labour as both nature and labour are intricately entwined in the collectively lived lives of the Bhils from which humanity has a lot to learn if it is to survive the present profit centred profligacy. 

No comments: