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, May 11, 2014

How will People's History be Written?

The India Against Corruption movement which has now metamorphosed into the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is not a fly by night phenomenon. It has evolved from years of grassroots mobilisation across the country against unjust and unsustainable development and corruption by many small and big movements. It has been preceded by the Right to Forests, Right to Food, Right to Information and the Right to Work movements. These new mobilisations that were clearly outside the pale of legislative politics and preferred direct action began with the Chipko movement in the early 1970s and gained considerable momentum with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in the 1980s. In a sense the NBA brought into play many of the political strategies that were used by many other movements thereafter and which now also form the spine of the AAP. These are - massive involvement of middle and upper class urbanites and especially non-resident Indians in providing intellectual and monetary support to battles on the field including participation in it as full time activists after giving up lucrative careers, use of media in a big way to promote the movement, use of the internet once it became popular and trenchant legal and policy advocacy and the use of iconic dharnas and hunger strikes to rivet the attention of the world and the cynical politicians as shown in this picture of Medha on one of her many fasts.

Thus, the NBA made a significant change in the way grassroots politics is practised in this country and this has now led to the AAP which is on the cusp of making a significant change in the way electoral mainstream politics is to be practised in this country having built on the foundations that were laid earlier.
Consequently it is of the utmost importance that a detailed history of the NBA is written. Nandini Oza, who spent over a decade as a grassroots organiser of the NBA in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, has taken on this onerous task. She has gone about it in a very systematic way. She has first interviewed hundreds of people who were involved in the NBA in various places and in various capacities from grassroots organisers to urban activists in all the three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Both those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project and those who have participated in the struggles out of commitment or sympathy have been interviewed. These interviews have covered all aspects and all views both for and against the various twists and turns in policy and programmes of the NBA over the last two and a half decades. These oral histories have now been edited and indexed and provide a treasure trove for the researcher. The work of transcribing the oral material into written text is in progress.
The problem is that Nandini has done this Herculean task voluntarily without any formal funding support so far except in one instance for some of the recording of the oral history and its editing. She has done various odd job consultancies and sometimes got ad hoc donations from people in the form of time, expertise and money but now a time has come that such voluntary work is becoming difficult. There is an urgent need for institutional funding support for this initiative if all the oral material is to be transcribed and then researched and a detailed history of the NBA written on the basis of this. Unfortunately despite several efforts Nandini has failed to get any institutionalised funding support for her work.
This makes me wonder as to how people's history will be written? While there have been several books on the NBA by scholars who have been funded by universities these cannot match the depth and authenticity of the oral histories that Nandini has collected. Almost certainly the future of India will be influenced in many ways by the political work that has been done by the NBA and so it is imperative for this great archive of oral histories to be transcribed and made available for wider research. Since it is clear that establishment institutions are fighting shy of funding this the only recourse is for it to be crowd funded. An effort has to be made by all those who are concerned and feel that this is a worthwhile project to chip in and make it possible. For further details on how to support the initiative please get in touch with Nandini at her email -


Priya VK Singh said...

willing to chip in, please suggest how ---- dedicated bank account?

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Rahul. It is true that I am looking for support for the work. Just wanted to add that while most of the work has been done through personal initiative and support from friends and family, I did have some funds at one point from an institution for part of the transcription and editing work.

Aparna Krishnan said...

Nandini, just start the process/ mention an account number, say. And what about places like JNU ?? This is the kind of actual research I suppose they should be doing ... no leads there for a substantial funding ? This country has lost perspective.