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, August 3, 2014

The Conservation Ethic of the Bhils

This is the season of the Diwasa festival among the Bhils. Also known as Navai it is celebrated to ask permission from the Gods to partake of the vegetables that are growing in the farms. It is the first festival of the Bhil Year which starts with the month of Okhatri which coincides with the month of April. Once the Diwasa has been celebrated the Bhils can eat whatever they grow on their farms throughout the year. The centre piece of the celebration is the night long singing of the Gaina or creation myth by the Gayan or bard accompanied by his co singers as shown in the photo below. A mediocre quality video of  a short piece of this singing can be viewed here.

The Bhil Gods are all various parts of nature like the clouds, the hills, the staple cereal Jawar. The Gayan sings about how the universe was created by the Gods and how it all belongs to them and so human beings must take permission from them to partake of the produce of their farms even though it is through their labour that the vegetables have been grown. Their is a deep sense of humility in the Bhils as they acknowledge that nature is the ultimate giver of all things material and that human beings are a miniscule part of this vast universe. That is why traditionally they have taken very little from nature and lived at a subsistence level.
The problem is that in today's private property and profit oriented market economy the conservative ethic behind festivals like Diwasa is slowly being forgotten and they have become rituals. The Bhils have been forced to become extractors and accumulators like the rest of society in order to be able to survive in the rat race and in the process the traditional conservationist ethic has got sidelined.
Every year during the Diwasa season the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath organises a discussion meeting on the importance of the Diwasa festival and its message for humanity so that its core ethic of conservation comes to the fore rather than its remaining only a ritual celebration. This meeting is held at the Climate Change Mitigation Centre that has been set up on a piece of poor quality farm land belonging to the organisation to promote soil, water and forest conservation and indigenous agriculture. Even if Bhil society as a whole is being forced to become acquisitive and destructive at least there are some new organic intellectuals and activists among them who see the value of the core message of conservation that is there in their myths and take the trouble to analyse them and build up a new theory and practice of conservation from them. That is why despite the heavy inroads made by Hindu Gods and Goddesses in recent times the celebration of Diwasa still continues with gusto in Alirajpur as does the conservation of nature.

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