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, June 25, 2015

For Whom The Emergency Never Ended!!

Today, 25th June, happens to be the fortieth anniversary of the declaration of Internal Emergency by the Congress Government in 1975 and the curtailment of rights and civil liberties guaranteed under the Constitution. What intrigues me is that the Government of the time was able to clamp down so easily on the whole nation by incarcerating thousands of the workers of the opposition parties from the top leaders to the grassroots workers. In the absence of these leaders and workers, there was little or no opposition from the masses to the draconian regime that was let loose. I can't help wondering whether such a nationwide clamp down on civil liberties on a large scale is still as easily doable  at present. The reason is that on a small local scale such clampdowns take place all the time and Governments of all hues are able to stifle mass protest quite easily even today. The only way to counter the Government on such occasions is for leaders and workers to go underground in large numbers and carry on the struggle. There was little of that in 1975 except for a few examples like that of the venerable socialist George Fernandes.
When the emergency was lifted in 1977 and the Congress Government was thrown out in the ensuing elections there was a lot of euphoria about the earthy political wisdom of the masses and their innate consciousness about civil liberties. However, given that the voting percentage was only 60.5% and of them about 52% voted against the Congress, the actual vote for civil liberties was just about 31%!!
I was a student activist of some fringe, over ground, Naxal groups during my college days from 1978 to 1983, at a time when the Naxal movement was in disarray before it gained in power once again through the under ground armed mobilisation of the People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh and the Party Unity group in Bihar in the mid 1980s. I saw then that the level of consciousness among the masses was very low and we used to have a hard time mobilising them to protest against the blatantly anti-people policies of the Central and the State Governments.
However, this was nothing compared to the shock I received when I first came to work in Alirajpur in 1985 among the Bhils. I found that for them there had been a continuous emergency right from the time of the Marathas and then the British and their rights were being wantonly violated by the independent Indian Government and the administration. From 1985 to 2001 we fought many battles and the State always had an upper hand jailing us and even killing some of our colleagues at will. On one occasion in 2001, the State came down hard on the Bhils in Dewas district, destroying their houses and killing four of them in police firing alleging that they had defied its might by implementing the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, which makes the tribal Gram Sabha the supreme authority in its domain and this could not be tolerated. When the late Dilip Singh Bhuria, who has just expired yesterday, as the then Chairperson of the Commission for Scheduled Tribes, visited the area after this mayhem, Motia Patel asked him whether in this country the Bhils were worse than rats that they could not even have the right to live in their own houses as he sat among the ruins of his destroyed house below.
For the Bhils the emergency has never ended because it has always been there from the time of the Marathas and then the British. And also for many others who are fighting for their rights in various corners of this country or dying like nine pins because agriculture has been devastated. Invariably, except for a few glorious occasions, arrests of the leaders and the main grassroots workers used to lead to the Bhil masses losing their urge to fight against an obviously much much more powerful State. On a small scale going under ground for long periods of time is generally difficult unless the area is heavily forested. So unless this de facto emergency that stifles and oppresses the poor and marginalised in this country, of whom the Tribals and Dalits constitute a disproportionately large share, is ended, the rights and liberties provided in the Constitution will remain largely on paper.  


Ravi Hemadri said...

Rahul, I never knew about activism during your student days!

I think your assessment of 31% for civil liberties in the 1977 elections is a bit misplaced. The majority anti Congress vote was on economic policies and failure of the 'Garibi Hatao' slogan. This happened despite the first Pokharan test and the massive victory in war India won during 1971-9175. We can see the relevance of this political response from the masses even in the present. Economic policies and the 'India Shining' sloganeering are what brought down the earlier NDA and the previous UPA govs. We can expect the 'Acchhe Din' slogan will ultimately evoke the same response


Rahul Banerjee said...

Ravi I will happily go along with your assessment that 31% for Civil Liberties is an exaggeration!! But in the absence of any other evidence apart from our own conjectures regarding why the people voted against the Congress, we can say that at the most 31% voted against it for its suppression of civil liberties!!