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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Law is an Ass

The generally accepted meaning of the phrase "The Law is an Ass" refers to the routine application of the law by an administrator or judge without  applying the mind  and taking into consideration the context. The phrase compares the administrator or judge with an ass or donkey, which latter is assumed rather uncharitably to be an idiot!! However, there is another meaning to this phrase also which refers to the obstinacy of donkeys and compares the refusal of centralised institutions, which are supposed to administer the law, to accede to the just demands of the ordinary citizen thus violating the basic principles of natural justice. Institutions in India routinely act in this obstinate manner and greatly inconvenience ordinary citizens. We will discuss a few such instances here to show how difficult it is to secure justice in this country.
A boy, a farmer's son, who was studying in the Keshav Vidyapeeth in Indore run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) decided not to pursue his studies there any more after passing the Class Ten examination of the Central Board of Secondary Education in May 2015 and applied for a transfer certificate (TC). The school management refused to give the TC saying that he had been automatically admitted to the higher secondary school to pursue the plus two education and so he would have to pay the fees for the first session amounting to Rs 37000 to get the TC. The father of the child, who is an active member of the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party, then approached higher level politicians in the party, including elected representatives to the legislative assembly and the parliament but to no avail. The school management remained adamant that the child would have to pay at least Rs 17000 to get the TC. Eight other boys who had also applied for their TCs succumbed to this unjust demand and paid the charge. However, the father of this boy refused to buckle under this pressure despite being a long time member of the RSS.
The man then filed a complaint with the District Collector in this regard. The Collector, after perusing all the documents, issued a notice to the school authorities asking them to show cause as to why they were not issuing the TC. However, at the next hearing the Collector, obviously having been pressurised by the RSS, passed an order that the student would have to pay the first session fees of Rs 37000 because he had already taken admission to the school without giving the man a chance to refute the arguments and evidence given by the school management. The school management then sent the man a legal notice demanding a huge sum of Rs 70,000 for having harassed them so as to brow beat him into submission.
This then prompted the man to approach advocate Anil Trivedi. Before we proceed further with the story it will be necessary to know a little bit about Anil Trivedi or Anilbhai as he is popularly known whose photo is given below.

 The law being an ass it requires equally obstinate lawyers to get it to work for the poor and oppressed. Anilbhai is the only lawyer in Madhya Pradesh who has consistently used the law to intervene in the interests of people deprived of justice by the rich and the powerful in the state. Anilbhai became a practising lawyer by chance. He is the son of the veteran Gandhian Kashinath Trivedi and so was involved in social and political activism right from his childhood. He, however, chose to follow in the footsteps of Ram Manohar Lohia and became an activist of the Socialist Party. When emergency was declared in 1975 he was arrested and sent to jail. At that time he had been pursuing post graduate studies in psychology and law simultaneously and taking part actively in the mobilisation in support of the Sampoorna Kranti movement launched by Jayaprakash Narayan in Bihar. Once in jail the hot topic of discussion among all the senior politicians, some of whom were lawyers, was the ease with which Indira Gandhi had subverted the Constitution because there was not enough legal awareness among the masses about their rights. The consensus was that there had not been enough legal activism on the part of lawyers who were members of the progressive parties so as to challenge the arbitrariness of the executive in its actions to repress human and civil rights. Anilbhai had earlier been studying law without any firm commitment to pursuing it as a career.  But the discussions regarding the inadequacy of legal activism made Anilbhai decide on choosing the legal profession to try and fill up this lacuna. He studied and appeared for his final examinations from inside the jail. 
Immediately after coming out of jail he became involved in electoral politics as he was chosen as the candidate of the combined opposition from one of the seats in Indore in the assembly elections that followed. However, due to the filing of nomination papers by a rebel from the erstwhile Jana Sangh the votes got divided and the Congress candidate won. This loss to the Janata party has turned out to be a gain for the mass movements in Madhya Pradesh. If he had won he would most certainly have become a full time politician and not been able to pursue a career in law. However, this loss in the elections made him concentrate seriously on becoming a lawyer and since then he has devoted most of his energies in brilliantly using the law in favour of the poor. He has stood for elections a few more times as a member of the Janata Dal, a group of former Socialist party politicians and also as a candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party recently and lost but that has been more from a conviction that the legislature and the parliament are the bodies, which should bring about social and economic justice and so more and more people with a commitment to socialist and humanist ideals must try and get themselves elected. He may not have succeeded in this, given the corrupt nature of electoral politics but he has definitely made an impact with his legal activism.
When the aggrieved man came to Anilbhai after having learnt that he was possibly the only one who could help him in his battle against the RSS against which he had revolted, the first thing he was asked was that he should not give up the battle, which was going to be a long and one of attrition, mid way after being intimidated by the RSS and leave Anilbhai in the lurch!!! Anilbhai asked him why he had taken it into his head to fight the might of the RSS after being such a dedicated member of the organisation. Most of the students in the Keshav Vidyapeeth in fact are the children of dedicated RSS members from Western and Central India as this is a school specially developed to build dedicated cadres for the organisation. The man said that the pedagogic and hostel environment in the school is not very conducive and so many students who have been studying there since their early childhood want to leave once they pass the tenth board examination to pursue careers of their choice rather than become foot soldiers of the RSS. The school management faced with an exodus had decided to clamp down by not giving TCs or charging a session's fees to do so. The local MLA of his area had even told the man that he would give him the Rs 17000 being demanded by the school but that there was no way in which he could get the TC without paying the sum. Anyway now with the latest legal notice the man was well and truly up against the wrath of the RSS for his revolt.
Anilbhai filed a petition in the High Court in Indore and in the first hearing itself secured a stay on the order of the Collector and an order directing the school to give the boy the TC within seven days. Thus, began a saga that is yet to end!! When the man went with the certified copy of the High Court order to the school, the principal refused to take it saying it was a Sunday and also gave the man a tongue lashing for proceeding legally in the High Court against the school. In the next hearing the lawyer for the school argued that the boy had been "deemed admitted" even if he did not apply for admission as per the rules of the Central Board of Secondary Admission and so he would have to pay the fees for the first session amounting to Rs 37000 even if he wished to discontinue studying in the school. The lawyer also contended that since the school was a private entity a petition could not be entertained against it in the High Court. However, the judge said that there could be nothing called deemed admission as there was no rule in this regard and it would anyway impinge on the freedom of choice of the student and since the school was imparting education regulated by the rules of the Central Board of Secondary Education, it was a public authority against which a petition could be entertained to protect the fundamental rights of the child. Once again the judge ordered that the TC should be given to the student and he should be paid Rs 25000 by the school within three days to compensate him for all the unnecessary harassment meted out to him. The school instead of complying with the order has filed an appeal in the Division Bench of the High Court. The boy is currently studying in another school but if the TC is not given by his old school soon before the end of the academic year in March, he will lose a year and it appears that the intention of the RSS is to so penalise him for daring to take it to the courts. The various departments of the Government, including the Collector, who have also been made a party in the petition have consistently said nothing instead of acting to resolve the issue in the boy's favour in accordance with the rules and regulations
Institutions in India which have clout whether in the corporate, political or government sectors know that it is difficult to get justice from the courts and so they trample on the rights of citizens with impunity. Not only does it take time but also resources to fight lengthy court battles and most citizens are not able to do so. Anilbhai has rendered yeoman service to many citizens who have picked up the courage to take on institutional Goliaths to get justice. Whether it is the case of an Adivasi activist who has been illegally externed by the administration because he was fighting for the rights of his people, or the case of an Adivasi woman who has been denied the mandated compensation when her husband was illegally killed by forest department officials, or the case of a blind person who was denied a job illegally by the administration, a case which resulted in guidelines being formulated in Madhya Pradesh for the implementation of reservation for the disabled in government jobs leading to the employment of more than 1500 blind people or the case of a Dalit woman who was denied government employment as a crafts teacher despite being qualified and having passed the selection process, a case that has dragged on for two decades and even now despite a definitive order from the High Court, has not been complied to by the government necessitating a petition for contempt of court, Anilbhai has unfailingly stood by ordinary aggrieved citizens. Today he is sixty five years of age and even after four decades of legal activism in which he as taken up more than fifty such landmark cases of human and civil rights, he is as sprightly as ever in the fight for justice.
This then brings out the difficulty of ensuring justice for citizens, especially those who are poor, in the present centralised system in which institutions are far more powerful and the courts work at a snail's pace and it requires huge resources to move them. 

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