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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Free Speech in Jeopardy

"Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!" wrote the poet Matthew Arnold about Oxford University but it can apply to a lesser or greater extent to all universities and even more so universities in India, given that this country is a melting pot in which caste, ethnic, gender and religious in addition to class differences abound and overlap and education is seen as a means of breaking free of multiple oppressions. Thus, universities are the home of contesting ideas and opinions, espousing freedom of speech and expression. In reality, however, this has been circumscribed in many ways, not the least by the funding pattern of these universities, the need for students to use these as stepping stones towards professional careers and also by the use of these by political parties to recruit cadre. The dominance of Neo-liberalism has meant that state funding of universities has decreased in relative terms forcing them to hike fees for students. Similarly the logic of capitalism has resulted in technological development that has reduced employment opportunities. Finally, fascist political parties have gained in political strength and so they have made more and more inroads among the students. So, liberal values and especially the freedom of speech and expression have come under attack.

Matters have been compounded by the attempt by the ruling party at the centre to force a narrow conception of nationalism down the throats of the people and this has also been reinforced in recent times by the Supreme Court ordering that the national anthem should be played in cinema halls before the screening of movies and the viewers should stand in reverence for this. Since students in universities generally stick out for fringe causes which challenge this narrow conception of nationality this has led to escalating conflict in campuses between those upholding the values of free speech and diversity and the fascists. Even though the happenings in the universities in Delhi where the clash has primarily been between leftists and the fascists have hogged the attention of the media, elsewhere too across the country campuses are on fire. Like in Parliament, so also in the university campuses debate has taken a back seat and physical attack and disruption has become the order of the day. 
As is to be expected in a country which now has an independent democratic tradition of seven decades, such high handedness on the part of the fascists has met with resistance both at the level of debate and also at the level of physical engagement!! Despite a clear State hand in support of the fascist students they have been finding it difficult to establish their writ in the universities. Individual students on social media and organisations of students on the streets have come out against this attempt to muzzle free speech. This is a welcome sign. Students are risking their careers to stand up and fight for their rights against the oppressive thrust of fascist forces. Let us hope that this will in time extend to questioning the present centralised capitalist system also as without that the current wave of fascism will not subside in the long run. The last great student mobilisation was way back in 1974 and it snowballed into such strength that it culminated in the emergency and the curtailing of fundamental freedoms by the State. Democracy is much deeper now in this country but there is still a long way to go.

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