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.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Foot Soldier of the Land Rights Movement

There are many ways in which protection of wildlife in this country coincides with the deprivation of Adivasis. The Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary situated in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh is a case in point. The sanctuary was notified in 1981 but Sahariya Adivasis continued to reside in the core area even after that. However, at the turn of the century it was decided at the national level to shift some of the lions from the Gir National Park in Gujarat where they were becoming over populated to Kuno as an alternative habitat. This prompted the Madhya Pradesh Government to initiate a programme to evacuate the core area of the Kuno sanctuary. Twenty four villages of Sahariya Adivasis were displaced and rehabilitated outside the sanctuary. As usually happens, the rehabilitation was not proper as only Rs 10 lakhs were sanctioned for each family which was inadequate. Thus, rigorous evaluation studies conducted by researchers have shown that there has been a fall in the living standards of the displaced Adivasis. Now there is a proposal to displace even more Adivasis because the wildlife experts feel that the area of the sanctuary will not be enough for the lions and cheetahs that are proposed to be introduced.
Even though the introduction of lions has been delayed due to the obstruction by the Government of Gujarat which does not want to part with any despite being faced with a serious over population problem and a lack of space for expansion in Gir, this will happen any time soon. The Madhya Pradesh Government has now decided to reintroduce lions from zoos and train them to adjust to the wild as it has got tired of waiting for the Gujarati lions. Once the lions come and then are followed by the cheetahs from Africa, then Kuno will become a hot spot for tourism. Land sharks from the cities, who are always a step ahead, have sniffed this opportunity and are zeroing in on Sheopur district to buy land beforehand at cheap prices close to the sanctuary that they can later sell to hoteliers. Legally the land of Adivasis cannot be bought by non-Adivasis but these land sharks are resorting to bribing their way through officialdom to buy the land without the Adivasis even knowing that they have lost title.
The Sahariyas are categorised as primitive tribes who are particularly distant from mainstream civilisation and so have been continually deprived of their lands even earlier by unscrupulous local feudal elements and trader non-Adivasis. Now even bigger crooks from Delhi and Punjab are moving in.
The only problem for the land sharks is that the Ekta Parishad, a mass organisation fighting nationally for land rights is active in the area and has been pro-actively taking up the cause of the Sahariyas for over three decades now. So the affected Adivasis come to the Ekta Parishad office in Sheopur with their woes and get both legal and organisational support to fight the land sharks.
Activist Jaisingh Jadon has led the fight for the Sahariyas in Sheopur. Jaisinghbhai is a non-Adivasi from the area who was inducted into the Ekta Parishad as a young man more than two decades ago and has since been working full time for the rights of the Adivasis. At that time there were no Sahariyas who could work as activists though now there are many due to the work put in by Ekta Parishad and the Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram. The latter is an NGO set up by the legendary Gandhian Subbaraoji who has spent more than fifty years conducting youth training programmes across India. Jaisinghbhai was inspired to dedicate his life to the cause of Adivasi rights after attending one of Subbaraoji's training camps.
Recently I had an opportunity to visit Sheopur and meet up with Jaisinghbhai after a long time. He is out of his house by 6.30 am every day on his motorcycle and off to the field as he says that people have to be buttonholed in their houses as they get up from sleep!! He then comes back to the Ashram office in Sheopur around 10 am to supervise the various projects that are underway. One such project is a subsidised canteen at the bus stand in Sheopur. This is a Government of Madhya Pradesh project and the Ashram has taken it on because it provides cheap food to the poor visitors to Sheopur who are mostly Sahariya Adivasis. On any given day there are fifty or so members of the Ekta Parishad in Sheopur on some work or other and they benefit from the subsidised canteen which sees a clientele of 300 or so every day.
The land rights movement of the Ekta Parishad has sustained for three decades and has had many achievements because of people like Jaisinghbhai who are the dedicated foot soldiers of this mass organisation. 

1 comment:

zakarto said...

Great Work…… Amazing list