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, March 9, 2019

Another One Bites the Dust

Fighting for the rights of the oppressed is always a difficult proposition. Especially if they are Adivasis in India. So when we took up cudgels for the Bhil Adivasis of Alirajpur in the early 1980s, we immediately faced repression from the administration and the local non-Adivasi exploiters. Things were even more difficult then because the Adivasis in Alirajpur did not even know that they were citizens of an independent nation in which they had considerable rights and entitlements. So from the beginning we were on the backfoot always facing physical attacks and what was more dangerous, the sinister machinations of the minions of the State. Mostly, we used to stay deep in the jungles and come to the town only for some protest action or for placing some demands. In those days, when there were no mobile phones and internet, it would not have been possible to sustain our mass work without the support of Pushpendra Solanki in Alirajpur.

Pushpendra was a local journalist, a stringer, of a Hindi daily and as such had no income. The income that such stringers earned was from blackmailing corrupt government servants by saying that they would publish their wrong doings. Pushpendra, never did that and instead used to report the wrongdoings. One story he did was about the abhorrent practice of burying alive of leprosy patients in connivance with the police. Naturally, he soon became friends with us and took up the cause of the Adivasi fight for rights. So he became our point person in Alirajpur and provided the communication with the world at large that was so required. On our suggestion, he set up the NGO, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and we got him a legal aid project through which he was able to take up our many cases in the courts by employing lawyers. Throughout the decade of the 1980s up to 1993, whenever the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath faced serious challenges, Pushpendra provided the crucial communication and legal support in Alirajpur that eventually helped the organisation to make a mark and considerably improve the situation of the Adivasis in Alirajpur.
After 1993, the non-Adivasi activists all moved out of Alirajpur as the local Adivasi activists like Khemla, Shankar and Kemat had become capable of running the show on their own. Pushpendra also moved out to Bhopal and became a full time journalist. He then continued to provide support from Bhopal not only to the KMCS but also to other mass organisations in Madhya Pradesh. As an accredited journalist he got a government quarters and his house in Bhopal became the rallying point of activists. He had a great knack of reporting and writing investigative pieces and soon made a name for himself, becoming an editor over time. However, given his unbending attitude towards corruption and his commitment to the cause of socio-economic justice he could not hold on to his editorial jobs and had to later survive on freelance work instead.
I am particularly grateful to him for the support he provided during the huge crackdown on our organisation in Dewas in 2001 when the government killed four of my Adivasi colleagues in police firing and packed me into prison for two and a half months. Subhadra, my wife, escaped by the skin of her teeth with our son Ishaan who was then just seven months old and landed up at Pushpendra's house in Bhopal to lie low. Pushpendra and his wife Renu gave refuge to them and then Pushpendra launched a scathing attack in the news papers against the government.
So, the passing away of Pushpendra last week in his sleep due to a massive heart attack came as a deeply hurting shock from which I have still to recover. The Government quarter he was staying in was due for demolition and was the only one that was still standing in that colony which is to be redeveloped as a swanky mall and up market residential colony. While all others being government servants had vacated their quarters, Pushpendra, had doggedly stuck on saying that he wouldn't move without getting another quarter. Probably all the tensions did him in and he lost the battle for his life leaving all of us shell shocked.
At a time when the fight for rights is on the back foot and we can only look back on those heady days of the 1980s with wonder at what we had achieved, the passing away of a brave comrade in arms from that time has left me shattered. A few years ago another great comrade from that time, Khemla, had passed away and now Pushpendra also has departed. Reminds me of the famous number by the rock band Queen, which is about comrades dying in the face of bullets of the enemy - Another One Bites the Dust. We had set out to fight injustice with great enthusiasm in our youth but have failed to achieve a just society and now one by one our comrades are leaving us. 


Saswat said...

Hope you find peace wherever you are, Pushpendra Ji.

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