Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
The political discourse across the world is increasingly becoming dominated by the phenomenon of populism. The term has become so commonplace that it usually appears in popular media without an explanation as to who qualifies to be a populist. However, revisiting the idea can be instructive at this point.
The definition for the term, which now forms the backbone of academic studies, was provided by young Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde in 2004. He suggested that the concept is a political ideology that considers society to be segregated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups: “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite” – and that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people.
The first major sign of the global shift towards populism was the election of Donald Trump as the US President. Populists have been successful in other countries as well. Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Recep Tayyib Erdogan in Turkey, Victor Orban in Hungary and the Finns Party in Finland are evidence of the expanding global footprint of populism. Such trends point towards a larger shift in attitudes of citizens around the globe that are rapidly changing the face of democracy.
The rise of populism around the world is of interest because it presents a few concerning aspects. Cas Mudde highlights that populist leaders usually carry one or all of the following traits: anti-establishment, authoritarianism, and nativism.
Since the idea is about the virtue of the ordinary people against a corrupt establishment, populist leaders display resentment for existing authorities. The aversion of populist leaders to institutional restraint can also extend to the economy, where exercising complete control in the interest of the people implies that autonomous regulatory agencies should place no obstacles in their way. Alongside, they also exude authoritarian leanings as they believe to be representing the interest of the masses. Finally, the narrative set by populist leaders taps into the feeling of nationalism among the citizens, which can develop into xenophobic tones like in Trump’s America or Nigel Farage’s Britain.
A combination of these three traits undermine and weaken the idea of democracy by making its institutions ineffective, concentrating power around a few individuals and polarising the people.
It must also be noted that populism is not necessarily a movement of the right. Quite a few populist parties around the world favour economic left-wing policies. In fact, one of the most populist leaders in recent times, Hugo Chavez, rallied Venezuela against the ‘predatory’ political elite and the US as a whole while attempting a socialist revolution in the country. Even Trump, for that matter, presents instances of socialistic tendencies in his advocacy of trade barriers and opposition to global trade deals. Thus, it is not necessarily a particular ideology that is driving the rise in populism. The root causes lie elsewhere.
The reasons can be traced to the structural changes experienced in earlier decades. First, the technological revolution which took shape in the 1980s has since disproportionately benefited highly skilled workers while the rest of the workforce, especially in the developed world, saw their incomes stagnate or decline. This was the beginning of the growing economic disparity between the ‘elite’ and the masses. Among other things, it has resulted in a significant growth in inequality across the modern society.
Second, globalisation, which accelerated in the 1990s also created clear winners and losers in both developed and emerging markets. As per the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem, trade benefits individuals who own factors with which the national economy is relatively well-endowed and hurts individuals who own factors that are relatively scarce. Hence, in the most developed nations that were capital-rich, unskilled workers were left holding the shorter end of the stick. These segments of population have been the strongest supporters of populist leaders who promise to close the borders and return their jobs to them.
Finally, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the 2008 financial crisis. It was a crisis that the working class saw as being a creation of the ‘elite’: the rich bankers and stock brokers. To make matters worse, the state bailed out the instigators of the crisis while the rest were left to deal with the consequences of austerity and joblessness. They have, thus, connected with populist leaders who have seemed to be the only ones speaking their language.
Therefore, rising disparity in terms of income and opportunities has led the rise of populism around the world. The populist movement is an outcry from communities that have been short-changed in the process of technological progress and globalisation; from those who have seen growth all around them but not for themselves.
Every industrial or technological revolution in the past has been disruptive and has required social and economic adaption. The 21st century needs a commensurate adjustment. (IANS)
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.
Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamour and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
ALSO READ: India's first Residential Transgender
Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.