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– by Salil Gewali
Are we on the brink of destruction? Are our precious lives worthless in the hands of two lunatics? Can Mother Earth withstand another holocaust-this time a full-scale destruction? Will sanity prevail in those two demented heads?
Answers to these dreadful questions lie in Washington and Pyongyang. We, like the rest of the inhabitants in the lap of Mother Earth, can only be the dumb spectators. If the dreaded catastrophe befalls, it will be beyond our means to prevent, and beyond our means to survive. Yes, a series of a dreadful missile is being blasted off from the soil of North Korea too frequently. And it is duly matched with the more alarming thunders by the US President Donald Trump. It is frightful to imagine when these two capricious men will be losing their sensible judgment and start acting against the norms of humanity.
The US is the only country on Earth, which has committed the gruesome act of using nuclear bombs against humanity. Towards the end of World War II, the then American President Harry S. Truman ordered Japan to surrender, or, “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” He followed up his ultimatum by dropping nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and the 9th of August, 1945, killing around 200,000 people (Wikipedia).
This gruesome murder of innocent people can be attributed to the American arrogance of power, and affirmation of their destructive capacity. It has been termed as a war crime on humanity and a manifestation of state terrorism. Opponents of this kind of state terrorism argue that the American bombing was immoral and militarily unnecessary. The U.S. still justifies similar horrendous action against any nation, which does not subserve their interests. President Donald Trump’s shocking and outrageous utterances are extensions of the U.S. state behavior. It is frightful to imagine when this vacillating individual will act on his shocking threat of “fire and fury,” as his predecessor did (Article).
On the other hand, why does Kim Jong-un harbor a boundless grudge against the U.S.? Why is he inexhaustibly hostile to the U.S.? Why does Korean People’s Army plan to strike the U.S island of Guam and trigger a grievous conflict? Why does Kim provoke President Donald Trump for the deadliest conflict in history?
Actually, the root cause of this conflict can be traced back to more than half-century. The conflict centers on the Korean War of 1950-53. The 38th parallel divided Korean Peninsula into two in 1948: the South Korea supported by the United States, and the North Korea supported by the then Soviet Union. The infamous Korean War broke out in the year 1950, the South Korea supported by the United States and its allies, and the North Korea supported by the then Soviet Union and China. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and the then dictator of North Korea fought this gruesome war against America and its allies with the support of the then Soviet Union and China. The War lasted till 1953, injuring or killing an estimated three million Koreans, ten percent of its overall population. This background left Kim Jong-un a wounded dictator. He has been planning a U.S. attack since 2013 (Amstrong). Recently, Pyongyang celebrated the anniversary of the war’s flare-up as “the day of struggle against U.S. imperialism.” (News, Conflict explained).
North Korea is estimated to have 60 nuclear weapons and it has the capability to produce at least six additional nuclear bombs every year. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles could travel about 10,400km putting almost the whole world within its range. North Korea claims it can mount nuclear warheads on its ballistic missiles. In September 2017, North Korea detonated its deadliest hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of about 100 kilotons. This caused an earthquake measuring 6.3 magnitudes. The tremor was felt in China, about 400km away from the test site. It is worrying to learn that this H-bomb could be 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped by the U.S. air (article)force on Hiroshima in World War II (News, North Korea testing nuclear weapons).
Experts estimate the casualties of a U.S. – North Korea conflict could be a minimum of one million. A nuclear attack by North Korea can decimate Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. The U.S.’s anti –ICBM systems may defend the country from a usual test. But, experts opine, on the face of a sudden multiple ICBM’s assaults, the horrifying result could be unpredictable. Of course, the U.S.’s and its allies’ military assets stationed all over the world, including at striking distances could decimate North Korea in seconds. That could not justify the irreparable loss the U.S. would be inflicted upon (News, U.S.- North Korea conflict).
President Donald Trump and Dictator Kim Jong Un must introspect with all seriousness. They must exercise strategic restraint. They must avoid a potential flashpoint. They must think of a world outside their egomania. They must introspect on the devastating consequences of their protracted antagonism. They must understand military provocations, militant statements. Crossing swords will not solve problems of this magnitude. So, they must listen to the reason and display the right statesmanship which the world’s citizens expect. They must display their compassion and exercise their prudence. They have never been mandated to hurt humankind and to injure the Earth crust.
Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.
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.
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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 enamor 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.