Canto CX Book VI (Yuddha-Kánda) – The Battle – The Scion of Ikshvaku slays the Lord of Rákshas (Part 2 of 2)

Then Mátali to Ráma cried:
“Let other arms the day decide.
Why wilt thou strive with useless toil
And see his might thy efforts foil?
Launch at the foe thy dart whose fire
Was kindled by the Almighty Sire.”
He ceased: and Raghu’s son obeyed:
Upon his string the hero laid
An arrow, like a snake that hissed.
Whose fiery flight had never missed:
The arrow Saint Agastya gave
He laid it on the twisted cord,
He turned the point at Lanká’s lord,
And swift the limb-dividing dart
Pierced the huge chest and cleft the heart,
And dead he fell upon the plain
Like Vritra by the Thunderer slain.

On Mátali’s advice, Ráma chose the gleaming shaft, a gift from Brahma and which had been given by sage Agastya. It was breathing as if like a serpent. This was created for the conquest of all the three worlds, to be used by Indra. With the sun and fire in its head, the wind god was in its feathers. It was as heavy as the mountains Meru and Mandara. It sparkled as the Sun. The shaft was resplendent by its own lustre, well feathered and adorned with jewels. It could annihilate the enemy completely. It could rip through entire enemy army as it was hard as a diamond.  This deadly shaft brought euphoria to the monkeys and extermination of the Rákshas. Ráma fitted the resplendent shaft into his magnificent bow and after pronouncing the required mantras, drew his bow to the fullest and aimed the arrow at the Lord of Rákshas. He discharged that shaft at Rávan, piercing his vitals. The arrow fiercely struck Rávan in the chest. Rávan’s bow slipped from his hand and he tumbled out of his chariot. The shaft, after slaying Rávan, soaked in blood, again entered the quiver. Rávan thunderously fell to the ground. Seeing the death of their lord, the Rákshas panicked and started running away, but the monkeys chased them. The monkeys proclaimed Ráma’s victory with joy. Flowers rained down on Ráma’s chariot and the celestial beings were delighted with Rávan’s death. After killing Rávan, Ráma dazzled on the battle field, encircled by his army and friends. The epic battle thus came to an end with the victory of good over evil.

Canto CIX Book VI (Yuddha-Kánda) – The Battle – The Scion of Ikshvaku battles Lord of Rákshas (Part 1 of 2)

With wondrous power and might and skill
The giant fought with Ráma still.
Each at his foe his chariot drove,
And still for death or victory strove.
The warriors’ steeds together dashed,
And pole with pole reëchoing clashed.
Then Ráma launching dart on dart
Made Rávan’s coursers swerve and start.
God and Gandharva, sage and saint
Cried out, with grief and terror faint:
“O may the prince of Raghu’s line
Give peace to Bráhmans and to kine,
And, rescuing the worlds, o’erthrow
The giant king our awful foe.”
The doubtful fight he still maintained,
And on the foe his missiles rained.
In air, on earth, on plain, on hill,
With awful might he battled still;
And through the hours of night and day
The conflict knew no pause or stay.

The battle waged relentlessly. Indra summoned his charioteer Mátali and sent him to Ráma with the jewel studded gold made chariot. Mátali took the chariot to Rama and exhorted Ráma to kill the Rákshas in the same way as Indra killed the danavas. Ráma climbed into the chariot and the battle resumed. Ráma and Rávan opposing each other in the epic battle, highly angered, began to dash towards and assail each other; and being determined to slay each other they looked greatly dreadful. The two great warriors attacked one another with a barrage of arrows. The two heroes, discharging their shafts and  influenced by illusions, assailed each other proceeding and receding, Rama attacking Rávan and Rávan withstanding him. Ráma’s courage and confidence started increasing gradually, and he intensified his assault on Rávan. On the other hand, Rávan became more and more confused and he even could not find his weapon. The omens indicating Rávan’s destruction multiplied whereas more signs of good fortune for Ráma appeared. The final chariot duel started between them which made the monkeys and Rákshas absolutely still, holding on to their weapons and witnessing the fierce combat between the two. They stood facing each other, the forepart of one chariot touching that of the other and the heads of the steeds touching each other; and the flags, stationed on one touched those of the other. Ráma’s sharpest arrow cut off Rávan’s head but immediately another head grew in its place. That too was severed quickly but another grew to replace it. The hundred heads, all equal in brilliance, were cut off but there seemed to be no end to the Lord of Rákshas’s life. Ráma wondered that the arrows killed Marica, Khara, Dusana, Viradha and Kabandha. But why they were failing against Rávan.  Now the final assault.

Homage to Catalonia: Is this Balkanization of Europe ?

Falangists win over Republicans in the bloody civil war started the Francoist era which ended with Franco’s death in 1975. The nascent Republic was destroyed by Franco and his army with active military assistance from Nazi Germany and Italy. The Republicans were helped by USSR. Orwell’s commander famously described the situation as “This is not a war, it is a comic opera with an occasional death.”After a prolonged war, Republicans could not save Madrid and the Nationalists (Franco) captured it and formed the government with Franco at its helm. In 1931 Spain became a Republic and an autonomous Catalan regional government, the Generalitat, was created. But the long 36 years of Franco dictatorship saw Catalan being completely incorporated within Spain. Catalan and other regional provinces were dominated under the Franco regime. Autonomy, culture and even language of Catalan was suppressed. Only after the transition to democracy, limited autonomy was restored to Catalonia.

Orwell humorously stated that the Spaniards were good at many things, but not at making war! The Spanish civil war was more of a comedy where the Republicans were using forty years old German Mauser dated 1896! Machine guns at the rate of approx 1 to 50 men and where majority of rifles were mere scrap iron, also rounds were in tremendous short supply.

Catalonians argue that it is absolutely absurd to suggest that Catalan’s small size is an impediment to its independence. Comparable to that of prosperous Switzerland, it is a rich province which pays much more to the Republican than it receives from it. In terms of its population, territory, GDP and language, Catalonia has similar proportions to that of many other countries of the European Union. Though it does not have natural resources like natural gas or petroleum, yet it is of no significance as Spain also does not have any such resources. Catalonians argue that peaceful separation like ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1993, the self-determined split of the federal state of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a bloodless affair, can be beneficial to both the economies. But a situation like Yugoslav Wars must be avoided at any cost.

Artur Mas i Gavarró is the current President of the Generalitat of Catalonia. He is the leader of the Catalan liberal nationalist party Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and his coalition ‘Together for Yes’ alongwith other parties like Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Democrats of Catalonia (DC) had garnered the largest vote percentage of 39.54 and won the maximum 62 seats out of 135 in the elections held in September 2015.   As it is six short of a majority, the alliance is currently in negotiations with another pro-independence party to try to form a coalition majority. The elections were plebiscitary in nature. Mas has set a period of approximately 18 months for a measured and progressive disconnection. In November 2014, a referendum was held, wherein about 80 percent voted in favour of breaking away from Spain. Spain’s Constitutional Court had suspended it but it was still held. Prosecutors now accuse Artur Mas of grave disobedience, abuse of public funds, usurping powers and obstructing justice which has led to mass protests.

Spain fear that if Catalonia is allowed to become independent, similar demands will be raised by the separatists of Basque province. The violent Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ETA (Basque Country and Freedom) still haunts Spain. Also Nationalists of Bavaria(German), Flanders(Belgium), Corciso(France), Scotland(UK) are already clamouring for independence. The pandemonium will only grow louder.

‘Nyama tembo kula hawezi kumaliza’: DR Congo, Ntaganda, Kabila and the road ahead (PART 5 of 5)

The Swahili proverb means ‘You never finish eating the meat of an elephant’. Skullduggery continues.

Though there was a substantial decrease in violence post 2003, low level conflicts in certain pockets continued. Katanga insurgency continues till date. Ituri conflict is primarily between agriculturalist Lendu and pastoralist Hema ethnic groups in north-eastern Congo. Hostilities in Ituri Province started in 1999. The Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes [National Integrationist Front] (FNI) and Forces de Résistance Patriotique d’Ituri [Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri] (FRPI) fought for Lendu while Union des patriotes congolais [Union of Congolese Patriots](UPC) fought for the Hema. Finally, in December 2003, after the UPC split, fighting decreased significantly in Ituri Province.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, founder of UPC and the Force patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC)[military wing of UPC], was found guilty by ICC of committing the war crimes of the enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities between 2002 and 2003 and has been sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. The Appeals Chamber confirmed the verdict in 2014. ICC, in 2014, found Germain Katanga, commander of FRPI, guilty as an accessory of one count of crime against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) and has sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment. But Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, former leader of FNI, was acquitted. In February 2015, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the acquittal.

Bosco Ntaganda, former Deputy Chief of the Staff and commander of operations of FPLC has been charged of various war crimes including murder and attempted murder, attacking civilians, rape, sexual slavery of civilians, pillaging, displacement of civilians, attacking protected objects, destroying the enemy’s property, conscription of child soldiers under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities and various counts of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in 2002-2003 in the Ituri Province. The Chamber found that there was a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population pursuant to an organisational policy adopted by UPC and FPLC to attack civilians perceived to be non-Hema. The Chamber also found that an armed conflict had taken place between the UPC/FPLC and other organized armed groups. The trial has already commenced last month and is expected to be a cyclopean one. Due to the gravity of charges and the number of crimes he is accused of, the trial is of much consequence.  It is the first trial, at the ICC, where a commander will be charged with rape and sexual violence committed against child soldiers under his command. The case is significant because Ntaganda evaded justice for nine long years and even an international campaign for his apprehension could not get Congolese government to arrest him. But astonishingly, he voluntarily surrendered in 2013.

In the political arena, President Kabila is desperately trying to change the country’s constitution so that he can remain in power beyond his second and final five-year term. This has raised a storm of protests in the country. Opposition leaders have openly criticised any such moves. Last week, Moïse Katumbi, the multimillionaire governor of copper rich Katanga Province, a close aide of Kabila and the second most powerful man in Congo, announced leaving the ruling party. Congolese remain profoundly sceptical about their future. This makes the political situation all the more gripping.