Umar Lateef Misgar- a Muslim journalist from Kashmir, from which Hindu Pandits have been ethnically cleansed- has an article in Aeon from which I extract this-
I grew up in India-administered Kashmir, a region marred by decades of conflict, popular insurgency and ferocious counterinsurgency.
The Hindu minority was ethnically cleansed from there in the early Nineties. Even now any 'Pandit' who has had the temerity to return is liable to get shot.
Here, the idea of politicoreligious sacred death remains a pervasive and omnipresent feature of daily life.
Killing Hindus is rewarded. But there is also money for kids who throw stones and bolder souls who might go on to more murderous types of mayhem. This is not a cult of martyrdom so much as a diaspora funded industry of attritional death dealing.
Those believed to have been slain for the cause of Kashmir’s freedom, and Islam, are popularly revered within the social milieu as their families receive increased social acceptance and status.
And money. This is classic 'altruistic suicide'. The problem is that Israel can make more money selling anti-terrorist tech than any loss or nuisance it itself sustains. Ultimately, control of territory isn't just about relative kill-rates. It is about whether investment in killing can pay for itself or, indeed, turn a profit.
Before burial, the bodies are displayed openly in large funerary processions. After attempting to touch the feet, face, beard or torso of these bodies, the mourners caress their chests or faces, as if to gather piousness. The bodies are then buried in special graveyards that are spread across Kashmir’s towns and villages. During these funerals, family members apply henna on the hands and feet of their slain kin, in addition to showering them with sweets. This is done in imitation of the rituals that are generally carried out during elaborate marriage ceremonies in Kashmir. The performance that follows death is a mix of celebration and mourning. They celebrate because the dead have received the highest level of spiritual salvation that can be accorded to a Muslim: Jannah (paradise).
Predictably, the authorities have changed tactics and- as Obama did with Osama's corpse- themselves dispose of the bodies of the slain.
The history of martyrdom in the Abrahamic traditions shows the strategic role that sacred death played in the formation of these faiths – a ‘strategy’ that furthered spiritual and political aims.
Sadly, once invaders massacre civilian populations, the cult of the martyr declines. If 'spiritual and political aims' are economically stupid, they die out because there are always cheaper ways of killing people or leaving them to starve.
Through these traditions, death became discursively understood not only as a ‘perfect’ act in the present, or a way of living forever, but also a means of resisting oppression and creating change.
Not among the Uighurs in Xi's China. The question is whether 're-educated' Uighurs become productive enough to pay for the kind attentions of Communist Party goons.
But, in Kashmir, sacred death takes on an explicitly political register.
As does killing Hindus.
Often, the only dissentious politics that can be performed in Kashmir revolves around death.
e.g. killing Hindus.
On university or college campuses, where unionising and campaigning remains virtually banned, students often organise funeral prayers for those who they believe are martyrs.
Come to think of it, I might have chosen to be a suicide bomber if the alternative was having to pass the Calculus exam.
However, state authorities have now put an end to these funerary processions by refusing to return the bodies of slain Kashmiris to their families. Instead, they are buried discreetly in faraway border areas. Halting this performative culture of martyrdom was seen as a strategic victory by one of the region’s top-ranking police officials because the observance of large-scale funerary processions significantly enabled recruitment within insurgent ranks.
Indeed. The thing was a no brainer. Obama set the example and even stupid Indian cops could follow it.
The seizure of bodies by state officials and the performative culture of martyrdom used by Kashmiris to express political resistance reveal the critical position of death within the region’s politics.
Does it though? Killing terrorists and then knocking down their houses and gradually picking up family members and torturing them till they turn informer is the tried and tested method. But, why kill when you can simply bleed a community dry? What if that is the type of 'Tiebout Model' which yields highest manorial rent and thus increasingly prevails?
The notion of death remains an active core around which the insurgency coalesces. At the end of dogged gunfights between insurgents and the Indian military, dead rebel recruits are often found carrying extremely low-grade weaponry or no weapons at all.
Still, their recruiter gets paid. Other people's lives are cheap, but that's a good thing when it comes to a volume business.
This points towards an alternative motivation, beyond material gains, that seems to drive the Kashmiri insurgency against the state’s military structures. This motivation becomes more stark in the visual material created by these young men in the immediate aftermath of joining the insurgency. In pictures and videos, the insurgent is seen touting a gun and pointing the index finger of his right hand to the sky, signifying the Shahada or ‘witnessing’ of the oneness of God. The Arabic term for martyrdom, ‘shaheed’, which appears in the Quran, literally refers to the act of witnessing. Etymologically, this is close to the English, Greek and Syriac words ‘martyr’, ‘martus’ and ‘sahda’, respectively, which all refer to the act of witnessing.
The Jewish veneration of the Ten Martyrs is likely to have influenced the religions descended from Judaism. Sadly, mere witnesses of the military victories of others retain no territory in this world.
In recent times, the insurgents and their families have also recorded what are known as ‘last calls’ or ‘final calls’. In these phone conversations, an insurgent, who is engaged in a gunfight with the Indian military and has no hope of escaping alive, calls back home for a final farewell. These deeply personal and intense phone calls, which are recorded and then circulated on social media, give insight into the dynamics of the insurgency in Kashmir, illuminating the motivations that drive Muslims to fight despite facing overwhelming odds against India’s enormous counterinsurgency grid.
These calls also help counter-insurgency forces identify the networks involved. That which is theatrical is also that which is stupid. Lives can be swapped for territory but only if military strategy is sound.
In the calls, pleasantries are exchanged before the young insurgents emphasise their proximate martyrdom for the sake of Islam, and urge others to carry forward ‘the mission’, a euphemism for armed insurgency against the Indian state.
There is certainly plenty more scope for ethnic cleansing in South Asia. But there will be a tribal, as much as a confessional, basis to it.
This practice of death as politics appears in other contemporary contexts, most prominently in Palestine.
where that practice of death has failed spectacularly
In December 2022, Palestinians mourned the killing of 23-year-old Ahmed Daraghmeh, a
former soccer player who worked for Hamas. He was killed while firing on Israelis.
professional soccer player.
While, in Dubai, Jews celebrated Hanukkah in the first kosher supermarket. The Palestinians exported terror but terror is brainless shite and there will always be a cheaper supplier of cannon fodder. The Israelis export smart, knowledge based, means of getting the better of mindless murderers.
He was killed by the Israeli military during a raid on the West Bank city of Nablus.
No. The Israelis were escorting civilians to Josheph's Tomb. The problem with Palestinian propaganda is that nobody believes any of it. Israeli propaganda, on the other hand, has some basis in truth but only because Israelis gain by appearing smarter than their opponents.
His funeral was attended by hundreds if not thousands of people, and turned into a site of protest against the occupation.
Which suited Netanyahu just fine. He's back in power.
Whether it be after the killing of a Palestinian civilian or of a militant commander, funerary processions have always been potent settings for Palestinians to express political resistance to the Israeli occupation.
But Palestinians are now seen as stupid. Other Arabs think they should keep quiet and take one for the team. The real enemy is Iran.
An important Arabic term in the context of Palestinian self-sacrifice and martyrdom is ‘Istishhad’.
It is a term synonomous with stupidity and failure.
According to Bassam Yousef Ibrahim Banat,
who has been saying for many years now that suicide bombers represent 'helpless and unarmed Palestinians whereas we can see on our TV screens that the Gaza strip has lots of rockets which it keeps firing at Israel.
a Palestinian sociologist, the term denotes the act of self-sacrifice for the cause of Palestinian liberation. Banat writes:
Self-sacrificing for the sake of the group is a term expressed by Palestinians through the ‘Istishhady’ (suicide martyr) which has religious and popular significances given to the person, who with premeditation and full consciousness, makes a decisive decision to sacrifice himself.'
But this 'decisive decision' involves trying to kill other people. The plain fact is murderers aren't greatly liked by those they target. Indeed, they might kill them pre-emptively. Still, Israel benefits by this drama but then Israel is a special case.
How should we grapple with what is at stake in this fraught dynamic of death, power and politics?
Concentrate on the death and power. The politics doesn't matter though, prima facie, the opposite seems to be the case.
For Achille Mbembe, the Cameroonian public intellectual and critical theorist, manifestations of power and sovereignty are forms of ‘necropolitics’.
Coz Foucault babbled about biopolitics, Mbembe invented something equally nonsensical so as to get tenure and make money.
From this perspective, contemporary power is the condition of wielding death: being able to apply it, withhold it, prolong it. This power, Mbembe demonstrates, has led to the creation of ‘death-worlds’ inhabited by ‘living dead’.
as opposed to the brainless zombies who inhabit the sort of shitty campuses this guy makes his living in
But death and politics are tangled in complex ways. To conceptualise the subversion of necropolitics, Mbembe uses the figure of a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Coz there are plenty of them in Cameroon right? Why does nobody mention the Anglophone war in Senegal? Thousands have been killed and half a million people have been displaced.
The long history of martyrdom in the Abrahamic traditions, or Kashmir, provide other examples.
No. History shows martyrdom is meaningless. Military strength, which in turn entails economic power, is what determines every type of politics- even that of brainless zombies teaching shite to shitheads.
But the question remains: what utilitarian political end, if any, does death serve, especially in the contexts of unpopular rule, armed insurgency, and sovereign necropolitical death?
If guys are queuing up to die uselessly- they are losers. Violence is a learned skill. Superior technology enables higher productivity in inflicting death. That's what matters.
G W F Hegel has one response.
No he didn't. He was perfectly sensible. He understood that Germany needed to get a lot better at killing people by raising productivity and making technological advances. Like Kant, he was writing about how a Beamten class should approach their service to the State.
Hegel describes voluntary encounters with death as non-nihilistic, and maintains that these acts form an essential element of subject-formation.
Within a specific dialectical process in which poorly educated Muslims were doomed to extinction or subjection by better educated peoples.
Confronting death, whether as an individual or collective, inevitably transforms the subjective experience of the living or those left behind.
Why confront death? Just pay your taxes so the bad guys get blown up in their caves or tents or whatever.
In any case, Muslims in South Asia- including Kashmir Valley- have done plenty of killing and ethnic cleansing. Whatever 'transformation' has occurred in their 'subjective experience', it isn't one that has been useful or attractive to anybody.
Terry Eagleton, the Marxist literary critic and public intellectual, has another response.
The fucker is very very old. He doesn't get that Marx and Freud were shit.
In his treatise on martyrdom, Radical Sacrifice (2020), Eagleton writes about the ways that voluntary death can overcome the ‘demonic compulsion’ of the Freudian death drive
which doesn't fucking exist. Why not speak of a drive to hand over cash to fraudsters?
and transform what appears to be a necessity into a practice of freedom.
in the same manner that you could transform shoving your fist up your arse into a practice of democracy.
When everyday life is pervasively animated by oppressive forms of enforced death, can death itself be appropriated and turned into an act of resistance and freedom?
Sure- why not? But what would be cool is if we appropriate the death of Literary Theory and turn it into an act of resistance to boredom.
Death is a preferable form of political expression for people oppressed by conditions that stretch across time
No it isn't. Kashmiri Hindus don't want to be killed. True, they also don't want to be oppressed but if Muslims are in the majority in the area, they may be shit out of luck.
Eagleton is not the only one thinking of death as freedom.
But Eagleton doesn't come from a religion which kills Hindus.
In Starve and Immolate (2014), the political theorist Banu Bargu
who is Turkish, and does
continues this thread by offering an alternative to sovereign necropolitics: necroresistance.
Brain dead, zombie political theory will obviously bang on about necro this and necro that.
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