State and the cult of ‘Delusional Desire’: Ashfaq Saraf
Guest post by ASHFAQ SARAF
In the summer of year 2010, Bangalore was peevishly hot. The month was April; its last days marking the end of a three month long training vocation Wipro technologies subjected us through. I had joined the Indian Corporate giant after having done my four years of bachelors at NIT Srinagar. We were a company of two Kashmiri friends—together in college and from there into this Job. Nothing was to remain of those months—like of all the days that come as routine and return the same—except for few friendships we sketched through— nothing more. Sometimes in a moment of recall I am reminded, however, of a couple of occasions when both of us were labeled rebellious for protesting against the strict dress code imposed on participants during the training period. It did not make much sense to me then—given the purpose the dress code was expected to serve—and it does not make sense to me now. It was a small act of rebellion: whose execution further revealed to me the nature and dexterity of shallow laws designed to mould populations into an abject form of controlled recipience. The act of rebellion—a promise to keep the notion of Justice viable—is the only instance one is inclined to think, in man’s life when he assumes the role of his own redemptory. Camus, the philosopher of absurdity, notably wrote that “Every act of rebellion expresses nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” One has little recourse to not remember all the days when they have felt supremely undead.
April ended in the birth of May and delivered us to the work floor. Imran, my Kashmiri mate couldn’t stay with me. He was assigned a different client—Wipro is a service based company working for different clients, serving them on their crazy capitalistic terms—and unfortunately a different location.
We waited outside the facility door till a call asked us to arrive into one of the meeting rooms. We were, me—the only Kashmiri—with four other colleagues, to say our first hello to the floor manager. He donned an amicable appearance, capable of complimenting every expression emanating from his face with a fructuously discernible smile. He started from his left; I sat to his extreme right. My introduction, the last that it came invariably consisted of the salubrious sentence: ‘I am from Kashmir.’ He smiled—this time an uncomely twist rendering his face muscles awry—and rose from his chair saying: Kashmir, such a beautiful place. Heaven on earth! I was there in 2008, just after the protests, you know. What a beautiful place!
While trying to make his way through the closely packed row of chairs, he declared: “Gentleman but, we here, in this part of India, all the people like me, him or her—pointing his fingers towards my mates sitting beside me—like to believe that Kashmir is an integral part of India.”
The part in my introduction that summoned a desire in him to ejaculate the phantasmagorical belief has failed to unravel itself to me since. I have had my own trials: maybe it was a desire to assert a certain kind of presence or equivalently a certain kind of absence; or a chance eye in eye with not-so-easily available kind of an underling—so as to say from Kashmir. Or maybe it was none of this.
This time—the only time that he appeared assuredly honest to me—his smile betrayed no note of frivolity. He left the room. I stayed a while staring out from the window, at the sprawling structure of Wipro campus. All the buildings stood tall, appearing closely stuffed as if pushing each other away for a breath of fresh air. We were not asked to attend to anything else afterwards. That day a strange form of uneasiness permeated through me. I was silent and pensive. But that night, strange that it may sound, I slept with an incorrigible smile on my face—and effortless too.
2008 must have marked the sight of many cozy Indian eye candies, long-doped and cajoled into believing that Indian army, by the sheer strength of its brutal counter insurgency tactics and self structured impunity-gifting-laws, had been an unavoidable success in Kashmir. Its success, as against what is diffused through the spongy conscience of Indian middle class by the corporate-licking, frenzy-picking media amounts to a mere shameful act of commutation: human life and dignity for bashful notion of unethical jingoism.
This notion of desire or ‘likeness’ as espoused by my manager at Wipro constitutes an important ingredient in the diffusive amalgam of a whole patriotic cult reeking inside the raw walls of the new Indian middle class household. One of the easily available, historically (recent) sustainable subjects—almost talked about every day, directly or otherwise, on television and through newspapers, in Bollywood and over cricket, everywhere—is Pakistan: the animosity with it, a constant security threat, the instigator of terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere. The impetus behind every act of resistance, even the circumstances leading to the arrest of an eleven-year-old boy, that runs through the dissenting disposition of the Kashmiri population is linked with Pakistan—and the discourse in Indian media always assumes the sorry face of a soliloquy.
Amongst many a shameful thing that an assured position of power can lead to is the desire to legitimize the emotion of desire itself, always and without recompense. Such is the state of drudgery and complication as created around the Kashmiri Resistance discourse that all an educated Indian mind—educated in the perfunctory sense of term—can conjure is to maledict any form of truth that goes against the ‘desired’ visage of mainstream media narration. A sustained structure of monologue, imposed and carried forward without any instance of credible questioning, from any sources creates altars on which stand the champions of nationhood preaching a rosary each bead of which leads to a culture of denial and deceit. In addition to denying the facts on ground, it paves a way for perpetration of the already mentioned cult of “we like to believe” which henceforth shall be referred to as culture of ‘delusional desire’.
At the level of an individual the culture of delusional desire, if zoomed in, assumes the fetor of a psychiatric disorder. To desire for another against their desire is an alarming situation in the individuals. This perhaps is the genesis of all crime in humanity. Some commonplace examples will suffice: Rape, outburst of a carnal desire inconsiderate of the victim’s opinion; theft, execution of an individual’s desire to possess by deceit rather than by earning; murder, the culmination of an individual’s opinion—the manifestation of a certain undercurrent of desires—in refusing to see other’s life as sacred as his/her own and so on. Zooming out thus into the psyche of a group of people, a large group like that of a modern nation state, and analyzing it for the culture of delusional desire leads to a conclusion, following directly from an extrapolation strategy, that such a cult is bound to breed crime—and unfortunately on a larger scale. And in case of India the disorder has not let down any expectations. It has proven its worth and hideously so.
Kashmir is a case—both with a long history of sixty five years, and a short memory of just last year—which has helped India or—to put it right—with which India has helped itself uphold the promises of the said pestilence. Crimes have been committed. Of the same nature as would be the case of an individual. More horrifying and brutal in that it is the import of impunity as extended to the Indian Soldier in Kashmir which has led to an unabated perpetration of such crimes—of raping innocent women, kidnapping youth from villages, murdering them in cold blood and then branding them foreign militants, of denying a fair trial to the victims, of denying the whereabouts of disappeared youth—and a squalid persistence of such crimes continues to haunt the psyche of this beleaguered population.
The crime committed by a state, which in actuality is the manifestation of delusional desire at a herd level, is uglier and more shameful, for it crumples within its discourse the institution of justice itself. Justice as a grounded institution in society is a collective effort. Justice as a notion validates itself with the emergence of social interaction in humans and draws on the limits set on the rights of an individual by those of the other. Hence justice as a process of realization consciously goes through another process of assertion namely ‘Demand’. Justice must be demanded in a contending scenario for it to be rendered achievable, and this ‘demand’ unavoidably summons the relationship of the one who demands justice with one from whom it is demanded. The frame of reference—one assumed to be the facilitator of justice— standing there as an agency, like the modern nation state itself, enforcing justice assumes the importance of the central pivot around which the expectations of the victim hover. Once a group of people and in this case the state becomes a party to the crime this frame of reference is rendered defunct; justice, as a deliverable wanes and the crime buttresses its fortress.
Now imagine the hardships of a people for whom there is no such ‘frame of reference’, for the one that claims to be so is the one which commits the crime, is the one which imposes itself. It defines justice in its own language and then executes it on its own terms resulting in more misery and crime.
And important example in question is a recent report called Alleged Perpetrators: Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir published by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK). This report takes a step back: it focuses only on cases which are not contested by the state for their mention—the state acknowledges these cases as valid perpetrations. After analyzing the cases in detail the report reaches a shameful conclusion: There is a direct involvement of the state structure—remember the frame of reference—as alluded to by the designation of many military and police officials implicated in the report. It is a startling revelation. Yet there was no mention of the same in Indian media. It was ignored. You cannot talk about it simply because the culture of delusional desire shall prevent the people from assuming anything of the kind—the revelation might actually hurt the notion of ‘sacred’ and ‘proud’ with respect to the conduct of Indian military in Kashmir—and it shall prevent the power structure from acting thereby.
I happened to have a chat with my manager at Wipro once more. It was after more than three months on the work floor. The conversation smoothly drifted to Kashmir. I narrated to him a tale of how, in 2002 when I was a student of 10th grade, two twin sisters, at Bag-e-Islam locality, my neighbourhood in Varmull town, were brutally raped by a horde of army men—their brother and father summoned to the nearby army camp an hour before the incident, chained and tortured there; the Captain of the regiment, a young man in early thirties having “eve teased” these girls many a times before this incident; the whole regiment cordoning their house off at around 9 O’clock in the evening and then barging in to commit the crime. He smiled listening with impatience until he cut me short saying: ‘Do you think I want to believe you, and what you say?’ The culture of delusional desire, I thought must be a crippling ailment.
People had gathered the following day to protest against the brutality I remember. The whole town was shut. We did not go to school. Women spoke in tearful eyes of the state of the girls’ bodies—bruised and battered. People also reported of a man who had slapped the District Collector trying to pacify the crowd with his fatuous logic—and of how police had dragged him into the van.
No one from the army was ever prosecuted. We heard of some transfers—unascertainable.
Did everyone not know that the men in uniform committed what they did, quite sure of being immune to the law—sure of the herd consequences of the culture of ‘Delusional Desire’?
We all knew, as we all know now.