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On bloodlust: notes towards four imminent executions: Rijul Kochhar

February 17, 2013

Guest post by RIJUL KOCHHAR

[This June 19, 1993 photo shows Veerapan aides Simon (front row, second from left) and Madaiah (fourth from left) among other landmine blast accused. Courtesy The Hindu/PTI.]

[This June 19, 1993 photo shows Veerapan aides Simon (front row, second from left) and Madaiah (fourth from left) among other landmine blast accused. Courtesy The Hindu/PTI.]

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

~A.E. Housman

ज़िन्दगी और मौत ऊपर वाले के हाथ हैं जहापनाह, उसे ना आप बदल सकते हैं न मैं, हम सब तोह रंग-मंच की कठपुतलियाँ हैं, िजनकी डोर उपरवाले की उँगलियों मे बंधी हैं: कब, कौन, कैसे उठेगा, कोई नहीं बता सकता.

~Anand (1971)

I write in an evening shrouded in anticipation, but it is an anticipation of death.

I will write in short, for it is to this that lives lived in an age of bureaucratic rationality are destined—shortness. I sit here, not in judgment, for that has already been done. The state, its arms, the bureaucracy and judicature, the presidency, have all circulated files and documents. Files have become the epitaph of life, tending with acceleration, to legal murder at the gallows. Let us know this and think it through—as the last hours of life of four men, destined by law, to death confront us. It is a luxury to think and imagine that I claim forcefully, for it was denied us by the secret extinguishing of the life of that ‘public enemy’, Afzal Guru. And in this brief aporia that has opened up before us, before the next round of state-murders return to secrecy (for the President in Rashtrapati Bhavan has r

emoved the online, realtime, list of pending mercy petitions), let us rise to thinking the ordinariness of state-killing, the banality of the procedures of this dying, and the phenomenal inordinariness of the death of four men awaiting execution. Behind the façade of routine and rational bureaucracies of killing remains, still, killing. It is the shock of that fact that we must grasp and keep alive.

Think about it, if you will, for a minute (for we don’t have much time!)—the calmness of a Saturday evening, sitting in Delhi, when it has rained the day and night before, the rain washing away grime and dust from our lives. It is crisp, windy and fresh. It is a joy to be alive. That rain, its lashing, this freshness and clarity, has revealed the utter sense of desperation and alarm that one may feel—our state, this politics, has sat in judgment; the high-priest of mercy has denied pardon and refused mercy; this evening is also intoxicated with bloodlust and sanguinary satisfaction. Tomorrow morning, or any time thence, they will kill, legally, in our name, in mine and yours, and in all ours. Four men, like the filmic kathputlis, will dangle. But how will it be done, this mind that has mountains asks—will these living puppets be lined up, one after another, and mechanically done in? What will decide the sequence; who goes first—Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah or Bilavendran? What is the order, the reasonable reasoning, the sequencing, behind this final act (I ask this trite question for the more important, heavy queries, adjudicating crime and punishment have already passed muster in our courts, in this brutally record-breaking presidency, and in our sternly callous hearts)? Is the extinguishing of life to follow the quirk of naming and parental prerogative? Will this destiny of birth interfere, one last time, in this killing? Will death be alphabetical? Or will they join hands, the four, and, at the apportioned time, depart together? Will one gallows do, or will they construct four beauties? Will they reuse the rope? If death begets death, what is the reasoning, the logic, of the cycle of life?

Tomorrow, before we awake, during the time that Sunday weaves its charm, after it gives way to the foreboding of another working week—who knows when, for death and secrecy have made a lovely pact of bewilderment in our deliberately arbitrary ministrations of death?—four more men will be hanged by their necks in a prison in Karnataka. They will become more trophies to this record-breaking President, footnotes to decisive action and means-ends administration that we have so come to pine for. They will writhe like trapped butterflies, for less than a minute, or like netted fish, choking, the blood and air mixing in unwholesome ways. They will writhe, and they will stop writhing; like clothes strung out to dry, they will be taken down from the gallows. Who knows, maybe they will have soiled themselves in awaiting this death—their shit and piss, the vomit and gore, the blood and terror, the deracinated compounds of torn flesh and organs and knotted blood vessels, and coagulated dreams and desires, forming vital and vulval evidence of this brutal confrontation between living and killing? What are the thoughts of these four men, as they see death hovering over their lives, ready for them not in some biologically-inevitable way but realized in a legal-bureaucratic fashion? What are their feelings at knowing their ends? Will they eat tonight, or ‘live’ (anatomically of course, but also spiritually) before death—what are the mechanics of living for a legally-prescribed, collectively-awaited, fantasized death? Will they think of their pasts, of the ephemera of their lives? Will they visit the bathroom in the morning, one last time? Will they sleep tonight before they are proverbially put to sleep?

As I write and as you read, time is offering us the opening, imaginative vignettes of their everyday—the rising scenes that will collapse into a culmination of legal reason, the opening notes of a song of cruelty, the terrifying waiting within the fabric of the ordinary life-world—that is also the final climax of our politics. This time of the everyday that I am imagining here, and this politics of death to which that everyday has become hostage, are showcasing (at once as they are also camouflaging) the crescendo of shrill, satiating, pleasurable revenge—it is a crescendo that forms the background white-noise, its fundamental raison d’être. But what organizes this imaginative time? What orders this deathly politics? What fuels this erotic revenge? There is a connection to this bureaucratized everydayness of life lived in the shadow of impending legal-murder, this politics of killing, and this desire for revenge—its logics, to me, announce the advance-guard of terror. Rationality and pleasure, tied to the singular pursuit of decisive ‘action’ realized in killing, can portend only one finality—annihilation.

As dusk passes into darkness, metaphor and cliché, perhaps, serve us best in Gandhi’s land: the thirst for blood meets its match tonight (again) in the seeming routinization, the banal bureaucratics, of killing—the circulating files and orders, the competing/concurring authorities of the state and the impending nooses, the gallows and funerals, the documents and extinguished dreams, the killing in our name and dying of families—the collective, mass-fantasy of correction and a sanitized world. This is an age where everyone is thirsty for blood: we have a president and a state and an age given to the narcotisation of taking life. The fantasy of achieving a cultural and legal sanitation in living finds its activation in the narcotisation of bureaucratic killing. The law, politics, bureaucracies, revenge, pleasure tend to one logic—death in the everyday, and an addiction to that death.

Zygmunt Bauman revealed the shocking links between our modern tryst with reason and rationality, and the arrival, plague-like, of the Holocaust. That plague, in other words, ensconced within it, reason and bureaucratically rational ways of doing death. This was the shock—that the ingredients of mass-murder were celebrated and feted in other walks of the everyday, or that the most celebratory ingredient of modern life—reason—was also responsible for the spawning of mass-death. This was not diabolical celebration but, instead, an ignorant, myopic one. The Holocaust, then, was the perfection of our age; it was, in Baumann’s scheme, the apotheosis of our way of life, not its contra. It was, in one sense, a necessary and destined plague. What this plague also ensconces, today, as we await the confirmation of the stilling of those writhing bodies hung from the end of expectant nooses composed of sturdy ropes, is the shock of knowing that we are addicted to legal-murder. Ours is a necropolitics, pure and simple.

And so, like addicts, we go, from one fix to the next, until we will turn on ourselves, cannibalizing our sense of empathy and pardon. And that turning will happen, if it has not already. When the thirst for blood becomes a narcotic, and the mechanics of reason and bureaucratic routine swing into the service of organizing the next dose of bloodlust, there is reason to despair and there is cause to be scared. That organizing may seem to begin in the courts and end with the President of this republic; in reality, it forms the integral logic of our selves. We have forgotten in our mania to kill, in our addiction to the pleasure that derives from it and from revenge, quite simply, the meaning of life. This is the final cliché but it is a useful and a scary one. When the state forgets too, gearing its infrastructure of reason and power and rationalized action to the achievement of killing—a Holocaust in (and of) the everyday is not unimaginable.

Rijul Bloodlust 2

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2013 8:46 PM

    Notes on Arm Chair Activists Plea for ‘Mercy for Killers without Justice to the Victims’.

    Truly! A speech worth of comparison with Mark Antony’s harangue post the assassination of Caesar – but that was politics, and as that be a dirty word in the language of the ‘embedded activists’, why this political extortion to ‘extinguish death penalty’ ? For that is what this is all about, beneath the veneer of ‘humanity’. Politics. So, I shall be short in my exposition (and shall be true to my promise, no hyperbole) of the blunder in ‘Calling for Mercy without Justice to the Victims’. It is an affront to Nature (God to those prefer it as such). Let’s take the case of the death penalty of Veerappan’s associates which is causing so much of anguish in doddering retired SC Judges, Paid News Print Media, Embedded Journalists and Fashionable Ivory Tower Liberalists.
    1) Let us not forget certain basic facts – Veerappan and his associates were more than Ecological Terrorists. They were remorseless men, filled not only with bloodlust for the elephants they hunted but their humans protectors, for whom they had equal or more contempt. There was not even a fig leaf of ideology (the Robin Hood of Tamils being a convenient after thought) – the motive was profit, at the expense of entire species – the Sandalwood trees and the Asian elephants. So, let us “rise to thinking the extra ordinariness of this organised eco-killing, the uniqueness of the process of this extermination, and the everyday commonness of the butchery, the last hours of these 2000 magnificent animals and smithereened 22 humans”. No, bleeding heart arm chair activist to organise, an online or offline an ‘Elephant Bachao Andolan’ unlike the ‘Narmada Bachao’ andolan. Is it because, elephants are less ‘humane’ than ‘Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah or Bilavendran’? Or is it because, the 22 people who died in the landmine blast where mere, dispensable ‘State Robots’, paid for by the people, to protect the people and their cause – conservation of rare indigenous species ? In any case, why did not the ‘Rights Activists’ clamouring for mercy for the marauders of the asian elephants not protest against the savaging of the elephants ? Where were the PFA, PETA ? Are we to understand, just like Bureaucrats, ‘activists’ accept being compartmentalised ‘my department- humans’, ‘your department – animals’ ?
    2) Think about it, if you will, for a minute (for we don’t have much time! The Earth is unable to stop life on it to die off) —the calmness of every Saturday evening, sitting in any Indian state, in front of a computer and dashing off posts, pro-life, against death to Paedophilic Rapists cum Murders, Mass murderers from the Extremists Ideology – Economic – Maoists or Capitalists (Union Carbide), Divisive Terrorists – Casteist or Religious, Remorseless Gang Rapists cum Murderers, the list of the Unrepentant is endless…., unmindful of the burgeoning lawlessness…..the rain of protests day and night not washing away this infestation from our society. Every day, it is always fresh and joyous for such marauders, an opportunity once more, to perpetuate crimes from within the prison walls, or without. Does it matter ? Their numbers growing fast, for it is not more rewarding to break the law than fight it ? Make it big enough and will not some professional activists form a clique to protect ‘their’ rights.
    3) What joy is to be alive, for the kith and kin of the victims of these perpetuators ? Knowing that, while the perpetuators and their supporters shall crow in private, lives were given up in vain? That rain, by its stinging wash, has laid naked, the depravity of some of our brethren, presumably law abiding citizens, sitting in judgment over a judgement on four terminators (out of 109 accused) of 22 humans and 2000 elephants and innumerable sandal wood; Bemoaning on the mercy denied and pardon refused. Not questioning the unrepentant, whose heydays were spent, intoxicated with power derived from the end of the barrel, and whose bloodlust was never satisfied by rhythmic killing; sanguine that tomorrow morning, or any time thence, they could kill, with impunity, your kith, my kin, and all we hold dear, irrespective of whether we did or did not comply with their views. For we are nothing but slaves, to slave and offer a part of our earning, taxed because we abide by the law.
    4) For, death does not begets death, but it is said, the reason for life is, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’, ‘those who shall live by the sword, shall die by it’. Justice stands on the two feet of Rationality and Humanity. If one is maimed, the other is overworked at the cost of other, and the balance is upset. Justice is about balance. Besides, if religion is to be invoked to support arguments, the right to ‘Forgive or Punish’ has always rested with the wronged and Forgiveness is induced in the wronged with genuine repentance by wrong doer. Today, I watched the daughters of two of the accused on Sun TV, both claimed ‘my father is innocent’ and that ‘their fathers had been wronged’. In that case, the Judges, and all such Judges who have given wrong Judgements should be hanged or punished. Besides, how to call forth to the relatives of the 2000 elephants killed by these Eco Terrorists ?

  2. Vinay Kamath permalink
    February 20, 2013 1:44 PM

    Dear Aswaruda,

    Deforestation for commercial purposes has killed of thousands more elephants than anything else. How do you propose to punish society that has benefited from this commercialization of elephant territory ??

    Furthermore there are thousands of elephants that have been captured from the wild and are put to work in circuses and temples. How do you propose to punish those groups indulging in the same ??

    In the specific context of the poacher Veerapan and his activities, the global ivory trade is fueled by demand in countries such as phillipines china and Japan. There cannot be a supply unless there is a demand. How do you propose to punish those societies whose cultural appetite for ivory at any cost is endless ??

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/ivory/christy-text

    And while your sympathy for the policeman is commendable, the responsibility of the safety of the policeman lies with the government because sending untrained, under equipped and incompetent forces to battle a known enemy in his own terrain is sending them to near certain death. Why did the senior officers think that their lives were expendable ?? How do you propose to punish the senior officers for this lackadaisical attitude towards the safety of their own men ?

    Let me tell you that during operation parakram over 1500 troops lost their lives during the mobilisation, many during the laying of mines which lacked proper fuses and the men lacked proper protective equipment. Will those responsible for the faulty equipment hang for their crimes ??

    It’s easy enough hanging those who are in your power, which is what the government is doing. But what about the thousands of greater crimes that are routinely committed and go unpunished ?? You want to see these four, who have been languishing in jail for nearly 28 years now, hang because your sense of justice, nay revenge, demands it while you seem to lose sight of those thousands of greater crimes which go unpunished because the perpetrators have enough resources to keep the hands of the law at bay.

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-11-21/india/35257123_1_death-penalty-death-sentence-constitution-bench

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-10-07/india/28266452_1_priyadarshini-mattoo-case-death-penalty-santosh-kumar-singh

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-18/india/37159591_1_death-penalty-death-sentences-people-on-death-row

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/One-convict-awarded-death-penalty-every-three-days-Report/articleshow/18507465.cms

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-15/india/37118208_1_death-penalty-achr-murder-cases

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