Necropolitical Citizens

When people do not fear death, politics tries to frighten them. Death is beyond the power of powers that be. They can only instrumentalize life. The fear of death is another aspect of the subjugation of life to death. We seem to be nursing this fear of death. The demographic anxiety of the upper caste is riding the politics of fear that is fired by the belief of Hindu Khatre Mein Hai. The power over death and life does not always manifests like a sword, gas chambers or riots. It might also show up in the form of NRC. Even just a dangling of it as being imminent is enough. This Necropolitics sets apart a population and put it to what Ian Withy Berry calls slow death. Such a condition may force one to live death while one is alive. This is akin to what Georgio Agamben calls bare life.

The power of death can be made used by the subjugated too. We may see this as happening among the Kukis in Manipur right amongst us as we do this reflection on death and its tremendous power. Thanatocracy is available to the victims too. G. W Hegel says that the work of death is also the life of Spirit. Martin Heidegger too echoes similar views when he teaches that being-towards-death is a necessary condition of being-towards-freedom. Michel Foucault points out that suicide can be an act of protest. Death can be used to sustain life. Therefore, the power of death is ambiguous. One has to agree that it is violent and subjugates life. But death can also liberate life.

Necro power that Achille Mbembe speaks about completes Foucault’s analysis of Biopower. It is required to understand how in several ways life is subjugated by the power of death. It offers us an insight to understand, how contemporary politics is instrumentalizing life and subjects it to the power of death. We have to discern the state of Necropolitics today. Politics in our country and elsewhere can indicate to us how we are pushing ourselves to live death while we are still alive. This is why what is being proposed as a Hindu Rashtra cannot be the noble Ram Raj as it is said to strip the Indian-ness of the minorities and relegate them to the status of Necropolitical citizenship. This means time immemorial casteism appears to reinvent itself and is displaced on those who are given the status of Necropolitical citizens.

Necropolitical citizens are border citizens. They are not central to the life of the nation. They are not primary but second-class citizens. They are offered bare life. We may get insight into the nature and character of Necropolitical citizenship if we analyse what Walter Benjamin called mere life or what Judith Butler calls precarious life. Such a vision of life makes life disposable. Necropolitics, thus, is trading with life and fragmenting it and renders minorities as not worthy of being citizens. This derecognition of the citizen’s worthiness of the minorities has let us enter what Mbembe calls a death world where life is deadening. Deadening life is impoverished, suppressed and deaden life.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao