Death – A Concept of ‘Martyrology’: References from Maoists People’s War in Nepal
In post-conflict Nepali society, death is discussed particularly in subjective terms, depending upon the context in which one died where Maoists war equated death with sacrifice. This equivalence was made explicit in the various practices, such as the conventional understanding that death on the battlefield does not pollute the relatives as death normally does (Lecomte-Tilouine 2006). The meaning of a human life was principally focused on death. However, the meaning of death is discussed in contrasting terms when it came to guerrilla fighters in the Maoists conflict.
Death was discussed by guerrilla fighters in the context of a political and social movement. The Maoists’ propaganda discourse discusses it as death soaked with the blood of the martyrs, from which the soil germinates, and power grows (Lecomte-Tilouine 2006). Consequently, while the security forces used the notion of death to protect the nation state, the Maoist revolutionary used it to defeat the existing power structures, the reactionary and feudal forces. Death in popular Maoist discourse was described as an act of bravery in which it is the brave whose blood is being shed on the ground. Similarly, literature on conflict-related deaths and their implications in Nepal is discussed by Sales (2003), Ogura (2004), Shah (2008), Lecomte- Tilouine (2006, 2009), Ghimire (2009), Dhital (2009) and such deaths are understood in terms of sacrifice when the dead person was a revolutionary.
Thus, in this paper, while drawing from ethnography carried out during 2009 – 2010 in Nepal, I explore various narratives that seek to frame death as a concept of ‘martyrology’ – liberation – from socio-cultural and political inequality. It seems, martyrdom and ‘mukti’ occupy a significant place in the Maoist revolutionary ideology, which defines both the desire of human nature to attain greater possibilities in life and the history of Nepali socio-cultural and religious arrangements where ‘mrytu’ is seen as a door to accomplish ‘mukti’ – self-actualisation. Hence, death – mrytu is exalted as ‘the image’ that revolutionaries adhere to, as a by-product of the process of revolution and to place oneself in a category of the self-actualised being.
In a broader frame of reference, this coexisted alongside the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy of death, which the Maoists framed as the ideology of ‘martyrology’. Therefore, for the life of revolution to continue, death and destruction were seen as creative strategies for revolutionaries and dying for a social cause was seen as a means to self-actualisation. And hence death during Maoists conflict was argued meaningful in terms of political martyrdom.