Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary

By Veena Das | Go to book overview

SEVEN
In the Region of Rumor

RUMOR OCCUPIES A REGION OF LANGUAGE with the potential to make us experience events, not simply by pointing to them as to something external, but rather by producing them in the very act of telling. In this chapter I try to show how the processes of translation and rotation that we identified work to actualize certain regions of the past and create a sense of continuity between events that might otherwise seem unconnected. Unlike objects around which we can draw boundaries, it is not easy to say when an event begins and when it ends, or for that matter how events in one space-time configuration mime events in another. We might treat the assassination of Indira Gandhi in October 1984 as either a unique event or one that occurred within a history of political assassinations. Alternately, it may be useful to think of it as unfolding within a series of events that included the Partition of India, the rise of the Sikh militant movement in the Punjab, the corresponding counterinsurgency practices of the state in the 1980s, the military action in the premises of the Golden Temple (better known in Punjabi as the Darbar Sahib), and finally the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. My emphasis here is not on cause and effect but on the chains of connection through which the processes of translation and rotation, mentioned in the last chapter, actualize certain regions of the past. It leads me to think of the social in terms of unfinished stories.1

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