Spot the fake

After admitting that around one third of its Coptic art collection was fake, the Brooklyn Museum of Art hasannounced plans to display them in an unusual exhibition next year, in which Coptic works still considered to be genuine will be deliberately placed alongside those which have now been deemed counterfeit. The Independent reports that the exhibition will serve to alert other museums of possible fakes in their collections, but it also questions the motives behind our desire for authenticity in art. Others have argued that the differences between the fakes and the genuine Coptic artefacts reveals to us what later generations have hoped to see in a period of history, or how they've wished to characterise a civilsation. The Art Newspaper reports "the fakes...place a greater emphasis on Christian iconography than the authentic works. This reflects market demand for such imagery in Europe and North America".

The wisdom of crowds

On a similar theme, a new exhibition, 'Click! A Crowd-Curated Museum', attempts to answer that perennial question: is it art? Using the idea of aggregate intelligence - that a group will, collectively, reach a more "accurate" estimation than they would as individuals - the Brooklyn Museum asked 3,344 members of the public to select photographs on the theme of Brooklyn, by mixture of professional and so-called amateur photographers. The top 20 per cent were then displayed at the museum. Reactions have been mixed: Ken Johnson at the New York Times writes "the exhibition itself is not very interesting to look at, but the issues it raises are fascinating."

Hungarian horror stories

Two new films will explore the life of notorious Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, but it is unclear whether either will separate myth from fact. The seventeenth century aristocrat has long been the subject of historical rumours and an inspiration for Hammer's 1971 film Countess Dracula, after reports that Bathory used to torture and murder her female servants before bathing in their blood. More recently, however, historians have tried to reclaim her reputation, arguing that the gruesome stories were invented after her death. After surveying the existing books on Bathory, Tony Thorne at the Telegraph concludes "it's just not possible to say for certain whether she really was a depraved monster...or an innocent victim of male jealousy and greed."

In brief

Irina Baronova, the celebrated ballet dancer of the 1930s and 1940s, died earlier this week. The Herald Tribune praised her for her "indelible classical style and virtuosic technique." Meanwhile, Screen Actor's Guild members seem due to go ahead with their plans to strike despite last-minute negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The Times reported that the average SAG member earns only around £26,000 a year before agents take a cut of their earnings, in contrast to the stereotype that the actor's strike is being pushed for by Hollywood millionaires. In the UK, Tartan films, theinfluential distribitor of independent films such as Battle Royale and 9 Songs, was moved into administration last Thursday, and it seems unlikely it will be able to resume trading. Screen Daily reports that "distributors are clamouring to buy the back-catalogue," which also includes 2002's Irreversible and the acclaimed Korean film Oldboy.

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How the death of a militant in Kashmir went viral

Burhan Wani was a 22-year-old Hizb al-Mujahedin commander. In life, he resuscitated the flagging insurgency. Now, his death has put it on a firm road to revival.

His photographs began to circulate on Facebook last year. In one, he leans against a cedar tree in a forest in southern Kashmir, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. In another, he stands before lush green mountains under a cloudless sky.

But the picture that created the myth of Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old Hizb al-Mujahedin commander, was a group shot with ten armed associates standing around him. They faced the camera calmly, a hint of a smile tugging at their lips. The photograph went viral, not only in Kashmir but also across India and Pakistan.

On 8 July, when Wani and two other rebels were shot dead in a joint operation by the police and paramilitary forces, thousands of people across southern Kashmir took to the streets to mourn and protest. The mosques reverberated with slogans of freedom – a throwback to the late 1980s, when armed struggle against Indian rule broke out in the region. The protesters lobbed stones. The police fired back.

The following morning, news of protesters’ deaths started to emerge. The injured, numbering in their hundreds, began to reach the hospitals in Srinagar. Many had been hit in the eyes with pellets from pump-action guns, non-lethal weapons used for crowd control in Kashmir since 2010.

The eye doctors at Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital said that more than a hundred people had been partially or completely blinded. Among them was a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Insha Malik, who lost the vision in both eyes. A picture of her pellet-riddled face has become the symbol of the ongoing mayhem.

The fury soon spread across Kashmir. Mosque loudspeakers boomed with slogans and songs calling for resistance against India. Apart from the government-owned broadband service, internet and mobile-phone networks were shut down. Yet this made little difference. Roughly sixty people – many of them teenagers – have lost their lives. According to figures presented to parliament by the Indian home minister on 11 August, 4,515 security personnel and 3,356 civilians have been injured in the protests.

What made Burhan Wani important enough to warrant such widespread mourning and anger? The answer is tacitly understood in Kashmir but little articulated. In his six years as a rebel, Wani revived anti-India militancy from near-extinction. His strategy was primarily tech-driven – according to police in Kashmir, he hadn’t fired a single shot.

The image of a handsome young man in battle fatigues against a pastoral backdrop, calling for a new attempt at jihad against India, held a powerful appeal for a young generation in Kashmir. These are the people who are enduring the fallout of more than two decades of separatist insurgency, and they are bitter about New Delhi’s oppressive hold over their homeland. With his fresh, viral image, Wani separated his movement from Kashmir’s history and bestowed a new moral glamour on their actions.

He was soon joined by scores of recruits. In 2015, for the first time in a decade, local militants outnumbered outsiders. This year, out of 145 active rebels, 91 are from Indian-administered Kashmir and most of the rest are from Pakistan or Pakistan-administered Kashmir (though this is still a far cry from the early 1990s, when thousands of militants, both local and from elsewhere, roamed the valley). The recruits – many of them home-grown, Wani-inspired youths – are replenishing the ranks as others are killed.

As the ongoing turmoil shows, Wani long ago transcended his modest militant credentials. He has become an emblem of Kashmir’s deepening alienation from India and a role model for young people for whom guns seem to be the only route to a better future.

In life, he resuscitated the flagging insurgency. Now, his death has put it on a firm road to revival. Unlike during the mass uprisings of 2008 and 2010, Kashmir today is drifting back to active militancy, with the myths about Wani enlivening the separatist narrative.

“You will kill one Burhan; thousands of Burhans will be born”, one slogan goes. “Burhan, your blood will bring revolution”, promises another. The millennial generation has little memory of the horrors of the 1990s, of the innumerable killings and disappearances. An estimated 60,000 people have been killed in the armed rebellion against New Delhi, in part aided by Pakistan (which claims Kashmir as part of its territory, in a dispute that stretches back to the 1947 partition of India). Human rights groups put the number of enforced disappearances in the present conflict at 8,000.

Contributing to this mood are India’s rightward turn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the perception that New Delhi wants to forcibly change the demographics in Kashmir. This fear has been reinforced by recent government measures to set up colonies to be settled by Indian soldiers and Kashmiri Pandits – the latter from a small Hindu community that was forced to flee the region during the separatist violence.

At Wani’s funeral on 9 July, all eyes were on a group of masked rebels in the front row. They fired their guns in salute to their fallen chief. When prayers ended, the mourners strained to catch a glimpse of Wani’s comrades. Those who were close enough kissed them on the forehead before they escaped.

More than a month later, the anger on the streets shows no sign of abating. Protests take place daily across Kashmir. Businesses are shut down for most of the day, opening only briefly late in the evening and early in the morning. Internet access is restricted, except through the state-owned broadband. With each week of disturbances, the numbers of deaths and injuries continue to mount.

Meanwhile, a new video has appeared on Facebook and YouTube. This time, it comes from Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Wani’s successor. Again, it shows a commander and his associates in battle fatigues, in a forest in southern Kashmir. Bhat waves to the camera as the others remain engrossed by their phones. It, too, has gone viral. 

This article first appeared in the 18 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Corbyn’s revenge