Assassinations don't just kill people, but also ideas

John F. Kennedy was killed 54 years ago today. On this anniversary The Softcopy looks at a how political assassinations have changed the world.

Bangalore, November 22, 2017: Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, Rafic Hariri and Anwar Sadat have one thing in common. Something that changed their countries and the world. They were all politically assassinated. Since the 1970’s, the number of political assassinations in the world has witnessed a dramatic surge. This trend can be attributed to new waves of universal ideologies.

Arie Perliger, Professor and Director of Security Studies of UMass Lowell University, USA says, “The numbers of political assassinations have dramatically increased. This reflects the emergence of new waves of terrorist groups, radical and universal ideologies operating on a global scale, and a growing willingness by oppressive regimes to use assassinations as a tool in their treatment of political opposition.”

November 22, 2017 marks 54 years since John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, USA. His death shocked the United States. Right from Cuban President Fidel Castro to Russian Secret Services Agency, KGB, all are a part of a multitude of conspiracy theories about ‘Who killed JFK?’ On October 27, 2017, President Donald Trump declared on Twitter that he will release blocked and classified files on JFK’s death because the public deserves to know it. JFK did not change the world. But the mystery behind his death continues to put the world and the country on a speculative edge till today.

Political assassinations are imminent in countries which have higher probabilities of a major crackdown on opposition figures who threaten the strength and power of a despotic leader. Anwar Sadat, the former President of Egypt was assassinated by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad despite his popularity in the country. His assassination was preceded by his suspicion that Russia was using its regional allies to instigate an uprising against him in the country. This eventually encouraged Sadat to arrest major opposition figures in the country to safeguard his powers as the President.
Political assassinations are also very likely in countries with homogeneous social and ethnic systems.

These are countries where the presence of politically and socially deprived groups are more thus questioning the legitimacy of the political leadership in the country. When legitimacy is under question, the probability of direct attacks on the leadership is greater. When Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the military to enter the Golden Temple in Amritsar to flush out the Khalistani militants holed up in the temple premises, it offended the religious sentiments of the Sikh community. This led to the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi by her own Sikh body guards, 33 years ago. The aftermath of her assassination was the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that the country still struggles to recover from. Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination changed India considerably.

These are just three out of a hundred instances of assassinations in the world. Boris Nemtsov’s assassination in February 2015 was the world’s last high-profile assassination right next to one of the world’s most important and political centres, the Kremlin in Moscow. His death was widely condemned by members of the international community who also addressed their concerns about the status of opposition under President Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Political assassinations are a very disturbing but undeniable feature of global polity. An assassination is an attempt to sweep ideas under the carpet. When a leader dies, the ideas he advocated also vanish. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, Vietnam would have never suffered. Had Sadat not been killed, the Arabs wouldn’t have hated the Israelites as much as they do, till today. Had Hariri been alive, Syrian influence in Lebanon would have been kept at bay. George Bernard Shaw, thus, said, “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.” What could have been, will never be known.


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