Assassinations

By Anantinee ’JHUMPA’ Mishra

“Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Assassination, a murder of a prominent person, such as a head of state or a head of Government, prompted by religious, military, revolutionary or political motives.

History is witness of some of the most horrific assassinations of people of great importance, in an unexpected manner, at an unexpected place and by an unexpected person. Be it the assassinations of ex-president of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy (after whom the renowned airport of New York City is named) or the Roman Dictator “for life” Julius Caesar (who was said to be the most powerful man on Earth of his time), they leave no stone unturned to astound the public.

Assassinations, or rather Vendetta for assassinations, can be broadly divided into many categories. They can be done in the Name of God or Nation (Indira Gandhi, ex-prime minister of India, assassinated on 31st October, 1984, for issuing the order of a mass massacre of militant Sikh separatists inside the Golden Temple, Amritsar) or for the cause of a Revolutionary Ferment (Alexander II, assassinated in 1881 by a generation of young Russians, who planned to overthrow the autocratic czarist Government and saw Alexander “The Liberator” as an oppressor) or as a Power Struggle (Julius Caesar, ex-dictator of Rome, assassinated in 44 BC, by his fellow senators in a large conspiracy, headed by Brutus and Cassius, while the former was rumored to be Caesar’s illegitimate son).

Approaching modern times, assassination, like any other aspects of life, has been increasingly democratized.  It has become the hallmark of ideologically motivated groups, inspired by fervent religious hatred, inflamed nationalism, or the revolutionary aspirations of socialism and anarchism. Their victims are more likely to be people the assassins have never met, who symbolize power and authority. Politically motivated assassins may be otherwise sane and well-balanced individuals who feel that cold blooded killing is justified by their “sacred and noble” cause.

We shall be exploring some of the assassinations, which made front page headlines and are the widely discussed forever all over the world.

Abraham Lincoln (12 February, 1809-14 April, 1865)

The fact that the former President’s life was at mortal risk at the time of the assassination was no secret, considering the upheaval in the country. After four years of the Civil War, federal troops under Lincoln were about to finally defeat the Confederacy and force it back into the Union.

Although Lincoln was very well aware of the danger to him and his life, he still stubbornly refused to abandon his public outings and social appearances. On Good Friday, April 14, he was scheduled to visit Ford’s Theatre, one of the most happening places of Entertainment in Washington. He and his wife were joined by Clara Harris, a senator’s daughter, and her fiancé Major Henry Rathbone, to watch a comedy, Our American Cousin.

After the presidential party was seated, about an hour after the play’s commencement, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor entered the theatre. Since the early days of the Civil War, Booth had been operating undercover as a Confederate Agent. He was in familiar territory. No one who identified him was surprised to see him there.

Booth entered the state box, after telling the President’s Coachman that he had an important message for him. Waiting for a crude comic to bring a loud laugh from the audience, Booth stepped into the box and fired a shot from his Derringer pistol into the back of President Lincoln’s head. The bullet entered the president’s left ear and lodged behind his right eye. He slumped forward; already a dying man.

An actor to the core, Booth couldn’t commit the heinous crime without a dramatic gesture. He dropped his pistol and addressed the stunned crowd, shouting the Latin Phrase “Sic Semper Tyrranis” (Translation: Thus always with tyrants).

Mahatma Gandhi (2 October, 1869-30 January, 1948)

Every evening before 5:00 pm, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi aka Mahatma Gandhi left his room in the Birla House on New Delhi’s Albuquerque Road, where he resided on his visits to the national capital. He went to a special pavilion to hold prayer meetings for pilgrims who came from far and wide to see the famous holy man and the father of the nation. On the 30th of January, the daily ritual was delayed by an important discussion with India’s deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

The subcontinent was divided into two: predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The partition was nothing less than a Catastrophe. Muslims massacred Hindus and vice-versa, and, at the same time Indian and Pakistani forces clashed in disputed Kashmir.

Appalled and horrified at this major bloodbath, Gandhi had staged a “Fast to Death” in Calcutta. Almost miraculously, the attacks had halted in the city. He applied the same technique in Delhi, and in January 1948, the respective leaders of both the communities agreed to make peace.

However, though this was a triumph for non-violence, it was not universally popular. Hindu extremists condemned Gandhi for his willingness to make alliance with Pakistan and denounced him for his unwillingness to seek retaliation against Muslim attacks. Gandhi was well aware of hatred against him in several quarters but chose not to dwell on them

On January 30th, as Mahatma walked towards to where the crowd waited him, a man, identified as Nathuram Godse, rushed towards him. Many thought that he was about to prostrate at Gandhi’s feet, as many a devout often did. However he took out his pistol and shot three bullets, the first hit Mahatma in the navel and then in the chest in rapid succession. The crowd wailed in agony as Mahatma’s white clothed drenched with blood, and he slowly sank into the ground, never stopping the chant of “Hai Rama! Hai Rama!” until his very last breath deserted him.

Such moments in history have robbed the world from some of the most able administrators, monarchs, liberators and fighters for the people’s rights. While the motive for such acts may be justified in some cases, the cold blooded killing or indulging in any other heinous crime, doesn’t right the wrong. Tit for tat is never the solution, at least not in the gambling of one life and the many lives attached to it. After all, how will you distinguish yourself from the person who did wrong to you, if you repeated his actions only?

Reference: R.G. Grant, ‘Assassinations’, Reader’s Digest.

About the Author:

Anantinee ‘JHUMPA’ Mishra is a prodigy author, poet and TED speaker. She is twelve years old studying in std.8th at Apeejay School, Saket, New Delhi.  She has published two books and many stories and articles in magazines and journals. At the age of ten, she published a 21,000 worded anthology of stories called ‘Treasure of Short Stories’. Last year her debut Novel ‘Manhattan to Munnar’ got released. Recently she has been conferred with a title ‘PRODIGY AUTHOR’ and an ‘HONORARY DIPLOMA’ by the Hon’ble Vice President of  India Sh. M Venkaiah Naidu.  

2 Comments

  1. Assassination is an extreme way of suppressing an idea, action or a view. Generally committed by a radicalised person, which may not represent view of any civilised society.

    An Article well written by the young author, Jhumpa.

  2. It is a pleasure to go through the articles presented in your periodical by this writer
    Anantinee, who is yet to reach her teen age.She covers divergent topics which shows her divergent readings.There are so many assassinations and she should reflect few more.God bless the child.

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