Exactly 53 years ago on November 22 one of US’s most loved Presidents in history, John F Kennedy was assassinated, shaking up the country on a large scale and bringing to everyone’s lips one question – ‘who killed JFK?’ Similarly in India, nearly every person can recall the assassination of the ‘Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi.
Here is a look at 9 important assassinations through history:
Proving that assassination is far from a recent concept, Roman political and military figure Julius Ceaser was assassinated on March 15 in the year 44 BC. Legendary playwright William Shakespeare based a play of the same name on Julius Ceaser which depicted his assassination and trademarked Ceaser’s alleged last line ‘Et Tu Brutus?’
Julius Ceaser started a civil was in the Roman Republic in the 1st century B.C. and after success he proclaimed himself dictator. Senators and politicians, including his friend Marcus Junius Brutus planned an assassination on Ceaser in the fear that as dictator Ceaser would indulge in tyranny. Ceaser was stabbed 23 times before he died from blood loss, and his death marked the end of the Roman Republic and the emergence of the Roman Empire.
Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand may be a name you have not heard of, but you have probably heard of World War I. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand is considered to be one of the immediate triggers for World War I. On June 28, 1914 he was visiting a territory of Austria in an open-top car along with his wife Sophie when they were shot by a Serbian group “The Black Hand” who were vying for freedom for all the states annexed by Austria-Hungary. Two months after the assassination, Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia which in a domino effect divided Europe into two opposing sides culminating in what we call World War I.
The assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi “Father of the Nation” is an unimaginable loss for India. Known as Mahatma Gandhi, he led the non-violence resistance movement and one of the most prominent leaders of the freedom struggle during British rule in India. Famous around the world, Mahatma Gandhi proved that a fight can be peaceful as well. On 30 January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was shot and killed while he was walking to a platform to address a meeting, by Nathuram Godse. The assassin, Godse, was a Hindu nationalist with links to extremist groups, who reportedly held Gandhi responsible for weakening India with the partition of Pakistan.
John F. Kennedy
One of the most beloved presidents of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the country, serving from 1961 to his death in 1963. A former military man, Kennedy was the youngest elected president and handled several delicate issues of the time increasing his popularity. During his presidency, the country went through the Cold-War with Soviet Union, Cuba Missile Crisis and Kennedy stood up for civil rights.
On November 22, 1963 Kennedy was travelling in a car along with his wife in Dallas, Texas when he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald who was arrested later that day. However, a nightclub owner Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald only two days after the Kennedy assassination and as a result the verbatim motive was not discovered, leading to multiple theories and the catch phrase “Who Killed JFK?”
Kennedy’s assassination was mourned for 4 days by media who telecast only Kennedy related programmes for the full 4 days.
The first US President who was assassinated was Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of United States who served from 1861 till his assassination in 1865. Honest Abe as he was known ended the then rampant slavery within US and guided the country through the American Civil War. Considered to be one of the greatest US presidents by experts, he brought about a major change in lifestyle especially among the Southern US states that relied significantly on slavery.
On Good Friday April 14, 1865 five days after the commander of the slavery supporting Confederate Army surrendered and the Civil War was coming to a close, Abraham Lincoln was killed by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth during a play the President was attending. According to reports, Lincoln’s assassination was well planned and carried out in hopes of reviving the Confederate cause.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, Prime Minister of India for a total of 4 terms (1966–77 and 1980–84) was the first female PM in India and the second female head of government in the world. She was also the only Indian Prime Minister to declare state of emergency. Under her guidance, the importance of India internationally grew dramatically and India also helped in the creation of Bangladesh.
On October 31, 1984 Indira Gandhi was killed by two of her bodyguards at the Prime Minister’s Residence at No. 1, Safdarjung Road in New Delhi. The assassins were Satwant Singh and Beant Singh who killed Gandhi in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star, when the Indian Army launched an assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984 resulting in heavy damage.
The youngest Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi became PM (1984 to 1989) after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi. Forced by his mother into politics, he followed her lead and also focused on improving relations with Soviet Union. During his term, Gandhi reduced taxes and supported development of science and technology.
On May 21, 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai. The attack was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu and blamed on Sri Lankan separatist organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Gandhi was in Sriperumbudur for campaigning and well wishers were approaching him when ‘Dhanu’ bent to touch Gandhi’s feet and detonated an RDX-laden belt. According to reports, the assassination was carried out to prevent Gandhi from coming to power again.
One of Pakistan’s most famous socialist-democratic women politicians, Chair-Person of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Benazir Bhutto was the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first elected woman to lead a Muslim state. Bhutto, elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms 1988–1990 and 1993–1996 became a symbol for advancement and democracy.
On December 27, 2007 Bhutto was leaving a campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi in her car when she stood up through the sunroof to wave at crowds. At that moment, a gunman fired shots at her and explosive were detonated near the vehicle, killing approximately 20 people and leaving Bhutto critically wounded. She was rushed to local hospital but succumbed to her injuries.
King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975 Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is said to have ‘rescued’ the country’s finances and brought modernization and reform to the country. While maintaining policies that were pan-Islamism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian nationalism, King Faisal stabilized the kingdom’s bureaucracy and gained significant popularity.
On March 25, 1975, King Faisal was shot and killed by his half-brother’s son, Prince Faisal bin Musaid who had recently returned from US. The assassination occurred in a majlis waiting room when King Faisal leaned to embrace his nephew Prince Faisal and the Prince took out a gun and shot the King point-blank.
An assassination is defined as a sudden attack with a clear-cut (often Political) motive.