Thursday, December 27, 2007


Benazir is dead. I have to keep saying it to believe it. I am reminded of two days in my life. I was 6 years old when Indira Gandhi was shot. I remember being very sad, despite my awareness that people in my family didn't really like her. I felt like the principal of a school, a very big school, had been killed. My parents had to go out somewhere that day and I thought this highly inappropriate. Not that their presence could have compensated for the loss of this gigantic maternal authority figure but at least they should have stuck around to try, I thought. I was 13 when Rajiv Gandhi was killed - like Benazir - on an election campaign trail by a suicide bomber. I had just been to Delhi for the first time ever and we were returning home via Hyderabad. There was a strange air of inevitability about this one, of the sort that surrounds every Kennedy family tragedy. They killed him, just like his mother. 'They' were yet another disgruntled group who didn't like something that had been done to them. Now older, jaded, more politically aware, I am no less shocked by today's events. One does not have to be an admirer of Benazir to think of what has happened today as an unqualifiedly horrific event. Impossible to make sense of, but of course eminently rational in the minds of those who planned and executed it. How can one make sense of this except to try to grasp at the various strands that constitute this moment? The loss of life. The inevitable, searing, private grief felt by loved ones. The public grief that is already on display. The concerns for Pakistan's stability, the prospects for its democracy, the goddamn 'war on terror'. The loss of life. Is this also politics, but merely a politics by particularly terrifying means? Or is this an act to end politics by people who do not want politics? And if it is, how and when do people, societies, begin to appreciate the inescabaility of politics? Is this some sort of stage through which we South Asians must pass, full of charismatic families and feudal-style murder and intrigue, before we can emerge into the cold Weberian dawn of bureaucratic rationality when elites will rotate as surely and smoothly as the seasons?

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