Benazir Bhutto, martyr

There is nothing like stopping at a gas station somewhere in the Catskills, glancing up at Fox News on TV and finding out that they killed Benazir Bhutto. Of all the Bhutto related articles, this one captured my attention.

South Asians like their martyrs. My great-grandfather allegedly brought home a vial of some of the ashes of a teenage revolutionary hanged by the British. Khudiram had thrown a bomb at a British magistrate and gone to the gallows with a smile. Ironically, my great-grandfather worked for the British, in their police service. But he was so awed by young Khudiram’s sacrifice, he used his official connections to get that vial, which he kept in his bedroom.

Benazir was no 15-year-old tilting at windmills in some foolhardy act of defiance. She was South Asian royalty. “Benazir is killed. I’m stunned,” a friend texted me from a cafe in Calcutta. “I really am.” As my friend says, in our feudal societies, much as we might pretend otherwise, we have a royalist streak. And when a royal goes down in a hail of bullets, it sends a collective shiver down our spines.

Benazir Bhutto, martyr |

He’s right, having grown up through two major assassinations on Indian “royal family” scions (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi), the post-martyr deification that occurs needs to be lived through to be understood.

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