Shades of revenge
There are many examples in history of individuals and groups who assassinate their enemies and opponents on the basis of religious hatred or to fulfil political ambitions and exact revenge for personal reasons. This serves to legitimise their crimes.
Some of these assassinations have taken place under the most unbelievable circumstances. When the Qin Dynasty came to power in China (221-206 BC), its first emperor Qin Shi Huang adopted brutal policies to eliminate crime from his territory. His legal advisers formulated strict laws in which even minor crimes were punishable by death. Consequently, the list of his enemies increased.
However, it was difficult to murder him because he took strict measures for his own protection. One of his generals, known as Fan, unsuccessfully rebel against him, even though he knew that his life would be at stake.
One day, one of his assistants approached him with a plan to assassinate the emperor. The assistant told the general that, if he was willing, he would chop his head off and show it to the emperor in order to earn his favour. The general agreed. His head was cut off. The assistant took the general’s severed head to the emperor. The emperor asked him to come closer. The assistant presented the head to the emperor. While the emperor was distracted by the sight of the general’s head, the assistant attacked the emperor with his dagger. The attack didn’t prove to be fatal and the assistant was subsequently killed by the emperor in retaliation. The sacrifice of the general went in vain even though the attack had been carefully planned.
The second incident is that of Nizam-al-Mulk Tusi, the prime minister of the Seljuq Dynasty. He had a conflict with Hassan Bin Sabbah, the religious leader of the Ismaili sect. Hassan Bin Sabbah’s followers, who were known as Fidayeen, decided to murder him.
During a procession, a person showed Nizam al-Mulk a paper from distance. Nizam al-Mulk thought that he was approaching him with a request and allowed the person to come near his palki. When Nizam al-Mulk began reading the paper, the person attacked and killed him. Nizam al-Mulk’s murder didn’t try to flee from the scene of the crime. He stood there until he was killed immediately by the prime minister’s guards.
The third incident is that of Hussain Ali Khan, the leader of Sadaat-e-Barah. He and his brother, Syed Abdullah, became very powerful during the reign of Farrukhsiyar. They were known as the ‘kingmakers’ because they dethroned and crowned many Mughal princes as emperor. They accumulated a large amount of wealth and possessed strong armies to protect their interests.
As they became powerful, their enemies increased. Hussain Ali Khan became the first victim. A person approached him with an application while he was travelling in a palki. When he was invited to come near the palki, the person drew the sword and killed him. As soon as the news of his murder spread in the army camp, soldiers started to loot and plunder Hussain Ali Khan’s property, leaving his body in the palki. His wealth and power waned soon after.
Another incident can be cited to show the differences in human nature. During the First World War, when the Turks defeated the Greeks, a Turk army officer rode through a battlefield and observed that a wounded soldier was in pain. He immediately dismounted from his horse and offered him some water. The army officer then mounted his horse and proceeded toward his destination. In the meantime, the wounded soldier regained energy, picked up his rifle, and shot the army officer who had offered him water.
There are countless incidents in history where opponents and enemies have been killed as an act of revenge. It appears that those who take revenge are prepared to sacrifice their wealth and their own life. Perhaps revenge gives them satisfaction and pleasure. This custom is also prevalent in tribal societies, where revenge is a matter of honour and grace. It can only be eliminated when society provides assurance to protect fundamental laws.
The writer is a veteran historian and scholar.