The assassination of Japan’s ex-PM Shinzo Abe has underlined the constant threat faced by persons in high positions because of reasons connected with their public lives. One often comes across comparisons made by ‘more enlightened’ people in articles and social media posts about how politicians move about in ‘developed’ countries ‘without security’, as compared to the ‘paranoid’ politicians in India. While it is true that having ostentatious security has become a status symbol for politicians here, this does not reduce the necessity for effective protection. It is not necessary that all those gun-toting ‘black cats’ actually provide the required cover.
Be it Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, their deaths were the result of security miscalculations. This is naturally the result of imprecise threat perceptions – Indira Gandhi ignored her security officials’ advice on who not to keep in her immediate security, possibly to make a political point. This lapse in judgement did not just lead to her death but also that of many thousand others. So, it cannot be said that the security provided to VVIPs is just to protect their lives. In fact, major wars have been triggered through history by assassinations.
Decisions made by leaders have long term repercussions. Rajiv Gandhi’s reasons for the IPKF intervention in Sri Lanka were unclear but it led to a long time grouse against him among supporters of the LTTE. It is a reminder that, often, leaders put their own lives at stake, as much as any soldier on the frontline, when formulating and implementing policy. Even in the case of Shinzo Abe, China has hinted at there being political reasons even before expressing sorrow at the incident.
Then there are the psychologically ill who become obsessed with some famous person and grab their few moments of fame by inflicting harm. The increase in the number of celebrities receiving threats is an indication of how modern life and the spread of social media have impacted the misfits. In some cases, such as that of John F Kennedy, conjecture continues to this day over why he was killed, even by whom.
There is one important factor, however, that must be noted. The fewer the weapons easily available to people, the less chances there are of causing harm. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Better training of security personnel with the aid of modern technology is probably the way to go for effective prevention.