On the eve of the centenary of the first World War, Mani Shankar Aiyar draws an elaborate analogy between the events that triggered off the world’s bloodiest war and modern-day South Asia
Today, 28 June, exactly one hundred years ago, the Serbian terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, unwittingly started the First and Second World Wars that left more than a hundred million people dead before the madness gave over three terrible decades later. Along with five other young men, all about the same age as Ajmal Kasab and his companions, Princip and his companions lined up under successive lamp-posts along the quay that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was to drive down along with his wife, Countess Sophia Chotek, to the Sarajevo Town Hall for a formal welcome reception.
The five terrorists were infuriated because the Archduke and his consort had chosen the precise anniversary of the worst day in Serbia’s collective memory, the defeat of the Serbian Tsar, Dusan, by the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, more than five centuries earlier, but which rankled as the day when the dream of Greater Serbia was ended for half a millennium. In the eyes of all Serbian nationalists and terrorists, with the Ottoman hold on the Balkans collapsing, the time had now come to avenge that defeat. Just as six centuries of Muslim rule in Delhi, from 1192 AD when Mohammad Ghori established the Sultanate to 1858 when the Last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed had reverberated in the minds of the Kasab gang of terrorists as the order to be re-established, so did the Serbian terrorists propose to reverse the 1878 occupation of Bosnia by Austria and its annexation to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908 to pave the way to the re-establishment of Tsar Dusan’s Greater Serbian Empire that had perished on the Fields of Kosovo on 28 June 1389.