India hasn’t rushed to give its reaction to the death of Muammar Gaddafi, who met a bloody end on Thursday after lording over Libya since he seized power in a 1969 coup. It may do so later this week as the details become clearer.
The Arab world’s longest ruling dictator is said to have been captured in his home town of Sirte and then shot. Reports suggest that by the time he was taken to a hospital in an ambulance he had succumbed to his gunshot injuries.
Gaddafi wielded powers that would have embarrassed emperors and kings in medieval times. He had his political theories compiled in a volume that came to be known as the Green Book, which students in Libya had no option but to read in depth. Gaddafi brooked no opposition and no criticism of his policies.
During the course of his regime, there was no free press, political parties were banned, and those who dared to challenge his policies were often thrown into jail and tortured. The present uprising against him began in February this year, coinciding with the Jasmine revolution that had swept the Arab world. But for eight months Gaddafi used brutal force to quell public unrest, using the military to ruthlessly keep rebel forces at bay.
However, after the UN Security Council passed a resolution on March 17 setting up a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace (a resolution that India abstained on) NATO started to pile the pressure on his regime. Still, Gaddafi demonstrated far more resilience and defiance than the world expected, even against the combined might of the Americans and the Europeans. NATO strongly denied that it was acting as the ‘opposition’s air force.’ Regardless, it took months of air strikes before rebel forces could enter Tripoli.
The post-Gaddafi Libya will take a long time to limp back to a semblance of normalcy. A National Transition Council (NTC) is already in place. A formal statement will now be awaited from the NTC declaring Libya ‘fully liberated.’ The transitional authority is then expected to resign to allow the formation of a new government. The biggest challenge for the new administration will be to unify a Libya beset by numerous and deep rooted rivalries.