Salman Rushdie's Chekov and Zulu

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Most of the stories in Salman Rushdie’s book East, West regard the subject of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. Indira Gandhi was the first and to date the only female Prime Minister of the Republic of India has had. She served for three consecutive terms from 1966-1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. When Indira Gandhi returned for a fourth term in 1980, she became involved in a conflict with separatists, specifically the Sikh religious group, in Punjab. Two of Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards, both Sikhs, assassinated her with machine guns in the garden of her residence on October 31, 1984. The assassination led to rampages, riots and chaos in New Delhi, the capital city of India. Over the next few days, mobs ran through the streets of New Delhi and other parts of India, killing several thousand Sikhs. The 25-page story “Chekov and Zulu”, based in London, starts off a few days after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; it revolves around two main characters—Chekov, a Hindu and Zulu, a Sikh—and the effect of Indra Gandhi’s assassination on their friendship. In 1994, the year when East, West was published, violence against the Sikhs diminished, although other conflicts arose. Ethnic and regional tensions formed between India and Pakistan, leading to the Kashmir conflict, a dispute over the most northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Current events in the year 1994, such as the previous example, contributed to the audience’s viewpoints about “Chekov and Zulu”. Interestingly enough, Chekov and Zulu received their names from two fictional characters from Star Trek, which in 1994, was widely popular.
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