Grad killed in Afghanistan

first_imgA graduate student at St Anthony’s College, has been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan while working for the US government. Michael Bhatia, who was serving as a social scientist in consultation with the US Defence Department, was killed in an attack last Wednesday on a convoy of four military vehicles. Bhatia was travelling in a Humvee at the front of the convoy when an Improvised Explosive Device went off, immediately killing Bhatia and two American soldiers. Two other soldiers sustained critical injuries. 31-year-old Bhatia had been educated at Brown University in America and was a Marshall Scholar working on his doctoral dissertation at St. Anthony’s College. His thesis was entitled: ‘The Mujahideen: A Study of Combatant Motives in Afghanistan, 1978-2004.’ Professor Margaret MacMillan, Warden of the college, expressed “great sadness…on behalf of the whole college community” at the news of Bhatia’s untimely death. “Michael was very dedicated to the people of Afghanistan and had a bright future ahead of him,” she added. An expert on International Relations, the Brown graduate had dedicated his time and knowledge to research and humanitarian aid in war-torn areas such as East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Seth Resler, a friend of Bhatia, remarked, “Mike was a true academic, but in many ways he was more like Indiana Jones.” In the three-part photo essay ‘Shooting Afghanistan – Beyond the Conflict’, published in The Globalist, Bhatia wrote, “Though I have spent the majority of my time researching the ongoing conflict, war and those involved in it, conflict is not my primary memory and way of knowing [Afghanistan].” A Facebook group, called ‘Honouring and Celebrating the Life of Michael Vinay Bhatia’, was set up in memory of Bhatia’s life and already has 247 members. A description of the group reads, “A 2001 Marshall Scholar and faculty member at Brown, he could have relaxed with a well-paying, comfortable job. Instead, he spent his life in far-away places, helping poor, marginalized victims of violent conflict and protecting American troops.” The creator of a memorial sight for Bhatia at Respectance.com, Seth Resler, says, “To me, he wasn’t an author or a professor or a scholar. To me, he was a friend.” In addition to his humanitarian work and academic success, Bhatia is fondly remembered by friends on both sides of the Atlantic. One fellow St. Anthony’s student, Diego Fleitas, fondly recalled that on arrival in Oxford “with a big smile [Michael] helped me to start up in the college life…he turned into a great comrade of academic discussions, rowing and parties, always with generosity and an open mind.” Katie Schaefer, a friend from Bhatia’s high school days in Massachusetts, also remembered his personal warmth. “I always knew he would do amazing things in his life – he was such a history buff, so smart, kind, funny and always smiling…How tragic is this loss,” she said. Bhatia had already co-authored two books, and was a visiting fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies until July 2007. He spent much of his time away in south-east Afghanistan, with the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, as part of the Human Terrain System. The memorial for Bhatia by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command claims that, “During the course of his seven-month tour, Michael’s work saved the lives of both US soldiers and Afghan civilians.” St Anthony’s will be holding “A celebration of Michael’s life” in the Buttery at 6pm on 16 May, with all welcome to attend.last_img

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