An assasination that led to anti-Sikh riots

By Rekha Bhattacharjee

On October 31, 1984, PM Indira Gandhi was shot and killed by two of her bodyguards, both Sikhs, in retribution for the attack at the Golden Temple. She was immediately succeeded by son Rajiv, who was left to quell deadly anti-Sikh riots, and her body was cremated three days later in a Hindu ritual.

The attack led to rioting on a grand scale across India as anti-Sikh mobs took their revenge. At least 1,000 people are thought to have died and the army eventually intervened to quell the violence.

My mind flies back to my childhood – meeting Indira Gandhi with Feroz Gandhi and Prime Minister Nehru at the Durbar Hall in Shillong Government House. Pandit Nehru was addressing the Youth Congress group gathered by Professor Kapil Chatterjee which included my elder brother and sister themselves young but I at the age of 10 joined them with Prof Chatterjee’s permission. Next morning we gave a guard of honour as PM Nehru in one convertible and the second convertible had Feroz & Indira Gandhi on their way back to Guwahati.

Next I met Mrs Gandhi as Minister for Broadcasting. At the University of Allahabad – the International Club had a reception – but what I recall most was meeting PM Gandhi in her office in January 1980 at her office in New Delhi for half an hour.

It was a unique meeting! I came back from Assam on my way to Sydney. I was very distraught with the Student Uprising – but more so our friend an IGP of Police was arrested and thrown into a maximum prison without any knowledge of his where abouts! His wife and family were distraught.

I met the former three times Chief Minister of Assam Shri Tarun Gogoi (then an MP). I blurted out – ‘Tarunda I want to meet the prime minister!’ Told him of my purpose! Lo and behold! Next morning was a Sunday – Tarunda took me to PM’s residence where people were all over the garden waiting for PM’s Darshan! Tarunda took me to PM’s office and RK Dhawan sent me into the office where Mrs Gandhi was seated. I sat down and we started conversing – I told Mrs Gandhi of my purpose in meeting her with a request for IGP Bhattacharjee. She listened to me and talked on various topics (I think she enjoyed meeting a young person around her son’s age) – for half an hour.

I can never forget – as I was getting up to go – Mrs Gandhi too got up and came close to – put her hand on my arm, and said “All this Student Uprising – is RSS influence”!

I came away and next day flew back to Sydney! But I came to know from present Chairman of Assam Tribune (my cousin brother – who I think was the person who said ‘only PM can help’ – told me the IGP was released from prison but he was not reinstated in his position again.)

I can still recall the feel of PM’s hand on my arm! Treasured memory! In 1984 November I was in India for the elections that elected PM Rajiv Gandhi with over whelming majority!

 

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