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Monday, November 1, 2021

Remembering the gruesome assassination of Iron lady of India

Do you know or remember this case - Kehar Singh & Ors vs State (Delhi Admn.) decided by Apex Court on  3 August, 1988 pertaining to a tragic event that shook the Nation, this day, 37 years ago !!  it was a legal battle even when it was seemingly an open-and-shut case, it soon became obvious that every rule in the book would be explored by both sides, and unprecedented arguments and procedures used where necessary. All of 73 witnesses deposed for the prosecution during the 110 hearings spread over 247 days. The defence could only muster three witnesses. Nor did witnesses have an easy time. Every point was contested and every bit of evidence subjected to the minutest scrutiny. 

To many of Cricket fans – it would be a news that Mohinder Amarnath, the gritty batsman allrounder, Vice-captain of famous World Cup 1983, did captain India in an ODI.  That was ODI no. 273 – 2nd  ODI against  Pakistan at Sialkot.  It was not exactly bonhomie. After the first Test in Lahore, which the home side had dominated, Gavaskar lashed out at the officiating, saying, "despite the best efforts of the Pakistan umpires to favour the home team, we have managed to draw the Test and that is a miracle. Before embarking upon the tour of Pakistan we expected close decisions, but what happened in the Lahore Test was pre-planned and predetermined."  At Sialkot at Jinnah Stadium, Indian Captain Mohinder Amarnath won the toss - Gavaskar sat the game out with an injury - and decided to bat.  India was 210/3 after 40 overs ~ a good score those days ..   Anshuman Gaekwad and Ghulam Parkar failed; Sandip Patil made 59;  Dilip Vengsarkar was all set to make his maiden century at 94 but came the unusual stoppage. 

I was too young .. .. yet Triplicanites could make me understand the electoral politics. Clearly there was a wave ~ in houses the elder generation was for Congress, the youth wre for the newly created Janata party  .. .. and in 1977 – newspapers screamed in bold letters [was that half page !!]

‘Indira defeated’

~ nothing else mattered.  The man who defeated her in 1977 Lok Sabha elections was Raj Narain, a freedom fighter and politician who had won a famous electoral malpractice case against the then PM Mrs Indira Gandhi that led to her disqualification and subsequent imposition of Emergency in India in 1975 !!

Pic credit : Twitter 

In October 1984, TN Chief Minister MG Ramachandran  was diagnosed with kidney failure, which was further complicated by diabetes, a mild heart attack and a massive stroke.  MGR did survive all that and died much later in Dec 1987. After days of treatment  in Apollo [when Greames Road reportedly was not allowed for commoners ~ huge crowds thronged the Road to get nearer MGR, anxious of his health], on the night of 5th  Nov 1984, MGR left for New York. The  then PM Ms Indira Gandhi  visited MGR at hospital on 16/10/84.  She was hale and healthy ! Earlier in Oct 1984, N.T. Rama Rao's visit to New Delhi  led to wild rumours. Four days after his wife's death due to cancer, he came from Hyderabad in the morning, met President Zail Singh and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by appointment. He saw no opposition leaders and made no attacks on Mrs Gandhi. After a "tame" press conference, he flew back home. This led to speculation that he may have struck a secret deal with Mrs Gandhi, that he would show no more interest in getting the Opposition parties together to light her in the coming general elections. In turn, she will let him rule Andhra Pradesh undisturbed. 

You may or may not like her – but certainly would feel very anguished by the way she was eliminated.  Indira Gandhi,  charismatic ‘Iron Lady’ of India, was assassinated on the morning of October, 31, 1984. 

She was the Prime Minister of India on that bloody day too. The assassination was carried out by her ‘Sikh Bodyguards’ Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. The assassination was reportedly  the aftermath of the ‘Operation Blue Star’ carried out by the Indian Army at her behest.   The Indian Army’s June 1984 assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar left the Sikh temple heavily damaged. Hundreds of people lost their lives and this included both the militants and the Army. However, what followed the assassination was brutal, the recuperations were massive. For the next four days, the country was engulfed in the fire of riots. The country’s capital bore the most of its brunt.  

The only daughter of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi was destined for politics. First appointed prime minister in 1966, she garnered widespread public support for agricultural improvements that led to India’s self-sufficiency in food grain production as well as for her success in the Pakistan war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. After serving three terms, Gandhi was voted out of office for her increasingly authoritarian policies, including a 21-month state of emergency in which Indians’ constitutional rights were restricted. In 1980, however, she was reelected to a fourth term.  

The match at Sialkot, captained by Mohinder and Vengsarkar stranded at 94 was played on that fateful day – and as the news of assassination reached, the match was abandoned, in fact the tour too was called off.  Read in newspapers that the announcement was made with riot police on high alert, not knowing what the crowd's reaction might be !  but, sadly, to the utter disbelief, it was reported that people started clapping and went away peacefully. Indira Gandhi was deeply unpopular in Pakistan, as she had was the popular Indian PM when Bangladesh was born and Pak defeated in 1971 war.  

The case cited at the beginning was ‘Indira assassination case’ -   prosecution case against Kehar Singh was  that  he was  a religious fanatic, had intense hate  against         Smt. Indira  Gandhi          for  causing damage to the  Akal  Takhat  in Golden Temple, Amritsar by "Operation Blue Star." He was  in a  position  to influence Beant Singh, being  the  uncle  of Beant  Singh's wife called as `Poopha'. He  converted  Beant Singh and through him Satwant Singh to religious bigotry.  It was alleged that Balbir Singh, like other accused had expressed his resentment openly, holding Smt. Indira  Gandhi responsible  for the "Operation Blue Star". He was  planning to commit her murder and  had discussed his plans with Beant Singh  (deceased) who   had similar  plans  to  commit the heinous murder.      He also shared his intention and  prompted  accused Satwant   Singh         to commit the gruesome assassination,  finally  discussed the matter with him on 30.10.1984. In the  first week of September 1984, when  a  falcon (Bazz)          happen to sit on a tree near the main  reception  of the Prime Minister's House st about  1.30 P.M. Balbir  Singh spotted the falcon, called Beant Singh there and pointed  out the  falcon.  Both  of them agreed that  it  had  brought  a message of the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs and that they  should do something by way of revenge of the "Operation Blue Star".  

The trial  Judge awarded the sentence of death on all the three accused. The trial  Judge  also awarded other terms of  imprisonment  on Satwant Singh.      Two  appeals  were  filed in  the High  Court;  One  by Satwant Singh  and the other by Balbir Singh and Kehar Singh jointly,  challenging their conviction and  sentence.  These appeals were heard alone with the  Murder Reference No. 2 of 1986.  The  High  Court accepted the  Murder  Reference and dismissed the appeals preferred by the accused and confirmed the conviction and the sentence of death on all the accused. The High Court also confirmed the other sentence on Satwant Singh. 

Supreme Court however, dismissed the appeals of Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh, but allowed the appeal of Balbir Singh by setting aside his conviction and sentence, and acquitting him of all the charges.  In 1989, the two condemned men, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, having  exhausted all remaining legal avenues and appeals for clemency were hanged to death.    

You may or may not like her; you may or may not admire Emergency days  – but  Oct 31, 1984 evokes strong memory of the gruesome assassination of    Indira Gandhi,  charismatic ‘Iron Lady’ of India !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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