RETURN OF INDIRA GANDHI,  1980-1984

 

 

Mrs.Gandhi started as Joan of Arc, and ended as King  Lear.

–  MJ.Akbar.

 

After 21 months of emergency, Indira Gandhi suffered 34 months of political exile. During this period of retribution, she was subjected of deprivation
harassment, commissions of inquiry, arrests, ceaseless interrogations and
humiliation. After the 1977 election debacle, Indira Gandhi, for some time kept
a low profile and then she came to her own. Janata Government’s calculated
witch-hunting and pre-planned persecution instead of weakening her, helped
to increase her popularity immensely. In November 1978, Indira Gandhi formallv
re-entered politics when she won the Chikrnagalur Lok Sabha constituency. It symbolized her remarkable political recovery. Her subsequent expulsion from
Parliament and incarceration in Tihar jail resurrected her “from the ashes of the Emergency” and made her the heroine of the country.

 

The 1980 Elections

 

After the dissolution of Parliament on 22 August 1979, seventh election
to Lok Sabha was held during the first week of January 1980. For Indira Gandhi this election was the last and most arduous ordeal for survival. She contested
from Rae Bareilly (U .P) and Medak in Andhra Pradesh. The disctedited and
self-destroyed Janata Party was fractured beyond repairs. The main contest
was between Charan Singh, the Jat leader; Jagjivan Ram, the Harijan hero; and
Indira Gandhi, the national stalwart. The election campaign reached feverish
pitch. The Janata leaders appealed to people to save India from the mother and the son; still beating the dead snake of Emergency excesses and threat to democracy, if she returned to power,’ On the other hand, Indira Gandhi promised stability and strong government. Her slogan ‘bring back Indira and save the country, (Indira lao – desh bachao) swayed the people.

 

The electorate once again reposed faith on Indira Gandhi and gave a  massive mandate to Congress (1) (2). The party secured 351 out of 542 Lok Sabha   Indira Gandhi’s victory was more spectacular in the number of seats she  n for the vote share of 42%. She had won more than two thirds majority of  seats. This was the biggest majority ever held by a party in the Lok Sabha.  Charan Singh’s Lok Dal and Jagjivan Ram’s Janata were decimated and relegated  the second and third places respectively.’

 

 Fourth Time Prime Minister

‘On 14 January 1980, Indira Gandhi was sworn in by the President Neelam  Sanjiva Reddy, as the fourth Prime Minister of’ India.’ She, once again emerged  as an indisputable leader of the country with a massive popular mandate and  her party was restored to a dominant position. As the public memory was proverbially short, the people forgot the emergency excesses, forgave her for  all  her sins of commission and omission and remembered only the non-  performance of the Janata Party. She had all the powers at her command to
reshape the density of India, Did she do it?

 

Daunting Task

Indira Gandhi’s first daunting task was the formation of her cabinet,  since most of her erstwhile trusted senior colleagues had deserted her at the  most testing time of distress. She had to chose her Cabinet from the inexperienced  new MPs. Persons who stood by her in her trials and tribulations were appointed  as ministers. Oldguard R.K.Dawan continued to be her private secretary. Prime  minister Indira Gandhi’s priority was to provide relief to 220 million victims of  drought across the country. She announced a 12 point programme and the  drought – relief measures were brought under strict central supervision for
effective implementation. National Awards, which were abolished by the Janata  government in 1977, were revived. Reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and
state assemblies was extended for ten more years for SC, STs and Anglo- Indian community. An .act was enacted to provided for detention of black-marketers and maintenance of supplies of essential commodities to the community,”

 

Dissolution of State Assemblies, February 1980

The Congress (I) Government followed the wrong and unhealthy  procedent of the Janata Government and on 17 February 1980 dissolved 9 state  assemblies of Bihar, Gujarat, Madya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar  Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and fresh elections ordered. The elections were held  28 and 31 May 1980. The Congress (I) captured power in all the 8 Janata  ruled states and in Tamilnadu AIADMK secured more than an absolute majority  in the sate assembly. The Congress (I) victory in the eight states was far more impressive than that of Janata success in these states in 1977. As a result of the
success in the state assembly elections, Congress (I) secured a commanding
position in the Rajya Sabha also. Thus the party consolidated its hold over the
states and in Parliament.

 

The Punjab Crisis
The Demands

The euphoria of lndira Gandhi’s victory in 1980 and her return to power  led to the defeat of the Akali government in Punjab. Darbara Singh was sworn  in as Chief Minister of Punjab. The Akalis, deprived of power, started an agitation
demanding Chandigarh as their exclusive capital, and a major share of the rivet
waters of the Ravi and Beas, to be shared between Punjab, Haryana and
Rajasthan. They also insisted on the immediate implementation of the Anandpui
Sahib Resolution and several other exacting demands. Bhindranwale, who was
released from the prison in 1982, distanced himself from the Congress, raised
the banner of militant revolt against it and demanded Khalistan, a sovereign
Sikh state. “He was supported in his demand by Sikhs within the country and
without”.

 

Escalating Violence

 

In 1982, Giani Zail Singh, a political rival of the Punjab Chief minister, Darbara Singh, became the President of India. Violence in Punjab was escalating The President, the Chief Minister, the Akalis and the hard core militant leader Bhindranwale who was openly preaching secession, were pulling in different directions. After the assassination of the Arnristar police chief, A.S.Atwal on 23 April 1983, the Chief Minister of Pun jab, Darbara Singh, sought the permission of Indira Gandhi to allow him to send the police into the temple complex in order to arrest Bhindranwale and his guerrilla army. But, “Indira, on the advice of Zail Singh refused to authorize this initiative”. In 1984  Punjab went out of control.

 

 

In 1984, the Punjab crisis degenerated into an explosive situation. Indian Gandhi’s Intelligence Agencies unearthed a major plot hatched by Sikhs and  Non-Resident Indians (NRI’s) supporters with Bhindranwale against the Hindu in Punjab. The intransigent Bhindranwale shifted his headquarters from the outer precincts of the golden temple to the inner sanctum sanctorum called Akal Takht. His terror squads were playing have in the countryside. Law and order situation in Punjab was fast breaking down as lawlessness and violence were escalating.

 

 

Operation Blue Star

Dismissal of Darbara Singh Government

 

In order to contain violence and to restore law and order, the  government of India, on 6 October 1983, dismissed the Darbara Singh  Government and placed Punjab under President’s rule. The next day, Punjab  and Chandigarh were declared disturbed areas. During the President’s rule, indiscriminate killing of innocent people had continued unabated. Many had been targeted and assassinated. The Akalis neither disowned Bhindranwale  nor did they expel him from the Golden Temple. The intransigent Bhindranwale  shifted his head quarters from the outer precincts of the Golden Temple to the  inner Akal Takht. His terror quads were playing havoc in the countryside.
Harmandir Sahib had been converted into an arsenal of illicit arms. It harboured
criminals and terrorists. All appeals, negotiations and dialogues failed; deadlock
continued. In 1984, the Punjab crisis degenerated into an explosive situation.

 

 

On the night of 30 May 1984, the Indian army surrounded the Golden  temple. The operation would be carried out by the ninth division of the Indian  army, commanded by Major General Gurdial Singh. “Operation Blue Star” was  he code name of the assault. For three days, the army was watching the  governments in and around the Golden Temple. On

3 June, all foreign journalists were expelled from Punjab. All movement in the state was halted. Punjab’s order with Pakistan was sealed. Practically, “The Punjab was cut of from the of the world in preparation for the final assault”.” On4 and 5 1984, the army warned the rebels inside the temple to surrender.

 

On 5 June, under cover of darkness, a team of army commandos gained entry into the Akhal Takht. They rescued the unarmed Sikh leaders of the Akali  Dal including Sant Longowal. On the morning of 6 June, the pitched battle began. In an effort to avoid too much damage to the Golden Temple, over a hundred soldiers lost their lives. Towards the end of the day tanks and artillery were deployed. The rebel defence crumbled. Bhindranwale and his associates died with their weapons in their hands. The remaining rebels surrendered. The Operation Blue Star was over. But the cost of the operation ‘material and human-was prohibitive and incalculable. The exact death toll of the civilians is  unknown till date. The golden temple library was destroyed in fire. The Akal Takht was severely damaged. “Operation Blue Star was a horrendous debacle”

 

Operation Blue Star was perceived as an affront to the Sikh community  rather than an attack on the uncompromising and unscrupulous communal  terrorists. True, a non-military option could have achieved the objective with  relatively less bloodshed, causalities and damages. However, the operation put an end to Bhindranwale’s senseless violence and mindless mayhem. It restored law and order. In short, it brought the region of terror to an end. “It was a testimony to Indira Gandhi’s courage and commitment to the unity and integrity of the nation that she ordered the launching of Operation Blue Star”.” But the
shadow of the operation Blue Star had lengthened over the face of India and  contributed to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

 

Assassination

 

After Operation Blue Star, disregarding security precautions, Indira Gandhi toured across the country, part of the forthcoming election campaign and returned to Delhi on 30 October 1984. On the morning of 31 October 1980·” Indira Gandhi walked from her residence at 1, Safdarjung Road to her nearby personal office at 1, Akbar Road. As she approached the gate, sub-Inspector Beant Singh, a senior security officer who had accompanied her on several of her trips abroad, came forward to open the gate and shot her from point blank
range. Constable Satwant Singh, ajunior recruit, emerged from the other side of the gate and sprayed bullets into her frail body. Bullet-ridden Indira Gandhi was  rushed to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences at 9.32 a.m. and at 2.23 p.m. in the afternoon she was pronounced dead. The devilish deed was done. Indira fell a victim to a carefully crafted communal conspiracy. On 3 November 1984, Indira Gandhi was cremated on the land next to Shantivan, the cremation sit” of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sanjay Gandhi.