A BLACK DAY
October 31, 1984 was a black day for India when Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister and leader of the nation, was shot down by two of her own security guards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, as she was walking down to her office at I, Akbar Road, from her adjoining residence at 1, Safdarjung Road, where she had an appointment with an Irish television company. The team had accompanied Mrs. Indira Gandhi on her recently concluded tour of Orissa.
The two houses are linked by a winding path, which passes through a gate. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was near this gate, when these two men struck. The two assassins were members of a Delhi Police contingent, assigned to protect her. As many as 22 bullets were pumped into her body from a pistol and a stengun. In the shootout that followed, Beant Singh was shot dead and the other murderer was severely injured and sent to hospital, where he later recovered.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi was picked up by her personal security guards and sent to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at 9.30 a.m. She died shortly after, though doctors made superhuman efforts to revive her. Finally, at about 2.30 p.m., the doctors gave up all efforts and Mrs. Indira Gandhi was declared dead. At 9-35 p.m. a gun carriage carrying the body with a tricolour flag and yellow marigold flowers reached the Prime Minister’s house, followed by her near relatives, including Shri Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in different cars. The gates were closed after the cars went in.
The entire nation was stunned. There was shock and intense grief. The government announced a State mourning for twelve days during which flags flew at half mast and there were no official entertainments. The last rites were performed, by her elder son, Rajiv Gandhi, at a plot adjoining Raj Ghat and Shanti Van near the Samadhi of her illustrious father, Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and builder of the Indian nation. The ceremony was attended by a large gathering including numerous world leaders. The place is now known as Shakti Sthal.
The initial reaction to the tragedy was of disbelief and great shock. Thereafter violence spread, first in Delhi, then over the whole country, causing colossal loss of life and property. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the new Prime Minister by President Zail Singh on the evening of 31st October. Shri Rajiv Gandhi took immediate action to control the widespread violence throughout the country. Troops were called out and orders to shoot at sight issued. It is to the credit of the new government that the disorder was suppressed within three days.
With the entire nation in mourning, messages of condolence poured in from all parts of the globe. In a telegram to President Zail Singh, the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet council of ministers, said, “We in the Soviet Union are shocked by the untimely death of Mrs. Gandhi. Soviet people stigmatize the criminals and their patrons, who raise their hands against the outstanding leader. The British Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, who had herself survived an assassination attempt two weeks ago, said Mrs. Gandhi’s death was a tragedy. In a telegram to the President, Giani Zail Singh, the British Queen said, “Prince Philips and I are profoundly shocked by the death of Mrs. Gandhi.” She also sent a private message of condolence to Shri Rajiv Gandhi.
Paying a heartfelt homage and tribute to the legendary leader in her heroic martyrdom, a government resolution said that Mrs. Gandhi will go down in the annals of the country as the ablest, most heroic and dedicated leader and torchbearer of her noble ideals.
Mrs. Gandhi seemed to have a premonition about the attempt on her life. Addressing a mammoth public meeting on 30th October to round off her two-day tour of Orissa, she said in an emotional tone that even if she died in the service of the nation, she would be proud of it. “Every drop of my blood, I am sure, will contribute to the growth of the nation and to make it strong and dynamic,” she said.
Later she had told her household staff on her return from Orissa that her birthday would not be celebrated on November 19. “You will see there will be no function on my birthday. The country is busy with many other important things and I do not know where I will be at that time,” she said.
The tragic death of Smt. Indira Gandhi marks the end of an era. She leaves behind memory of a great and glorious fight for the cause of the country. She had great courage and inner strength and will to overcome difficulties.