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The assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi: The Untold story

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It was 9:05 AM at 1, Safdarjung Road, the official residence of Prime Minister at New Delhi. Mrs Indira Gandhi, wearing a light orange sari and black sandals was walking towards her office at the adjoining 1, Akbar Road. The famous British actor Peter Ustinov was filming a documentary for Irish television was waiting there with his TV crew, to conduct his interview.

Delhi Police head Constable Narain Singh, who was holding a black umbrella over Mrs Gandhi’s head, possibly to shield her make up from early winter sun. Mrs Gandhi saw a servant carrying a tea set to place in front of Ustinov during the interview which was to start in the next couple of minutes. She told the servant to bring another fancier tea set which was normally used on very special occasions.

She walked briskly on the 20 mt cemented path, surrounded by neem and oak trees towards the gate separating the official residence and her office. More than halfway along the cemented path were two khakhi uniformed Sikh security men from Delhi Police.

The older man was Inspector Beant Singh whom she knew for last 10 years while the younger one was 21 year old constable Satwant Singh who was assigned to PM security for last five months.

Mrs Gandhi was hardly at five metre distance when Beant Singh took his .38 calibre revolver and fired three bullets towards her. She fell to the ground but Satwant Singh pointed his Sterling Sten gun and pumped all 30 bullets in her body. The time was 9.09 AM.

It was chaos all around and in next six minutes Tarsem Singh and Ram Sharan from Indo-Tibetan Border Police captured and killed Beant Singh in the adjoining security room. Satwant Singh also received the bullet injury but was arrested by other bodyguards along with Kehar Singh, another accomplice who was trying to escape.

The ambulance driver at PM’s residence was missing and so Dr R Opeh, the CGHS doctor on duty, daughter in law Sonia Gandhi and a security personnel placed her in an official white ambassador and was immediately rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi where she was taken to the casualty.

The doctors, who examined her, reportedly checked her eyes and found her pupils dilated and fixed. They tried to feel for her pulse but found none and from there , she was shifted to Operation Theatre No. 2 on the 8th floor . The doctors were desperately trying to stop the bleeding.

The team of doctors who were attending to Mrs Gandhi included the Cardiac Surgeons Dr P. Venugopal, Dr Balaram and Dr A. Sampat Kumar. There were General Surgeons Dr Dhawan and Dr M.M. Kapoor and the anaesthetist G.R. Gode.

The hospital generally kept four bottles of Ms Gandhi’s rare blood group, O-negative in their stock but through that afternoon, the Hospital procured blood from other hospitals and as reported administered 30 to 40 bottles of blood.

It was becoming apparent to the doctors that Ms Gandhi was not responding to the treatment and her pupils remained motionless and dilated throughout the operation and she never regained pulse. Finally, after losing every hope of saving her from the inevitable, they declared her dead but the news was kept closely guarded secret as nothing was announced officially. It was 2.30 PM in New Delhi

It was just another normal day at Doordarshan, the only TV channel in those days. Though the news department was informed about the developments at the Prime Minister residence, no special bulletin came.

BBC was the first media house to announce the death of Mrs Gandhi in their special news bulletin saying “The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead in a shootout at her official residence”. It was 2.00 PM in New Delhi.

Her son, Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in Kolaghat, West Bengal when he was informed about the shooting and after cancelling his meetings, he abandoned his Ambassador car and got into a black Mercedes and sped off towards the helipad at Kolaghat with Pranab Mukherjee, Ghani Khan Chowdhury. It was 9.45 AM.

“We thought the Mercedes would take lesser time than the Ambassador, hence the switch,” Mukherjee said in an interview. In the recently published memoirs of President Pranab Mukherjee, he writes that on the flight from Calcutta to Delhi after hearing the news of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, Rajiv asked him “would I be able to manage as Prime minister”.

Meanwhile, Rajiv put on the car radio and tuned into BBC world news. At around 10.00 am the three men, sitting silently in the back seat of the Mercedes and now speeding towards Kolaghat over 100 km per hour, heard the news of assassination in shocked disbelief. BBC did not confirm Mrs Gandhi’s death but did report that she was at All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in critical condition.

The broadcast went on giving details, sketchy as they were then, about the shooting and the suspected killers. It was pin drop silence inside the car and all men sat in the car in grim silence. The only words Rajiv spoke, recalled the ex President Mukherjee were ‘Is this all she deserved?'”

The three men flew by chopper to Calcutta, 40 kilometres away. There were two aircrafts standing by at the Calcutta Dumdum airport and within minutes Rajiv, Mukherjee and Chowdhury were on board in the Indian Airlines Boeing where they were joined by Uma Shankar Dikshit, his daughter-in-law Sheila Dikshit, Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar and veteran Congress leader Shyamlal Yadav. The Lok Sabha secretary S Aggarwal and Rajya Sabha secretary S Kashyap were also accompanying them in the flight.

The flight left Calcutta for Delhi and Mukherjee, Dikshit and Rajiv sat in seats 2A, 2B and 2C, just behind the cockpit. Rajiv was seated next to the aisle and within minutes he made his way to the familiar cockpit where he had spent 12 of his last 16 years as an airline pilot. In the cockpit, the atmosphere was equally tense. The pilots were in continuous touch with the ground control and kept Rajiv informed of the latest situation in New Delhi. The cockpit watch showed the time, it was 1.15 PM.

It was almost 1.25 PM when the news Rajiv was expecting, but dreaded to hear, came crackling over the aircraft radio. Mrs Gandhi had finally succumbed to her injuries. A few minutes later, at 1.30 PM, an expressionless Rajiv came out of the cockpit and told Mukherjee and Uma Shankar Dikshit that Mrs Gandhi was no more. He was surprisingly very calm and his composure was striking. “He was in complete control of himself,” recalls Mukherjee, “though he obviously was in deep shock.”

Balram Jakhar, who was speaker of the Lok Sabha that time would have a pivotal role to play in ensuring an orderly succession, finally asked Mukherjee bluntly “Do you think Rajiv should be inducted as Prime Minister?”

Mukherjee recalls quite vividly that everyone in that flight agreed that AIR and Doordarshan should not officially broadcast the news of Mrs Gandhi’s death till

evening, long after the BBC had confirmed the news. By that time Rajiv was all set to be sworn as the sixth Prime minister of India. It was 6.45 PM in New Delhi and the politics in India has taken a historical turn.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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