For a certain generation, it was an unforgettable day. The news spread mostly through trunk calls and teleprinters. The first assassination of a Prime Minister in office sent shock waves throughout the country whose ripples reached Bangalore in minutes.
That morning, after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi fell to bullets fired by her security guards at her residence on October 31, 1984, had Bangaloreans mostly glued to radios as television was still in its infancy.
With TV sets not yet pervading all drawing rooms, neighbours flocked to houses that had the prized possession to watch the news (and the funeral procession days later). “Street corner conversations revolved around nothing else. Our house was packed with neighbours who wanted to watch TV. The radio was also on, broadcasting the news,” said septuagenarian M.S. Subramanya, a resident of Basavangudi, recalling the cataclysmic day 25 years ago.
“She was a great leader and a dynamic lady. Though the 18-month Emergency was the dark days of Independent India, people (were moved to) condemn the assassination. People here were really shocked when the news came in. Her end should not have come like that,” the former Member of Parliament V.S. Krishna Iyer recalled of the “horror Wednesday”. Mr. Iyer was among the few from Bangalore to attend the funeral.
Apart from Bidar, which witnessed sporadic violence, Karnataka largely remained peaceful even as North India was convulsed by anti-Sikh riots. Many Sikh families in the city moved to safety, fearing attacks. “We were a bit unnerved for a couple of days,” said Daljit Kaur, faculty in a media school here. “My father became edgy when an unidentified person wielded a knife threatening to kill him at a bus stop in Anand Rao Circle. Even I was heckled and abused in the college I was studying,” she said.
Years later, the fear came to haunt Ms. Kaur’s family again when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. “My mother who had lost a couple of uncles in the anti-Sikh riots, was worried about another backlash soon after she heard the news,” she recalled.
Some Sikh families were offered police protection. “My husband had just left Delhi when the riots broke out. There was no way to contact him and I was really worried. Reassurance came in the form of a gentle policeman asking if I needed to be guarded,” said Iqbal Kaur, a doctor.
Congress MP N. Dharam Singh said he and other Backward Class leaders such as D. Devaraj Urs, S. Bangarappa and M. Veerappa Moily could become Chief Ministers only due to Ms. Gandhi’s policies to promote the backward classes and downtrodden sections in the State.
H. Hanumanthappa said Ms. Gandhi broke the hold of the upper castes and created a vote bank for the Congress, when she abolished bonded labour and introduced a number of measures such as land reforms helping the poor.
Former Railway Minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief recalled how moved she was seeing people waiting for hours on the road under the scorching sun to have a glimpse of her when she was passing through Channapatna in 1978. M.C. Nanaiah, MLC, recalled the respect she earned even from the then Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha A.B. Vajpayee.