The Assassination of The Prime Minister of India – 10/31/1984

World History |


When it comes to protecting any key member of government such as the President of the United States, an ambassador or even famous stars in the entertainment profession; the person(s) tasked with being a bodyguard is usually trusted. After all, when has someone in the Secret Service turned around an attempted to kill the United States President?

While it would be unthinkable to imagine someone whose job it is to protect the President turning around and trying to assassinate him, in other countries this would not only be a possibility but has actually happened. However, it was not the President of India that was betrayed but the prime minister over three decades ago.

The prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was betrayed by her two bodyguards in New Delhi on October 31st, 1984 and was assassinated by them. The two bodyguards, Satwant and Beant Singh, were both Sikhs and as the prime minister traveled to her adjoining bungalow from her office, they emptied their guns into Indira. Even though the two assassinators quickly gave up, a subsequent scuffle took place and the both of them were shot resulting in the death of Beant. The original prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, tried to establish a unified nation from the large number of cultural, religious and ethnic factions existing under British control until 1949. Indira Gandhi, his daughter and had no relation towards Mohandas Gandhi, had to struggle with a lot of the same issues as her father did when she came into power in 1966. Picturing a roller coaster would be the best way in describing her career in politics from being very popular in 1971 following Pakistan’s defeat by India to the low point in 1977 when she was kicked out of power as a result of announcing a state of emergency in 1975 in which Gandhi imprisoned her political opponents and with-held civil liberties. Despite criticism of ruling like an autocrat, Gandhi’s extensive social programs gained the population’s majority of supporting her.

Despite everything, Indira became once again the prime minister in 1980 and recipient of mostly widespread support. Unfortunately, Gandhi declared the army to attack a Sikh temple located in Punjab in order to force out armed Sikh extremists in June of 1984 which resulted in a number of death threats. Her longtime bodyguard, Beant Singh, was to be reassigned elsewhere because he was a Sikh and there was a fear of a possible assassination plot against Gandhi. Despite this, she personally squashed the order of transfer as his longtime service instilled in her that he could be trusted. Tragically, this choice resulted in a deadly mistake that cost the both of them.

Since Satwant Singh survived, he would stand trial, found guilty in 1986 and in 1989 was executed. Riots soon broke out in New Delhi after the assassination of the prime minister which resulted in over 1,000 killings of innocent Sikhs during indiscriminate assaults in a manner of only two days. Rajiv Gandhi, Indira’s son, achieved the role as the new prime minister. 

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