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indira gandhi

 I distinctly remember this deadly day of 1984. Everything began normally. It has been a practice with me to write my editorials at home . I also do most of the writing work at home.  It was forenoon. I was doing my writing work when my neighbor Jerry Gomes (then in Allahabad)came rushing to me and said, ‘There is a big rumor that Indira Gandhi has been assassinated’.

‘What?’ I said, halting my type-writer.I immediately switched on the radio. The announcement that was being made was not clear. They told us that she was shot at by her security guards but that she was still alive though in a very critical condition. I promptly rang up our then editor Mr S.K.Bose and asked him: ‘We will have to change the subject of the editorial , now that Indiraji has been shot at’. He said, ‘The situation is not clear. You will have to wait for some time. You keep ready the second editorial. We will decide in office what is to be done. She is still alive , say all reports. What do you say, he asked. ‘I wish what you say is true. But I have my doubts. They are hiding her death. They could be planning for the successor. It has all been so sudden.Rajiv Gandhi is in Calcutta.. May be they are waiting for his return .’ He said, ‘All right, you come to the office. We will decide’.

 The Government had softened the blow by preparing the nation for her death. There might have been pressing reasons. The scene behind-the-scenes  must have forced them to delay the announcement. Even so, those who were tuning to the BBC were told that she was dead. There was darkness in the noon, so to say. I reached  NIP office. There used to be a steno-typists Mr Ganguli and  Mr Howard. Mr Bose used to dictate  his editorial to them. He began writing. He had barely written a sentence when Mr Tuhin Kanti Ghosh, then our Managing Director, called him. They had to discuss various crucial issues such as the impact of her demise on the party’s leadership.  The late Mr Tarun Kanti Ghosh was then in active  politics. Mr Bose would come back, write a few lines when some other dignitary would want him. Local telephone calls, trunk-calls from Calcutta would disturb him, distract him. He would be rushing out, coming back all too frequently.

 

But there was deadline for the edit to be sent to the press. After nearly two hours of shuttling between his chair and the room of the Managing Director, Mr Bose ultimately came  and said: ‘I won’t have the time. You write the edit on Indira Gandhi’.
That was one of my  most important  editorials till then. By then  reports had started pouring in about the anti-Sikh tension that was building up. The riots had already started. My appeal  in the editorial to the general public was to act with a sense of restraint and that for the crime of one we cannot and should not blame the whole community. We had a Sikh lad, Sanjit Singh, working in Patrika then. He came and told  us the next day that the BBC had quoted the Patrika editorial, specially the portion about maintaining peace.
There was stunned silence on the roads when I cycled back home. I had a fear that it was a lull before the storm. At home the TV was on. Allahabad Doordarshan Kendra had been Indira Gandhi’s  gift to Allahabad ahead of time. Original plans had placed Allahabad quite low in the list of cities to b sanctioned a TV transmitter. And had that list been adhered to we might have got a DD centre  here  much later. But what happened was that in 1983 itself she announced that Allahabad would immediately get a low power transmitter which was installed on the premises of All India Radio. I think it was in August 1983 that DDK started functioning. And   in 1984, via that TV station we were watching the Delhi scene. Indira Gandhi’s body lay there with Allahabad’s  Rustom Gandhi, a cousin of Rajiv. also seen going around the mortal remains of the late Prime Minister. And those funeral scenes, when Rajiv lit the flame on the pyre, the light reflecting on his face, were unforgettable. But the funeral did not take place that day. The TV camera was for most of the time focused on the slain Indira Gandhi That too could have aroused and inflamed  the passions of the public which assumed a  deadly form in the shape of the anti-Sikh riots, a shameful chapter which is best forgotten.

S.J.C. SHOW WAS CANCELLED

The whole city , the nation, nay-the world was shocked at the assassination of Indira Gandhi.. But there was one person who was more sad than others. He was the then Principal of St Joseph’s College, Father Thomas. Only a day  earlier he had met me and told me that Indira Gandhi had agreed to come to Allahabad on November 4 to  attend the centenary celebrations of St Joseph’s college. Father Thomas had told me how, in spite of her very busy schedule and in spite of  the fact that she would not meet any one, she called him in. Mrs Gandhi had close links with this city. She had studied in St Mary’s Convent, a sister institution of St Joseph’s College.  Why wouldn’t she come ?  She spoke to him kindly and agreed to address the centenary celebrations on the 4th. All preparations were made. It was to be a very gala affair.. The entire show had to be cancelled.

 

 

 

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