1981 Indira is killed
The situation in Punjab ended up costing Indira life when a Sikh from her bodyguard ended up killing her. In the wake of this killing, thousands of Sikhs were killed by vengeful thirsty paramilitary Hindu groups. Across formalities such as the Constitution and Congress party statutes, Indira’s son, Rajiv, was quickly appointed prime minister and leader of the party. He received great support in the election in 1985, when the party captured 401 out of Parliament’s 508 seats. No other party was able to conquer the necessary 50 seats to officially be recognized as opposition. Despite the clear victory, some strongly nationalist regions turned their backs on Gandhi. This was especially true of the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where the charismatic former actor, Tama Rao had a great influence. Gandhi also lost Sikkim. A small kingdom in the Himalayas like India had annexed in the 70s. Here, the separatist party, Sikkim Sangram won the Parishad.
According to Countryaah, Gandhi took various steps to solve the problems in Punjab. He appointed a reconciliation governor for the region, detained the political prisoners – including opposition leaders – and declared that members of his own party who had participated in the violence against the Sikhs would be prosecuted and sentenced. He thus paved the way for dialogue with the Sikhs’ largest party in the region, Akali Dal and other opposition groups. Despite the radical differences in positions, progress was made. The forces advocating greater autonomy for Punjab suggested that the central government should retain responsibility for defense, foreign policy, money issue, postal services, roads and telecommunications. On the other hand, the state government had greater autonomy than India’s other states.
In 1987, India intervened in the conflict in Sri Lanka. Pressures were being made to establish a ceasefire between Singaporeans and Tamils, and India sent troops to neighboring countries. Three years later, the Indian peacekeepers were discreetly pulled out, after suffering heavy losses.
During the same period, India participated with Argentina, Sweden, Tanzania, Mexico and Greece in the efforts to have the superpowers restrict the arms race. At the same time, the Prime Minister declared that India would not relinquish its nuclear weapons if Pakistan continued its efforts to build a nuclear bomb.
In its foreign policy, India maintained its alliance freedom, but internally a number of important changes were implemented. Rajiv Gandhi made the microcomputer a symbol of his policy of rapid «modernization». He promised the private sector that he would lift restrictions on imports and purchases of foreign technology as well as lower the tax burden. At the same time, the trade union movement expressed fears that sophisticated technology would create unemployment and that the national industry would not be able to survive competition with foreign products.
In November 1989 elections were conducted in a climate characterized by violence that cost over 100 lives. At this election, the opposition stepped forward. The Congress party reduced the number of seats to 192 against the Janata Dal coalition’s 141st. The latter, along with the National Front, joined a coalition government led by Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh. This was only possible due to support from the right-wing Partido Bharatiya Janata Party and several small groups on the left.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated in March 1990 as a result of the latter’s support for autonomy movements in Kashmir. There was a risk that a war between the two countries would lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The increasingly deep economic crisis in November led to sharper confrontations between Hindus and Muslims. Prime Minister Singh was replaced with Chandra Shekhar – also from Janata Dal.
1991 Rajiv Gandhi is killed
On May 20, 1991, elections for parliament again began. A bloody election campaign had taken place that had killed more than 280 people. However, the election was canceled the day after when Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide attack by a member of the liberation movement, the Tamil Tigers. A week later, Narasimha Rao was appointed Gandhi’s successor as leader of the Congress party. The election was resumed 12-16. June. It had been the bloodiest in India’s history so far. Only 53% of eligible voters voted. The Congress party got 225 seats against Bharatiya Janata’s 119.
In August 1991, the new government announced a drastic economic change in the direction of liberalism, thus settling the economic policies that had prevailed since independence. The price change led to criticism and triggered protests. This development had been 10 years along the way and had been accelerated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite its alliance freedom, India had been more closely linked to the Soviet Union than to the United States since independence.
As early as September of the previous year, 70,000 representatives of various indigenous peoples had gathered to prevent the construction of dams across the holy river Narmada. The project would have submerged ancient temples and traditional cultivation areas. More than 200,000 people who had been displaced by the project in 1991 manifested their dissatisfaction. This and other infrastructure projects are part of the tradition of industrial development regardless of the ecological impact. The security problems at the country’s 7 nuclear reactors remain unresolved and the control of companies that pollute is insufficient.