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Amritsar - Mrs Indira Gandhi's Last Battle - Book By Mark Tully, Satish Jacob

Introduction To 'Amritsar Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle' By Mark Tully & Satish Jacob

On 5th June 1984, the Indian army began its attack on the complex at Amritsar which housed the two most sacred shrines of the sikh community: the Golden Temple and the Akal Takht, Generals who had pleged to minimum force, and on no account to violate the shrines, were not prepared for the fierce and adept resistance they encountered. Having suffered severe casualties, the infantry were driven back, and as a last resort - with approval from  Delhi-Tanks were ordered in. The Akal Takht was virtually reduced to rubble. It is doubtful if Mrs Gandhi would have initiated Operation Blue Star had she known how bloody and devastating would be the consequences of that 24-hours conflict. Yet up to that point she had resisted any armed intervention in what had literally become a reign of terror in the  Punjab, Perhaps, as many,  including her son Rajiv, suggested, she waited too long before her attackon the fundamentalist Sikh preacher Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.  

Mark Tully and Satish Jacob , who ran the BBC'S bureau in Delhi, here trace the long build up to the storming of the Sikh stronghold,the shifts of power within the Sikh  community and the efforts of central government both to utilize and control them; the rise of Bhindranwale-initially put forward by then President of India Zail Singh and Mrs Gandhi's own son Sanjay-whose extremism placed a wedge between Sikh and Hindu, Sikh and the Punjab and India ; the indecisiveness of Mrs Gandhi, who paid for the catastrophic  aftermath of the operation with her life.

In their vivid and well documented account of historical and political events, Tully and Jacob bring the Sikh tragedy into focus from many arresting angles. They were the first to film the fortification of the Golden Temple. They met Bhindranwale, his military mastermind Major-General Shahbeg Singh and many of the other central characters in the drama. They gathered eye-witness accounts from every quarter to fill in this remarkable picture of what occurred and present their thought - provoking analysis with eloquence.

Mark Tully, who talked Bhindranwale the day before the final curfew was clamped on Amritsar and was ordered out of the Punjab by the army on the day Operation Blue Star began, was presented with the 1984 Richard Dimbleby Award given by BAFTA for the Most Important Personal Contribution on Screenn to Factual Television and the 1984 Award for the British Television Critics Guild for Outstanding Personal Contribution. In writing this book he and Satish Jacob have extended what began as brilliant news coverage into work of great historical importance.

 

Preface To 'Amritsar - Mrs Indira Gandhi's Last Battle' By Mark Tully and Satish Jacob

The publication of an Indian edition gives us the opportunity to tell the Punjab story up to the election, to bring it to what we hope will prove to be a happy ending.

On 20th August 1985 Sant Harchand Singh Longowal was shot dead in a gurudwara near his home village. His death threatened the accord he had signed with the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Longowal was killed by the young Sikh fanatics who wanted to prevent a reconciliation betweenn their community and Hindus. Part of the establishment in Delhi who felt threatened by Rajiv Gandhi;s modem style of government was not unhappy at this apparent setback. The Times of India, for instance, saw the assassination of longowal as evidence of the need for "political skills of the highest order and not what the Americans call 'knee-jerk ' reactions and public relation exercises."

Rajiv Gandhi ignored the advice of the armchair pundits in Delhi and accepted the assurances of Governor Arjun Singh that elections to the Punjab Assembly and the Punjab Parliamentary constiuencies could and indeed must still go ahead. The Governor told me in an interview that the assassination of Longowal had " shoked the vast majority of Sikhs". He believed it had " strengthened their desire that the accord should work".  He realised that Sikh extremists would stiill attempt to disrupt the elections and that not even the one hundered and fifty thousand extra paramilitary police drafted into punjab could guarantee that there would be no terrorism. As he said ," In the end we can only fold our hands in prayers." The Governor's prayers were answered . The elections were remarkably peaceful. The Akalis , for the first time in their history were able to form a government on their own. Once again India had voted itself out of a crisis as it had done eight years earlier when the electorate rejected Mrs. Gandhi's Emergency.

Mrs. Gandhi blamed the Punjab crisis on exterrnnal forces which did not want to see a strong and united India. No doubt they played a role and will continue to play a role by aiding  and abetting Sikh extremists wedded to terrorism. But external forces alone could not and cannot threaten a couuntry as potentially strong and stable as India. Indians must now look at their own country and the weaknesses in its body which brought Punjab to the brink of political disaster.  

The world's larest democracy is still governed and administered by the institutions of the British Raj. The Indian Administrative service, which dominates the Administration is a carbon copy of the Raj's ICS, and the Indian Police Service is a carbon copy of the I.P. Macaulay's Penal Code is still in force. The hired witnesses who used to testify in favour of the Raj now testify before majistrates in favour of independent India's police. The legal system bequeathed by the British is used by the wealthy and influential to frustrate the intentions of the government. The poor regard the police and the courts as their oppressors.

The Punjab crisis showed just how unsuitable the institutions of the Raj were for coping with problems of modem India. The police were helpless because their ranks had been undermined by years of inadequate pay and its corollary, corruption-both features of the Raj's police force too. Police officers knew that there was no point in bringing the few extremists they did arrest before the judges, because it would take years to obtain convictions in their moribund courts. So they resorted to murder disguised by the words" Killed in an encounter". Those encounters justified Bhindranwale's cal! for revenge. The Congress Party, which should have been Mrs Gandhi's messenger in the Punjab villages, combatting the hatred Bhindranwale was spreading , consisted  of time servers whose eyes were always on Delhi, the fountain-head of power not on their constituencies. The civil service was dominated by time servers too, prepared to break any rule to please their political masters. Parliament was powerless beccause only the most courageous of Mrs Gandhi's MP's dared to speak out against her Punjab policy. Mrs Gandhi's never tried to reform the institutions of india and she paid the price for it when the police became so slack that her personal security force was penetrated. This is a harsh judgement on a remarkable leader who had  preserved India from the dismaltyranniesor the chaos of most other developing countries. But its essential to see the bad as well as the good in indira Gandhi if india is to cope  with the rising  expecations of its young and with the social charges which have to  come with modernisation.

Rajiv Gandhi wants to take India into the twenty-first centuary.  He will have to bring the institutions of India into the twentieth centuary first.

 

About The Authors Of 'Amritsar - Mrs Indira Gandhi's Last Battle'

Born in Calcutta, educated in England, Mark Tully joined the BBC in 1964 and in 1972 became Chief of the Bureau in Delhi. Among the many major stories he has covered are the Bangladesh War, Mrs Gandhi's Emergency, the execution of Bhutto and thr Russian Occupation of Afghanistan. He is now retired from BBC and stays in delhi. 

Satish Jacob was born in Delhi, began his journalistic career within the Statesman, worked in Ethiopia for eight years, and joined the BBC to work with Mark Tully in 1978. He recently retired as Deputy Bureau Chief of the BBC in Delhi after having worked for the Corporation for 26 years. During this eventful time, he and Mark Tully made the BBC's Bureau in Delhi a household name in India. Jacob broke the story of Mrs Gandhi's assassination to a stunned nation on 31st October 1984. However, Jacob considers his coverage of the US led war to topple Saddam Hussein to be the most moving assignment he has ever done. He was the only Indian correspondent stationed in Baghdad then. He is currently doing a TV series on the history of Old Delhi.

 

Table Of Contents For 'Amritsar - Mrs Indira Gandhi's Last Battle' By Mark Tully and Satish Jacob

  Contents

Page No

  Illustrations and Picture Credits vii
  Preface to the Indian Edition ix
  Note to Readers xii
1 The Assassination of a Prime Minister 1
2 The Sikhs 15
3 The Grievances of the Sikhs 36
4 The Rise of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale 52
5 The Arrest of Bhindranwale 63
6 Mrs Gandhi Attempts to Negotiate with the Sikhs 73
7 The Asian Games and their Aftermath 84
8 Two Brutal Killings - Mrs Gandhi Acts at Last 96
9 President's Rule Fails 107
10 Last Ditch Negotiations 122
11 Mrs Gandhi Gives the Go - ahead 141
12 Operation Blue Star 155
13 The Golden Temple , 6th June 174
14 The Aftermath 192
15 Conclusion 218
16

Notes

226
17 Bibliography 230
18 Index 232
 

 

Books
Author Mark Tully and Satish Jacob
Pages 238
Cover Paperback
Language English

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