31 October 1984 – I was in Class IV. I went home from the school during lunch hour. My Dad, a staunch Congress supporter, broke the news that then PM Indira Gandhi was shot and admitted to hospital. BBC said she succumbed to injuries, but there was no official confirmation from the Indian Government.
I rushed back to school and broke the news to my childhood friend and classmate Pradeep Majhi. As his father was a top Janata Dal leader, I thought that he would be interested to know more about it. He reacted, saying “Should I go and tell my Dad that Indira Gandhi was killed”? I said, NO, there is no confirmation yet.
We returned home and glued to the Radio, as there was no TV in our village then. Even, only 2/3 houses had power at that time. The evening news confirmed the sad demise of Indira Gandhi. Everyone in our locality cried. I was no exception. As a kid, I did not know about politics. For me, she was the PM and a motherly figure. Just a few days before her death, she had come to Umerkote (18 km from our village to address a rally). So, it was obvious for the people to be in shock at the news of her death, as they called her ‘Indira Maa’.
Two days later, a big mourning procession was held and Pradeep’s father (then in Janata Dal) published pamphlets and took the lead in paying tribute to the departed soul. Politics took a back seat and hundreds of people joined the procession. I and Pradeep were part of that.
Decades later, I became a Journalist and Pradeep became one of the top Congress leaders in Odisha. Yes, we still talk about those days and remember Indira, who was once hailed as ‘Maa Durga’ by none other than legendary Atal Bihari Vajpayee soon after the 1971 War.
Pic 2: Belongings of Indira Gandhi, including the blood-stained Saree when she was shot dead.
By Sagar Satapathy