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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 1984
Indira Gandhi assassinated
By PAUL WEDEL
NEW DELHI, Oct. 31, 1984 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated outside her home today in a volley of gunfire by Sikh members of her own security force. Other bodyguards shot one assassin to death and wounded the second.
Her son, Rajiv, was sworn in as India's sixth prime minister shortly after news of his mother's death was announced to the nation. She will be buried Saturday after her body lies in state for two days.
The 66-year-old leader of the world's largest democracy of 720 million was cut down in a burst of gunfire as she walked from her residence to meet British actor Peter Ustinov.
One Sikh guard opened fire with a revolver and ''she stumbled and fell,'' said Sharda Prasad, Gandhi's press secretary. The second guard, he said, emptied his submachine gun into her body.
The prime minister, a Hindu, had been under heavy security in recent weeks because of assassination threats from Sikhs angered by an army attack on the Golden Temple at Amristsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion.
In Calcutta and New Delhi, Hindus fought Sikhs in scattered violence in which a Sikh temple was attacked and several vehicles and shops set on fire. Sikh religious leaders appealed for calm.
Prasad said one of the assassins was shot to death by other security guards but he denied earlier police reports that the second died of wounds. He said he was wounded and ''out of danger'' at a hospital.
Police earlier identified one assassin as Satwant Singh, 40, of the Home Ministry security force who was shot and killed by other security guards. They said the other attacker, Bains Singh, 26, of the Delhi Armed Police Constabulary, was wounded.
Both men were members of the Sikh religion -- one wearing the traditional Sikh beard and one clean-shaven.
A doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where she was taken, said Gandhi was riddled with at least 10 bullets.
''All resuscitatory measures were taken by senior surgeons and despite their best efforts, she could not be saved,'' said Dr. M.S. Safaya, who headed a team of 12 surgeons.
She was pronounced dead six hours after the shooting but the government radio waited nearly eight hours to announce her death.
''It is all over,'' government spokesman U.C. Tiwari told United Press International.
President Zail Singh, ceremonial head of government and himself a Sikh, administered the oath of office to Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister's only surviving son.
Rajiv, 40, who had flown in from Calcutta, was appointed as general secretary of the ruling Congress-I Party two years ago and was being groomed as a successor to his mother. He was an airline pilot and only entered politics at the urging of his mother in l980 following the death of his brother Sanjay in an air crash.
He is the third member of his family to become leader of India, following his mother and grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The government announced the funeral for Gandhi will be held Saturday afternoon. Her body will lie in state from Thursday morning at Teen Murthi House, official residence of her late father.
In Washington, President Reagan, who was awakened at 3 a.m. to be told of the killing, expressed his ''shock, revulsion, and grief'' saying the assassination ''serves as a vivid reminder of the terrorist threat we all confront.''
Pentagon sources said there were no signs of troop movements along the sensitive India-Pakistan border, where the two nations have fought three wars since 1948.
Pakistan's military President Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq sent condolences praising Gandhi's contribution to normalization of relations between the two countries and announcing a three-day official mourning for Gandhi.
Police and paramilitary forces were put on special alert as angry mobs in Calcutta stoned a Sikh temple in reaction to the assassination. Sikhs are an offshoot of mainstream Hinduism -- the predominant religion in India.
Police swinging heavy bamboo clubs broke up the crowds, the Press Trust said. Two buses were set afire by the mobs and one man was hospitalized with stab wounds, it said.
In the capital, crowds of students chased Sikhs and set fire to motorbikes and cars in southern New Delhi.
The assassination came as India prepared for parliamentary elections, which must be held by the third week in January. There had been indications that the opposition was gaining support in its bid to crack Gandhi's ruling Congress Party's hold on power.
A spokesman for the World Sikh Organization in Southern California announced: ''We are ecstatic!''
''Justice has been done by God's grace by the shooting down of Indira Gandhi. She was India's Hitler,'' spokesman Amrig Singh said.
In Amritsar in northern India, the five Sikh high priests condemned the killing and appealed to all Indians ''to maintain communal harmony.''
Gandhi had been the object of threats by radical Sikhs, who blamed her for ordering June's army attack on the Golden Temple, which killed at least 600 people. It was an attempt to halt a separatist terror campaign by Sikh militants holed up in the temple but it sparked outrage among even moderate Sikhs.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International.