India may be a relatively young democracy but it has already seen its fair share of political assassinations. Here are the five most sensational and devastating political assassinations in modern India’s history.
Role in Indian politics: Only female Indian Prime Minister to date; held the top office for two terms.
Assassinated on: October 31, 1984
Culprits: Satwant Singh and Beant Singh (official bodyguards)
Dubbed the Iron Lady of India, Indira Gandhi was a force to be reckoned with. Mrs. Gandhi invoked the wrath of Sikh extremists for her role in Operation Blue Star in which many Sikh separatist leaders and militants were killed and the Golden Temple was badly damaged. On October 31, 1984, Mrs. Gandhi was walking in the garden of the Prime Ministerial residence in New Delhi en route to an interview for an Irish documentary when she was shot by her Sikh bodyguards. Satwant sign apparently fired 30 rounds while Beant Singh fired three times.
Role in Indian politics: Youngest Indian Prime Minister, noted for bringing about widespread economic reforms in the country.
Assassinated on: May 21, 1991
Culprit: Thenmozhi Rajaratnam (LTTE operative)
At 10:21 PM on May 21, 1991, Rajeev Gandhi was campaigning for a congress candidate for the Lok Sabha from the Sriperumbudur constituency when a woman approached him and bent down to touch his feet. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam operative had 700gms of RDX tied to her body which she detonated. The blast killed 15 people including Rajeev Gandhi.
Role in Indian politics: Chief Minister of Punjab; crushed pro-Khalistan militants and separatists forcefully.
Assassinated on: August 31, 1995
Culprits: Dilawar Singh Babbar and Balwant Singh Rajoana (Babbar Khalsa International operatives)
Beant Singh was the CM of Punjab during the insurgency in the 1980s and early 1990s and was known to have crushed the Khalistani separatist movement forcefully. On August 31, 1995, Beant Singh and Ranjodh Singh Mann were at the secretariat complex in Chandigarh when they were approached by Babbar Khalsa International’s suicide bomber Dilawar Singh Babbar. The bomb blast killed Beant Singh and 17 others.
Abdul Ghani Lone
Role in Indian politics: Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader; founder of People’s Conference
Assassinated on: May 21, 2002
Culprits: unidentified gunmen
Abdul Ghani Lone had been an active proponent of the restoration of ‘internal autonomy’ in Kashmir and a leading figure in Kashmiri politics since the 1970s. On May 21, 2002, Lone attended a function commemorating Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq’s 12th death anniversary when he was shot dead by two unidentified gunman. His killers were never caught or identified though Lone’s son blamed both Pakistani as well as Indian administrations for facilitating the attack.
Role in Indian politics: former Minister of Industry and Commerce in Chhattisgarh; played a pivotal role in organizing anti-naxal movement called Salwa Judum.
Assassinated on: May 25, 2013
Culprits: Naxalites (Maoists)
Mahendra Karma’s biggest contribution to Chhattisgarh’s politics was the Salwa Judum movement though which he essentially got the tribals of the region to contribute to the anti-naxal movement actively. On May 25, 2013 Karma was traveling back with a number of other political leaders from the region from a political meeting in Sukma when the convoy was attacked by naxalites in the jungle and Karma was assassinated.