Indira regretted Operation Bluestar decision, say aides

Indira regretted Operation Bluestar decision, say aides

Iron lady remembered: She was told that there will be no loss of lives

Indira regretted Operation Bluestar decision, say aides

One of the rare pictures of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with folk dancers during the Republic Day celebrations in 1968, as the nation prepares to observe her 25th death anniversary. PTI

The country’s only woman prime minister, who died on October 31, 1984, equally regretted her another controversial decision—imposition of the Emergency—that had shaken the country, say her close aides.

“Gandhi regretted both decisions on the Operation Blue Star and Emergency. The shape that the two incidents took later was not exactly the same for what Gandhi had taken these decisions,” said R K Dhawan, her personal secretary and close aide. Dhawan said the first six months of the Emergency went “very good” but after that things went out of control and then she “off course regretted” the step.
“In 1973-74, the Opposition parties had created so much of ruckus...they had created all sorts of problems for Gandhi. Then it was thought of that some corrective measure had to be taken,” he said.

According to Dhawan, the decision to impose Emergency was taken way back in January 1975 much before it was actually imposed on June 25, 1975, but it was delayed as it was not decided by then what should be the exact mode of action. The decision was later taken after consultation with legal experts, he said.

Gandhi fell victim to her own Sikh bodyguards — Satwant Singh, Beant Singh and Kehar Singh — who pumped 31 bullets into the 66-year-old charismatic leader. While Beant was killed by securitymen, Kehar and Satwant were later hanged.

M L Fotedar, another close aide of Gandhi, termed the Emergency as a measure taken in compulsion saying, “her opponents created such a situation in the country that she had to impose the Emergency.”
Regarding Operation Blue Star, Dhawan said she was told that no damage would be done to the structure of Golden Temple and there will be no loss of human lives before she had given the nod for the operation.

“She (Gandhi) was told that it (Operation Blue Star) will be a simple operation. No damage will be done to the structure and there would be no loss of human lives. She was told that terrorists would be flushed out of the temple in no time,” he said.

Dhawan admitted that the decision to conduct Operation Bluestar was undoubtedly unfortunate, which was regretted by Gandhi also.

“Though Gandhi was not informed that tanks would be used during the operation, it is true that once the army operation started, it was difficult to stop it,” Dhawan said.

According to Fotedar, “Operation Blue Star was her compulsion. There was no alternative left to stop terrorist and other disruptive activities.”

On the criticism faced by Gandhi after the operation and the anger of the Sikh community, he said: “Gandhi did not want to hurt any community or religion. This was the only option left to her to protect the country from outside forces.”

Senior journalist Kuldeep Nayyar feels the entire exercise was a big mistake. “The answer to terrorist activities cannot be given like this,” he said.

Gandhi’s close aides also remember her for her simplicity and her commitment to the cause of the poor, which led to the Congress slogan of “Garibi Hatao” during the 1971 Lok Sabha elections.

“Simplicity was the name of Indiraji...the way she dressed, her food habits everything was so simple,” recalls Fotedar.

Dhawan appreciated Gandhi for her habit of taking firm decisions saying, “she took her decisions herself and used to stick to it. Though she faced innumerable problems in her personal life, she always thought of the masses.”

Nayyar, however, has a different view. “Politics came into everything after Gandhi’s reign. While taking the wrong decision of the Emergency, she also put a ban on the press and insulted Parliament,” he claimed.

Dhawan, contended that there is no leader worth her stature in the country today.
Fotedar also echoes similar views and refers to her rise in the party from a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 to party president in 1959 as an example of her popularity.