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The Sikhs' vengeance.

Indira Gandhi, a commanding figure on the international stage for more than two decades, was an authentic leader of the Third World movement for political self-determination and economic development. she came to dominate Indian life at a time of excruciating transition and turmoil. The optimism of a victorious independence struggle had given way to the difficulties of building an integrated, democratic and just society. Despite serious mistakes and authoritarian lapses, she kept the country on the parliamentary path laid out by her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, and she maintained the commitment of her party, the Indian National Congress, to a progressive and equitable order.

But she was also stubborn, imperious and insensitive, and no policy in her long administration was as misguided as the one that sought to suppress, sometimes by force, the deeply felt demands of the Sikhs for autonomy in Punjab. She may have been right in projecting the goal of an integrated India, where the hundreds of religious, linguistic, racial and ethnic communities could live in harmony. But she was wrong to insist that the disparate elements of the subcontinent be brought under federal control. The bad policy grew out of bad history: those who have disappointed the people's hopes for autonomy in the region have always come to grief. Gen. Reginald Dyer was censured by a British government acting under intense popular pressure after the 1919 Amritsar massacre in Punjab. Pakistan's President Zulfikar ali Bhutto was executed after he fought to prevent the Bengalis of East Pakistan from seceding.

There is no visible successor who approaches Gandhi's ability to hold democratic India together. Another hard transition, and worse turmoil, is surely upon the country, and real dangers for world peace may be in the making.

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Title Annotation:assassination of Indira Gandhi
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 10, 1984
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