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Gandhi Draws the Line


Time, May 25, 1987

Photo: Rajiv Gandhi

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided last week that he was not going to take it anymore. Frustrated by the failure of the state government in Punjab to check terrorism in the troubled region, Gandhi dismissed the state's chief minister and imposed direct rule by the central government in New Delhi. This is the second time in four years that the federal administration has removed an elected government in Punjab in order to combat Sikh extremists.

The Indian government has been struggling since 1983 to control Punjab's militant Sikhs, who have been waging a violent campaign for an independent homeland. After last year's breakdown of a fragile peace accord between the Sikhs and the government, terrorists stepped up their deadly campaign. Nearly 600 people were killed in 1986, and more than 300 have already been murdered this year.

But that is not the Prime Minister's only problem. Gandhi's party has suffered a string of local-election defeats. Gandhi is hoping the crackdown in Punjab will help his party retain power in next month's state-assembly elections in neighboring Haryana.