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The Two Faces of Indira


Time, Nov. 11, 1985

Photo: Indira Gandhi, Time, cover, November 12, 1984

Two divergent sentiments, grief and joy, were voiced last week as Indians marked the first anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. In New Delhi there was sadness as an estimated 500,000 people gathered, amid tight security, on the sprawling lawns of the New Delhi Boat Club to hear her son and successor, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, compare his mother's 'sacrifices' with those of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who led India's drive for independence from Britain. Wearing a bulletproof vest and standing near an 80-ft.-high picture of his mother, the Prime Minister declared that Indira Gandhi was 'not my mother alone, but the mother of every poor man and woman in this country.' Then he led the crowd in a chant: 'Indira Gandhi is immortal!'

But in Amritsar, Punjab, there was gladness as Sikh militants celebrated Mrs. Gandhi's death. At the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, militants shouted, 'Indira Gandhi deserved to die!' They presented medals and gifts of cash to families of the two gunmen accused of the slaying, one of whom was killed by guards during the attack. The surviving gunman and two conspirators also charged with the murder are now on trial in New Delhi.