INDIA SINCE INDEPENDENCE
Founding the state
In 1947 India became independent. At the same time Partition occurred. This involved the severance of a large part of India which became a new country called Pakistan.
The Prime Minister was Nehru. He led the Congress Party. Congress had the most Members of Parliament. There were several minor parties.
Lord Mountbatten was Governor-General of India until 1948. He then left the country. C Rajagopalachari became Governor-General.
India was struggling with several major problems. The after effects of the Second World War were still being felt. India had to accommodate 7 000 000 refugees. They were Hindus and Sikhs who had fled Pakistan. Many of the refugees arrived ill or wounded after their nightmare journey. The creation of Pakistan had caused enormous dislocation. Two provinces – Bengal and the Punjab – had been cut in half by Partition.
In October 1947 Pakistani tribesmen had attacked Kashmir. Kashmir was a northern princely state. The Maharajah of Kashmir was a playboy called Hari Singh. Lord Mountbatten had tried to persuade him to opt for either India or Pakistan before August 1947. The maharajah had refused. He said that Kashmir would be an independent country. He was a Hindu who ruled a mostly Muslim state. The Kashmiri Army was small and lightly armed. It was easily pushed back by the Pakistanis. Some of the Kashmiri Army were of doubtful loyalty. A few wanted to join Pakistan.
The Pakistanis wanted Kashmir because of its Muslim majority. But not all Muslims wanted to join Pakistan. In Gujarat, Bombay Province, the United Provinces, Kerala and Bihar there were tens of millions of Muslims who stayed put in 1947. They were Indian and did not wish to be Pakistani. They saw no contradiction between being Indian and being Muslim.
The Maharajah appealed to India for military assistance to repel the Pakistani tribesmen. They were advancing on Sriangar the capital of Kashmir. Lord Mountbatten said that India could only send its soldiers if the maharajah signed an instrument of accession – making Kashmir legally part of the new independent India. The maharajah did so.
The Indian Army was airlifted to Srinagar in the nick of time. The tribesmen were repelled. Then the regular Pakistani Army started to fight.
White British officers remained on in the armies of both India and Pakistan for a few years after independence. Therefore there were some Britons on both sides of this conflict. The Pakistani soldiers had all being part of the Indian Army till only two months before!
In January 1948 Gandhi preached reconciliation with Pakistan. The war against Pakistan was still ongoing. He announced a plan to travel to the new nation and work for peace and fraternity. Some Hindu hardliners were outraged by M K Gandhi’s words. They considered this to be aiding the infidel enemy. In January 1948 Gandhi went to Birla House to hold his vesperal prayer meeting. A man went up Gandhi and shot him in the chest. Gandhi exclaimed ”Hey Ram” (”Oh God”) before falling dead.
In 1948 the United Nations brokered a ceasefire. Pakistan had taken control of one-third of Kashmir. The Pakistanis called it ‘Azad Kashmir’ meaning ‘Free Kashmir.’ Delhi insisted that land was under illegal enemy occupation. Two-thirds of Kashmir remained with India. The ceasefire line was called ‘The Line of Actual Control’. That ended the First Indo-Pak War.
The UN said that the whole of Kashmir should be reunited under Indian rule and then a referendum held to determine the future of Kashmir. The Pakistanis said that the referendum should go ahead. India promised to do so but only after the Pakistani occupiers had left. Pakistan refused to budge.
Hyderabad was a large state in South India. The Nizam of Hyderabad was the prince. The Nizam was a Muslim who ruled a 90% Hindu people. He had refused to plump for either India or Pakistan. In 1948 Nehru decided he would simply absorb Hyderabad by force. The Indian Army entered the state. Some of the Hyderabad Army fought against them. The Indian Army quickly won. Hyderabad became part of the new India. Very few Hyderabadis objected. The same thing happened in a tiny state in Gujarat called Junagadh.
The armies of the princely states were integrated into the Indian Army. Some princes became MPs for the Congress Party.
In 1948 the last regiment of the British Army left through the Gateway of India in Bombay (Mumbai). It was the Somerset Light Infantry. A tiny British community remained of businesspeople and plantation owners.
- In which year did India become independent?
- Why did Pakistan claim Kashmir?
- Why was it easy at first for Pakistanis when they invaded Kashmir?
- What did the Maharajah of Kashmir do when his land was invaded?
- Who was the first Governor-General of India?
- What happened in Hyderabad?
- Where did the last British troops leave from?
On 26 January 1950 India proclaimed a republic. It was 20 years to the day that Congress had stated its goal was not to be a dominion but to be a totally independent country. India thereby cut all links with the British monarchy. This is celebrated as Republic Day with huge military parades. The Prime Minister delivers a speech at the Red Fort in Delhi.
That same year the Constitution of India was promulgated. It stated that India is a socialist republic and values equality. Men and women having equality was a major step forward. The constitution was secular. That is to say it did not favour or disfavour any religion. The constitution listed 18 recognised languages. The only principally used as Hindi and English. The provinces were renamed ‘states’. The Constitution spells out the relationship between the ‘Centre’ (i.e. the government in Delhi) and the government of each state. Every state has a chief minister – he or she is the equivalent of the prime minister of the state. The official title of the Prime Minister of India translates into Hindi as ‘husband of the nation.’ But is the nation female? Or is the PM necessarily male? The Constitution abolished the post of Governor-General and replaced it with President of India. He or she is elected by the legislatures of the states.
Dr Ambedkar wrote the Constitution. He was a Harijan – an outcast. He has overcome discrimination to achieve great things.
In the 1950s many language groups demanded a state for itself. The Government of India reorganised the states. However, India has 2 000 languages. It cannot have 2 000 states! The States Reorganisation Act was passed in 1956. States were created for major languages. Some states have several minor official languages.
The princely states were integrated into the states of India. The princes still carried some sway in their former princely states.
The government strove to reduce poverty and to spread literacy. At first progress was slow on both counts. Nehru wanted the country to industrialise.
India tried to have a planned economy. Socialism was supposed to be more equitable. People had to have licences to produce things. However, economic growth was slow. People called this period the licence Raj.
Nehru declared that India was neutral in the Cold War. He set up the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). He regularly met with other leaders of the NAM. He was a good friend of Tito who was President of Yugoslavia and Nasser President who was of Egypt.
India retained fraternal ties with the United Kingdom. The UK was still an important trading partner. Many spare parts for machines were imported from the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Britain was India’s main export market. Over time that importance to India diminished.
Many countries were still colonies. India pushed for decolonisation. Nehru attended the Bandung Anti-Colonial Conference in Indonesia.
Indira Gandhi (daughter of Nehru) rose up the ranks in Congress. She was an MP. She had split from her husband and had more time to devote to politics.
Prime Minister noticed that the wrong sort of people were joining Congress. Until 1947 those who joined were idealistic. They were committed to the party and were willing to suffer for their platitudes. By the 1950s Congress was ruling the party. Being a member of the party was advantageous and people did not have to sacrifice for the party. Some opportunists were joining the party just for personal gain. A few members of the party were betraying the principles of the party by engaging in corruption.
Hindus are divided into castes. Nehru believed that the caste system was nefarious and declared it abolished. However, a few people still believed in it and felt antipathy towards other castes. He set up a system for the ‘scheduled castes’. He was trying to help those who had been discriminated against.
Nehru had always admired the Chinese. China was ruled by the Communist Party. Nehru was not a communist but did not believe that communists were as wicked as Westerners said. In 1962 Nehru was shocked when China attacked India and took some of India’s northern territory. People rounded on Nehru saying he had been naive to trust the Chinese so much.
In 1964 Nehru died. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on the river in his native Allahabad.
- When did Nehru die?
- When did India become a republic?
- What did Nehru think was going wrong with Congress in the 1950s?
- What was the Non Aligned Movement?
A new prime minister took over. His name was Lal Bahadur Shastri (meaning ‘Red Brave Teacher’). Congress was still in charge. Shastri was a veteran of the campaign for independence.
In 1964 another war broke out over Pakistan. India achieved a decisive breakthrough in West Pakistan. Indian tanks approached the outskirts of Lahore – Pakistan’s second biggest city. Pakistan sued for peace and talks were arranged. Some Indians were frustrated because they believe they were on the brink of an outright defeat of Pakistan. Shastri was giving this away! Had the Indian jawans died in vain.
Pakistani and Indian delegations went to Tashkent in the USSR. Tashkent is now the capital of Uzbekistan.
The Soviets mediated the talks. This was called the Second Indo-Pakistani War that was ended.
At Tashkent a peace agreement was reached. Within hours of signing the agreement the Prime Minister of India died! The Soviets never released their autopsy. Shastri’s family suspected he was poisoned. His body was flown to India for his funeral. Who would kill Shastri? The Soviets often poisoned their enemies. Did the USSR want Shastri dead? Or was it Pakistan who killed him? Perhaps an Indian killed him because they disliked him for signing the peace agreement.
Indira Gandhi became prime minister. She was the second woman in the world to become prime minister.
Mrs Gandhi was more sympathetic to the USSR than some others. She remembered the USSR had pressed the British to grant independence to India. The USSR sided with India in every dispute. She was not a communist but believed that communism did some good. In some Indian states the communists won elections to head the state government such as West Bengal and Kerala. She visited Moscow several times. There is an Indian School in Moscow. The USSR provided economic aid. The Indian Armed Forces were also trained by the Soviets and bought Soviet equipment. Despite that India did not become a formal Soviet ally. India was also irked at the USA for helping Pakistan so much since the 1950s.
In the 1960s High Yield Varieties of rice were invented. These helped India’s Green Revolution. Rice yields increased. Famines were a thing of the past. DDT was used a lot to kills pests that ate crops. Poverty started to be reduce more. People had a bit more money to spend on other goods. The government was achieving considerable success in spreading literacy.
Not everyone in Congress was happy with Mrs Gandhi. Some of the veterans of the party felt she was overpromoted. They were disturbed by her authoritarian tendencies and her closeness to the USSR. Some people left Congress and set up their own party called Congress (Organisation). Indira’s party was called Congress (Requisitionist) to distinguish it. It was known as Congress (R) for short. Congress (R) was much bigger than Congress (O).
- Who was India’s second PM?
- When was the Second Indo-Pak War?
- What was the green Revolution?
- What was suspicious about Shastri’s death?
In 1971 many people in East Pakistan were unhappy with West Pakistani dominance. Some in West Pakistan despised the Easterners and called them racial epithets. A cyclone in the Bay of Bengal wreaked devastation in EP. WP reacted with indifference. The Awami League – an exclusively EP party – won Pakistan’s election. EP had a slight majority of the population. The Pakistani president refused to let the Awami League form a government. The official language of Pakistan is Urdu. In EP many people objected since Bengali was the majority language of Pakistan. Urdu was only the native language of a minority in WP and it was the native language of virtually no-one in EP.
Some Biharis had shifted to EP in 1947. For them EP was closer to their old home than WP. They arrived speaking Urdu. As Urdu speakers they were advantaged. This caused resentment in EP. They were seen as carpet baggers. The Biharis were dedicated to the concept of Pakistan. They had lost everything in leaving Bihar.
In 1971 India signed a treaty of friendship with the USSR. Military aid from the Soviets was to prove crucial.
In EP there was a huge insurrection. Some people from EP crossed into India for military training. The Indian Army provided this. Those men from EP who were determined to break their homeland away from Pakistan were called Mukti Bahini (”Freedom Fighters”). Mukti Bahini wanted to renamed EP ‘Bangladesh.’
Discontent in EP was blamed by the Pakistani Government on the Hindu minority who comprised 20% of the people of EP. Pakistan also said it was India’s fault. They said it was the machinations of Hindustan that has stirred up the trouble.They accused the Bangladesh Movement of being traitors. Islamabad said that Bangladeshi nationalism was un-Islamic. Bangladeshi nationalists said they were not hirelings of Delhi.
There were Hindus on the side of Bangladeshi nationalism. They could feel little allegiance to a country which they were not supposed to live in. They were discriminated against by law. Khawja Nazimuddin formerly PM of Pakistan had said their should suffer inequality. And he was from the East.
Most Bangladeshi nationalists were Muslims. They proclaimed their faith. It was a lie to say that they were apostates. Some mullahs issued fatwas to say that anyone who sought independence for EP was in effect a Hindu. As an infidel he could have be slain, have his goods pillaged and womenfolk subjected to ravishment.
The Pakistani Army recruited Razakars ‘volunteers’ in EP. They were Biharis and religious reactionaries. Madrassas sent fanatics to join Al Shams Brigade and Al Badr Brigade. Al Shams (the sun) was used for static duties. Al Badr was a little more skilled and went on many a razzia with the Pakistani Army. These were men with minimal military training. They wanted EP to remain united with WP because of Muslim unity.
The Pakistani Army was made up overwhelmingly of men from WP. The Pakistani Army committed many huge scale atrocities in EP. Tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered. Many women were subjected to indecent crimes. The Pak Army targeted the intelligentsia. They raided Dacca University and slew professors and undergraduates. The aim was to lobotomise EP. In an era when many were illiterate graduates were exalted.
Millions of people fled EP into India. India could barely cope with the flood of refugees. Millions more were displaced within EP as they ran away from the ravages of the Pakistani Army.
The US Government refused to speak out about this despite President Nixon being informed by Americans in EP what was going on. Pakistan was an American ally and Nixon was not about to embarrass the Pakistanis. The US Navy to the Bay of Bengal to hint to India that the United States might help Pakistan if India invaded EP.
Pakistan blamed the whole thing on India for arming the Mukti Bahini. When British and American diplomats asked Pakistani Army officers about the many massacres of civilians committed by the Pakistani Army they met with an odd response. The army officers had no hesitation in acknowledging that they were slaying civilians on a huge scale. But they were puzzled that the British or Americans found this objectionable. ”We are not doing this to your people. War is war” was a typical response.
Some people from EP were in WP. Those thought to be sympathetic to Bangaldeshi nationalism were detained.
The world was aware of the situation. British and American diplomats sent reports to their governments saying that the Pakistani Army was committing numerous large scale massacres in EP.
Finally in December 1971 war broke out between India and Pakistan. India had massed troops on the border. Pakistan bombed India. President V V Giri proclaimed war on Pakistan. Within three weeks. Pakistan was thrashed. Over 100 000 Pakistanis in EP surrendered. That ended the Third Indo-Pakistani War.
The Prisoners of War were so detested by the local people that they might have been killed by the local people if the Indian Army did not hold the locals back. The Indian Army was unsure of its ability to protect the Pakistani Prisoners of War (POWs) so even allowed them to retain their weapons so the POWs could defend themselves from local people. The POWs were eventually taken to India and help in camps without their weapons.
Would East Pakistan come home to India? The calamitous error of 1947 could be corrected at least in the east. Mrs Gandhi said she would not forcibly reintegrate East Pakistan. She would allow its people to determine their own destiny. East Pakistan renamed itself Bangladesh. Bangladesh proclaimed its sovereign independence.
The Commonwealth of Nations welcomed Bangladesh in as a member. The Pakistanis took umbrage at this. Pakistan stormed out in high dudgeon.
- Why were many in East Pakistan unhappy with how they were treated?
- What was the Mukhti Bahini?
- Why did India intervene in East Pakistan?
- What was East Pakistan renamed?
- Why did Pakistan leave the Commonwealth?
Mrs Gandhi triumphant
After this resounding victory over Pakistan the prime minister of India was incredibly popular. She held an election and her slogan was ‘Banish Poverty!‘ Congress won by a landslide. After her victory some people said that Mrs Gandhi was more arrogant than Queen Victoria. Some Congress people were overenthusiastic and said ‘India is Indira’.
In 1972 buoyed up by her election victory Mrs Gandhi abolished privy purses for princely states. The Republic of India would no longer recognise their titles.
Mrs Gandhi’s antipoverty schemes seemed to yield few dividends. Many complained that a lot of officials in her party were taking bribes. More people left Congress (R) in disillusionment. Among them were some luminaries of the anti-colonial struggle.
India began working on nuclear weapons. Several other countries had them. This would be the ultimate guarantor of Indian security. Some people objected to this. It was a colossal waste of money especially when many lived in penury.
Mrs Gandhi’s younger son Sanjay was invovled in politics. His campaign to limit the number of births was unpopular. Sanjay also demolished some slum areas to rebuild better housing. But in some cases the better housing was never constructed.
The PM’s elder son Rajiv had dropped out of Cambridge. He became a pilot for Air India. Finally he too went into politics. His wife Sonia was upset by that.
A Muslim was elected president. Congress was pleased because this proved that India did not discriminate against minority religions.
In 1974 oil prices quadrupled. This hit India very badly. There was widespread suffering. Not many people had cars but trucks were used to transport food and other goods. As truck and ship transport become much costlier so did food and everything else. A minority of people had electricity in 1970s. The electricity mostly came from burning oil. Electricity became a lost more expensive. This hit factories and other places that needed it.
Then a court ruled that Mrs Gandhi had used electricity without paying for it as part of her 1972 election campaign. She was removed as an MP. But she remained as Prime Minister?
- Why did Congress win in 1972?
- What happened to Sanjay Gandhi?
- What happened with oil in 1974?
- What happened to Mrs Gandhi in 1974?
State of emergency
Mrs Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1975. The Supreme Court backed her up on this point. Habeas corpus was suspended. Censorship was introduced in the press.
Opposition politicians spoke out. They said that Mrs Gandhi was creating a dictatorship. They said her rule was worse than that of the British. Non-Congress politicians called upon the army and police to refuse to obey orders from Mrs Gandhi. The opposition said that Mrs Gandhi was an illegal prime minister. Opposition politicians were arrested and imprisoned without trial. Some people in Congress were deeply unhappy with the way that Mrs Gandhi was governing the country. A few people resigned from Congress and joined minor parties.
Foreign commentators said that democracy had been nice while it lasted in India. But it seemed that India was becoming a dictatorship like almost every other country in Asia.
In 1977 it was time for another election. Many expected that Mrs Gandhi would cancel it and seek to extend her state of emergency. To almost universal surprise she did neither of these things. The elections took place on schedule.
A coalition of opposition parties had been cobbled together. It was called Janata Dal. Its slogan was ‘Banish Indira’. In 1977 Janata Dal won and formed a government. Moraji Desai became Prime Minister. Indira lost her seat.
The parties that formed Janata Dal soon started quarreling with each other. Some parties withdrew from Janata Dal. Moraji Desai knew he could no longer govern. He was obliged to call another election.
- What happened with the state of emergency? Five marks.
- Who won the 1977 elections?
- Who became PM in 1977?
- What went wrong with Janata Dal?
Indira is back
In 1980 Congress led by Indira Gandhi won again. Mrs Gandhi was back as Prime Minister.
Then Indira’s son Sanjay was killed in an air crash. She was distraught. Her other son Rajiv was less politically ambitious than his brother. Nonetheless he became seen as his mother’s heir.
The Muslims of the Subcontinent got a country. The Hindus were 80% of India’s people so some said that the Hindus got a country. Some Sikhs said ‘what about us?’ Should they not have a country? Only 2% of the Indian people are Sikhs. The Sikhs live overwhelmingly in Punjab. Some Sikhs said they were discriminated against.
In the late 1970s a small scale insurrection began in Punjab. The Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) was the insurrectionist organisation. The KLF aimed to create an independent Sikh country called Khalistan which means ‘Land of the Pure’ in the Punjabi language. Oddly ‘Land of the Pure’ is the same meaning as Pakistan. The KLF was proclaimed illegal as a terrorist organisation. The Indian Army did battle against the KLF. 20% of Indian soldiers were Sikhs. This was problematic because some of them had divided loyalties.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was the doyen of the KLF. This swivel eyed loon murdered Sikhs of other denominations.
Mrs Gandhi insisted that Sikhs were not mistreated. She noted that the President of India Zail Singh was a Sikh.
Pakistan saw a golden opportunity. The loss of East Pakistan suppurated with them. As Islamabad saw it India had caused Pakistan to lose its eastern wing. Pakistan said now it would be payback time. Therefore Pakistan armed, trained and funded the KLF also providing the KLF with a safe haven.
Pakistani support for the KLF was bitterly ironic. There had been very bad blood between Sikhs and Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs had been killed in the Partition of India. They had seen the vivisection of their historic heartland.
In the 1980s the KLF rebellion became very serious. The Indian Army had difficulty containing it in the Punjab.
In 1984 the KLF led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is Sikhism’s holy of holies. The army was in a bind. The KLF had hundreds of combatants armed to the teeth in the Golden Temple. This could not be tolerated. On the other hand the army was reluctant to fight them there. If the army fought there the KLF said that the Indian Army had desecrated the holiest site in Sikhism. That was the KLF’s plan. It was a win-win situation for them.
Since the British Raj the Government of India tread carefully on religious matters. The military and police did not go into places of worship in uniform. A place of worship provides its own security.
The army surrounded the Golden Temple and asked the KLF to surrender. The KLF gave their answer from the barrels of their guns. A battle broke out. The fight raged from 1 June to 8 June. There were hundreds of pilgrims inside the Golden Temple. Were they there willingly or as hostages. The army asked that they leave. They did not.
The Indian Army sought British advice about how to assault the Golden Temple. This is surprising since the Indian Army was perfectly capable of doing this would outside guidance.
The army took the Golden Temple by storm. It was a battle royal. Hundreds of KLF combatants were killed. The buildings were damaged. Bhindranwale was shot dead.
Sikhs around the world were incensed that there had been fighting in the Golden Temple. Few of them blamed the KLF for turning it into an armed camp.
The celebrated Sikh writer Khushwant Singh returned the medal granted to him by the Government of India. He said that he did this in protest at the attack on the Golden Temple. He likened it to Jallianwala Bagh which had occurred not a stone’s throw from the Hari Mandir.
Mrs Gandhi had some Sikh bodyguards. Some of her advisers told her not to because these men could not be trusted. The prime minister chided these people for their wicked suspicion. She insisted that she trusted her life to these Sikhs. In October 1984 two Sikh soldiers decided they would exact vengeance for the Golden Temple Battle. They shot Mrs Gandhi dead.
One of Mrs Gandhi’s assailants was shot dead by a loyal solider. The other was wounded and arrested. The wounded man was later put on trial for murder. He was found guilty and hanged.
Within hours of Mrs Gandhi’s slaying her son Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister. He immediately called an election. Congress won by a mile.
- When did Indira become PM again?
- Who was her second son?
- What did the KLF want?
- Why did Pakistan back the KLF?
- What happened at the Golden Temple in 1984?
- Why was Mrs Gandhi shot?
Some people had been infuriated by the murder of Mrs Gandhi. Unfortunately, a few Hindus blamed Sikhs in general. At least a few hundred Sikhs were killed in reprisal despite Rajiv Gandhi pleading with people not to.
The KLF was soon crushed. Very few Sikhs now want the Sikh area to breakaway from India.
Relations with Pakistan improved. Pakistan and India even co-hosted the cricket world cup.
Rajiv saw that the licence Raj was a bad thing. He started to introduce free market reforms. Too much government control had stalled the economy.
Despite moving away from socialism India maintained cordial ties with the Soviet Union. Rajiv Gandhi visited the USSR. India approved of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
By the late 1980s there were numerous corruption scandals in Congress. Some members of the party accepted bribes to make unfair decisions. There was a large scandal about the purchase of Bofors guns from Sweden for the Indian Army. Some members of Congress were disillusioned and left to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It means ‘Indian People’s Party’. They made a point of being especially Indian by not using an English word like Congress did for their name.
There was a conflict in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. India sympathised with the Tamil minority there many of whom wanted an independent country. Those who fought for this called themselves the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Eelam was their proposed name for a new homeland. For short they were Tamil Tigers. There are many more Tamils in India than in Sri Lanka. In the State of Tamil Nadu there are tens of millions of Tamils. India was tempted to intervene in the Sri Lanka Civil War.
An agreement was reached with Sri Lanka. The Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) would go to Sri Lanka to disarm the Tamil rebels. IPKF would separate the Tamils from the Sri Lankan Army.
The IPKF started clashing with the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers refused to disarm. The IPKF said that if the Tigers did not voluntarily hand over their weapons then the IPKF would take them by force. A conflict started anew. India found itself mired in Sri Lanka. IPKF was not keeping the peace? Eventually IPKF withdrew. The conflict in Sri Lanka resumed. Many Indians blamed the PM for this disaster.
In 1989 a conflict in Afghanistan started to end. Many Islamic fundamentalists had been fighting in Afghanistan. They were buoyed up by their victory over the Soviets. Some of them were Pakistani. Some of them moved to attack the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a conflict which rumbles on to this day.
Various terrorist groups attacked the Indian Army in Kashmir. These were Hizb-ul- Tahrir (Party of Liberation), the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Force and Lakshar e Taiba. They were armed, trained, sheltered and funded by Pakistan. The Pakistani Army even crossed the Line of Control. In the high mountains not many soldiers could be supplied. The fighting between India and Pakistan remained small scale.
Hindu civilians were killed by terrorists in Kashmir. That was because Hindus would always want to be part of India. Many of them fled to other Indian states. Moderate Muslims were also slain if the fundamentalists suspected them of wishing to stay with India.
In 1989 there was an election. Congress was bested. A new government was sworn in under V P Singh. Rajiv Gandhi remained leader of his party. V P Singh led a fissile coalition. Just like in the 70s Congress believed that its opponents would soon start to squabble. Before long that happened. The government fell.
In 1991 another election was called. Rajiv campaigned zealously. The wind was in his sails. He looked set to be swept to victory. The that May a suicide bomber killed Rajiv and 50 other bystanders. It was a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber. Some of those involved in the conspiracy were caught and later hanged.
P V Narasimha Rao became the leader of Congress. He led the party to a smashing victory. There had been a huge wave of sympathy behind Congress.
- What does BJP mean?
- What did Rajiv achieve?
- What went wrong with the IPKF? Five marks
- What happened in Kashmir from 1989 onwards? Five marks.
- Who killed Rajiv Gandhi?
Congress is back
Rajiv Gandhi’s son Rahul was studying at Harvard. He was granted an Italian passport under an assumed name. He was Italian on his mother’s side so entitled to Italian citizenship. The false name was to protect him from assassins.
The Indian economy started to grow rapidly in the 1990s. The government’s poverty reductions paid off. Cars were becoming affordable for middle class people. State governments subsidised basic foodstuffs like rice and vegetables. This allowed people a disposable income for consumer goods.
The Rashtriya Swamesevak Sangh (‘National Volunteer Union’) is a Hindu organisation that dates back to the British Raj. The RSS had pushed for India to become an explicitly Hindu country. Pakistan is officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Why should India not officially be Hindu Republic of India?
The RSS was concerned about former Hindu temples. The Mughal Empire had ruled India from 1527 into the late 18th century when they were superseded by the British. The Mughals were Urdu speaking Muslims. Some of the Mughal emperors had been viciously anti-Hindu. Aurangzeb was an emperor who was especially oppressive to Hindus. He had seized many Hindu temples. They were either razed to the ground or else rebuilt as mosques.
Some of the RSS joined the BJP. A very prominent figure in the BJP was Lal Krishnan Advani. Advani had good reason to be a Hindu nationalist. He was born in Karachi. At the Partition of India the Advani family had fled for their lives. The BJP did not endorse all of the RSS’s agenda but was undoubtedly influenced by it. The RSS argued that the former Hindu temples that had been turned into mosques centuries before should be confiscated without compensation and returned to the Hindu community.
Ayodhya is a particularly sacred spot to Hindus. Emperor Babur had sequestered the temple and demolished it. He was the first Mughal emperor. A mosque had been built in room of the Hindu place of prayer. The mosque is called Babri Masjid. This really rubbed the Hindu nose in degradation. The RSS agitated for the site to be returned to the Hindu majority. Thousands of RSS activists camped out outside the mosque. Many gathered materials to be used for the new temple: bricks and concrete. Feeling was running very high across India. The police had to surround the mosque to protect it. Most of the police officers were Hindus. They were in Uttar Pradesh – one of the most Hindu states. The Hindu police officers were insulted and called betrayers of their faith. It stretched their loyalty to defend the mosque. Some of the officers will have wondered if they were wrong to be protecting Babri Masjid.
Many Hindus argued that the site had been stolen from them and ought to be returned. That location was unimportant to Muslims. But it was extremely important to Hindus. Muslims had thousands of other mosques. They could rebuild the mosque elsewhere. Hindus said that under Muslim rule the Hindu nose had been rubbed into the dirt. Was it not time for Hindus to rise in dignity? Some scorned Nehruvian secularism as dishonouring Hinduism.
In 1992 a group of RSS and other hardline Hindu activists burst into the Babri Masjid. The mosque was demolished by them. They were jubilant. The police managed to regain control of the mosque area and arrest those who had destroyed it. Therefore the RSS and other kindred organisations were unable to build their temple.
There were riots across India after the destruction of Babri Masjid. Many Muslims were irate that their place of worship had been demolished. The Kashmir Conflict was heating up. This inflamed communal tensions further. The RSS accused the Muslims of being fifth columnists.
Pakistan gleefully exploited the controversy. The Pakistanis said that the Ayodhya dispute proved that India was anti-Muslim. This justified the creation of Pakistan so they said. In reprisal 30 Hindu temples in Pakistan were attacked. Pakistan’s tiny Hindu community felt very beleaguered. In other Muslims lands Hindus suffered a backlash.
Most Muslims voted for Congress. Virtually no Muslims voted for the BJP.
In 1993 several bombs exploded in Bombay in one day. Hundreds of people were killed. The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility. They said they had set off the bombs in reprisal for the demolition of Babri Masjid. Some Bombay gangsters liked Dawood Ibrahim were believed to have been involved. Ibrahim later turned up in Pakistan. He runs a criminal syndicate called D Company.
- Why was Rahul given a false name?
- What does the RSS believe in?
- Why did some Hindus want Babri Masjid demolished? Five marks
- What happened regarding Babri Masjid? Five marks.