Assassination of Indira Gandhi
The spot where Gandhi was shot down is marked by a glass opening in the crystal pathway at the Indira Gandhi Memorial
LocationPrime Minister residence, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi
Date31 October 1984
9:30 a.m.
Attack type
Weapons.38 (9.1 mm) revolver and Sterling submachine gun
VictimIndira Gandhi
AssailantsSatwant Singh and Beant Singh
Memorial at the place of assassination, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated at 9:30 a.m. on 31 October 1984 at her residence in Safdarjung Road, New Delhi. She was killed by her Sikh bodyguards,[1] Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star by Indian Army between 1 and 8 June 1984 on the orders of Gandhi. The military operation was to remove Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple of Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab, the holiest site of Sikhism. The military action resulted in the death of many pilgrims as well as damage to the Akal Takht and the destruction of the Sikh Reference Library.[2]

Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards led to the 1984 Sikh massacres which were instigated by political figures from the Indian National Congress, who orchestrated pogroms against Sikh populations throughout India. Four days of mob violence resulted in the destruction of 40 historic Gurdwaras and other important Sikh holy sites. Official Indian government figures put the death toll at 3,350 while other sources have quoted that between 8,000[3] to 16,000[4] Sikhs were killed.

Operation Blue Star

Operation Blue Star was a large Indian military operation carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984, ordered by Indira Gandhi to remove leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his militant Sikh followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Punjab.[5] This attack killed around 5,000 innocent pilgrims, men, women and children, many of whom were Sikhs, and the Indian Army suffered around 700 deaths with most of 80-200 militants dying as well.[6][7]: 35 [8][9][10] [11][12][13][10]: 151  The Operation also caused serious damage to two of holiest Sikh shrines the Golden Temple and Akal Takht.

The perceived threat to Gandhi's life increased after the operation.[14] Accordingly, Sikhs were removed from her personal bodyguard detail by the Intelligence Bureau for fear of assassination. Gandhi feared that this would reinforce her anti-Sikh image among the public, however, and she ordered the Delhi Police to reinstate her Sikh bodyguards,[15] including Beant Singh, who was reported to be her personal favourite.[16]


At about 9:20 a.m. Indian Standard Time on 31 October 1984, Gandhi was on her way to be interviewed by British actor Peter Ustinov, who was filming a documentary for Irish television. She was accompanied by Constable Narayan Singh, personal security officer Rameshwar Dayal and Gandhi's personal secretary, R. K. Dhawan.[17] She was walking through the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence at No. 1 Safdarjung Road in New Delhi towards the neighboring 1 Akbar Road office.[18] Gandhi was not wearing her bulletproof vest that day, which she had been advised to wear at all times after Operation Blue Star.[19]

Gandhi passed a wicket gate guarded by Constable Satwant and Sub-Inspector Beant Singh, and the two men opened fire.[19] Beant fired three rounds into her abdomen from his .38 (9.7 mm) revolver;[16] then Satwant fired 30 rounds from his Sterling sub-machine gun after she had fallen to the ground.[16] Both men then threw down their weapons and Beant said, "I have done what I had to do. You do what you want to do." In the next six minutes, Border Police officers Tarsem Singh Jamwal and Ram Saran captured and killed Beant, while Satwant was arrested by Gandhi's other bodyguards along with an accomplice trying to escape; he was seriously wounded.[20] Satwant Singh was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for killing Gandhi. He was hanged in 1989, along with accomplice Kehar Singh.[21]

Salma Sultan gave the first news of the assassination of Gandhi on Doordarshan's evening news on 31 October 1984, more than ten hours after she was killed.[22][23] It is alleged by the Indian government that Gandhi's secretary R. K. Dhawan overruled intelligence and security officials who had ordered the removal of policemen as a security threat, including her assassins.[24]

Beant was one of Gandhi's favorite guards, whom she had known for ten years.[16] Because he was a Sikh, he had been taken off her staff after Operation Blue Star; however, Gandhi had made sure that he was reinstated.[25] Satwant was 22 years old at the time of the assassination, and had been assigned to Gandhi's guard just five months previously.[16]

Gandhi's blood-stained saree and her belongings at the time of her assassination, preserved at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum in New Delhi.

Gandhi was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi at 9:30 a.m. Doctors operated on her. She was declared dead at 2:20 p.m. The postmortem examination was conducted by a team of doctors headed by Tirath Das Dogra, who stated that 30 bullets had struck Gandhi from a Sterling sub-machine gun and a revolver. The assailants had fired 33 bullets at her, of which 30 had hit; 23 had passed through her body, while seven remained inside. Dogra extracted bullets to establish the identity of the weapons and to correlate each weapon with the bullets recovered by ballistic examination. The bullets were matched to the weapons at CFSL Delhi.

The Indian government ordered a national mourning from November 1 to November 12 with flags half-masted and canceled entertainment and cultural events and offices closed for several days.[26][27] Pakistan and Vietnam declared three days of mourning.[28][29][30] Bulgaria declared a day of national mourning.[31]


Gandhi's body was taken in a gun carriage through Delhi roads on the morning of 1 November to Teen Murti Bhavan, where her father stayed and where she lay in state.[18] She was cremated with full state honors on 3 November near Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, at an area named Shakti Sthal. Her elder son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi, lit the pyre.

Among the foreign dignitaries who attended the state funeral were:[32]

Country Dignitaries
 Algeria Abdelhamid Brahimi (Prime Minister)
 Australia Ninian Stephen (Governor-General)
Bob Hawke (Prime Minister)
 Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck (King)
 Bulgaria Todor Zhivkov (General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party)
 Canada Brian Dickson (Chief Justice)
Joe Clark (Former Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs)
 China Yao Yilin (Vice-Premier)
 Czechoslovakia Lubomír Štrougal (Prime Minister)
 East Germany Horst Sindermann (President of the People's Chamber)
 Fiji Penaia Ganilau (Governor-General)
Kamisese Mara (Prime Minister)
 France Laurent Fabius (Prime Minister)
 Indonesia Umar Wirahadikusumah (Vice-President)
 Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone (Prime Minister)
 Jordan Prince Hassan bin Talal (Crown Prince)
 Kenya Mwai Kibaki (Vice President)
 Laos Souphanouvong (President)
Kaysone Phomvihane (Prime Minister)
 Liberia Harry Moniba (Vice President)
 Mauritius Anerood Jugnauth (Prime Minister)
 Mongolian People's Republic Tumenbayaryn Ragchaa (First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers)
 Nauru Hammer DeRoburt (President)
 Nepal Lokendra Bahadur Chand (Prime Minister)
 New Zealand David Beattie (Governor-General)
David Lange (Prime Minister)
 North Korea Pak Song-chol (Vice-President)
 Kampuchea Heng Samrin (President of the Council of State)
Chan Sy (Prime Minister)
 Mozambique Samora Machel (President)
 Poland Wojciech Jaruzelski (Prime Minister)
 Philippines Imelda Marcos (First Lady)
 South Korea Chae Mun-shik (Speaker of the National Assembly)
 Soviet Union Nikolai Tikhonov (Chairman of the Council of Ministers)
 SFR Yugoslavia Veselin Đuranović (President)
 Syria Zuhair Masharqa (Vice President)
Farouk al-Sharaa (Foreign Minister)
 Tanzania Julius Nyerere (President)
 Uganda Milton Obote (President)
 United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister)
Princess Anne (Representing Queen Elizabeth II)
 United States George Shultz (Secretary of State)[33][34]
 Vanuatu Ati George Sokomanu (President)
Walter Lini (Prime Minister)
 Vietnam Trường Chinh (President)
Phạm Văn Đồng (Prime Minister)
 Zambia Kenneth Kaunda (President)
 Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (Prime Minister)


Over the next four days, 8,000 Sikhs were killed in retaliatory violence.[35]

The Justice Thakkar Commission of Inquiry, headed by Justice Manharlal Pranlal Thakkar, set up to probe Gandhi's assassination, recommended a separate probe for the conspiracy angle behind the assassination. The Thakkar Report stated that the "needle of suspicion" pointed at R. K. Dhawan for complicity in the conspiracy.[36]

Satwant Singh and alleged conspirator Kehar Singh were sentenced to death. Both were executed on 6 January 1989.[37]

A Punjabi movie titled Kaum De Heere (Gems of the Community) highlighting the roles/lives of the two guards that assassinated Indira Gandhi was set to be released on 22 August 2014, but was banned by the Indian government[38][39] for five years.[40]

See also


  1. ^ "1984: Assassination and revenge". BBC News. 31 October 1984. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2009.
  2. ^ Kiss, Peter A. (2014). Winning Wars amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict (Illustrated ed.). Potomac Books. p. 100. ISBN 9781612347004. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018. In operation Bluestar a force of several battalions occupied the holy precincts in a battle lasting several hours. Bhindranwale and man of his associates were killed – but there was a very large number of civilian casualties as well.
  3. ^ Ali Riaz; Fahmida Zaman; Zobaida Nasreen, eds. (2018). Political Violence in South Asia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781351118200.
  4. ^ Brass, Paul R. (2008). The Politics of India Since Independence (2 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 200. ISBN 9780521459709.
  5. ^ Swami, Praveen (16 January 2014). "RAW chief consulted MI6 in the build-up to Operation Bluestar". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  6. ^ Jugdep S Chima (2008). The Sikh Separatist Insurgency in India: Political Leadership and Ethnonationalist Movements. Sage Publishing India. pp. 114–. ISBN 978-9351509530.
  7. ^ Karim, Afsir (1991). Counter Terrorism, the Pakistan Factor. Lancer Publishers. pp. 33–36. ISBN 978-8170621270.
  8. ^ Ram Narayan Kumar; Amrik Singh; Ashok Agrwaal (2003). Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab : Final Report. South Asia Forum for Human RIghts. p. 36. ISBN 978-9993353577.
  9. ^ Tarkunde, V. M.; Fernandes, George; Rao, Amiya; Ghose, Aurbindo; Bhattacharya, Sunil; Ahuja, Tejinder; Pancholi, N. D. (1985). Oppression in Punjab: A Citizens for Democracy Report to the Nation. New Delhi: Citizens for Human Rights and Civil Liberties. p. 65. ISBN 978-0934839020.
  10. ^ a b Jaijee, Inderjit Singh (1999). Politics of Genocide: Punjab, 1984–1998. Ajanta Publications. ISBN 978-8120204157. OCLC 42752917.
  11. ^ Grewal, J. S. (1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab (The New Cambridge History of India II.3) (Revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 205–241. ISBN 978-1316025338. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  12. ^ Karim 1991, p. 35.
  13. ^ "What happened during 1984 Operation Blue Star?". India Today. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2021. Official reports put the number of deaths among the Indian army at 83 and the number of civilian deaths at 492, though independent estimates ran much higher.
  14. ^ "Operation Blue Star: India's first tryst with militant extremism". 5 November 2016. Archived from the original on 3 November 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  15. ^ Ghose, Sagarika (28 December 2018). "She Handpicked Him, He Shot Her Dead". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d e Smith, William E. (12 November 1984). "Indira Gandhi's assassination sparks a fearful round of sectarian violence". Time. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  17. ^ Dutta, Prabhash K. (31 October 2018). "The last day of Indira Gandhi". India Today.
  18. ^ a b "25 years after Indira Gandhi's assassination". CNN-IBN. 30 October 2009. Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  19. ^ a b "The last walk: Indira Gandhi's last morning as the PM". India Today. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  20. ^ "Questions still surround Gandhi assassination". Times Daily. New Delhi. AP. 24 November 1984. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  21. ^ Dr. Sangat Kr. Singh, The Sikhs in History, p. 393
  22. ^ "The riots that could not be televised". 3 November 2009. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  23. ^ "We the eyeballs : Cover Story – India Today". Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  24. ^ Hazarika, Sanjoy (28 March 1989). "India Releases Stinging Report on Gandhi's Death". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  25. ^ Ghose, Sagarika (28 December 2018). "She Handpicked Him, He Shot Her Dead". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  26. ^ "HT THIS DAY: November 1, 1984 — Prime Minister Indira Gandhi shot dead; 12-day mourning announced". 31 October 2021.
  27. ^ Crossette, Barbara (6 January 1989). "India Hangs Two Sikhs Convicted in Assassination of Indira Gandhi". The New York Times.
  28. ^ Texas Tech University. Vietnam Center (1982). Indochina Chronology. Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California. p. 4. ISSN 0897-4519.
  29. ^ "Indira Gandhi assassinated".
  30. ^ "Assassination Aftermath: Olive Branches from Neighbors; Pakistan Offers to Improve India Ties". The New York Times. 2 November 1984.
  31. ^ Указ No. 3904 от 1 ноември 1984 г. Обн. ДВ. бр. 88 от 6 ноември 1984 г.
  32. ^ "MEA Annual Report 1984-85". Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. 1985. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  33. ^ "Reagan, Others Express Shock, Grief". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. 1 November 1984. p. 14. Secretary of State George P. Shultz was named to head the official US delegation to Gandhi's funeral. Bush, asked why he would not represent the United States there, as he often has at state funerals, said: 'Because I'm involved in an election campaign...I think people will understand.'
  34. ^ Reagan, Ronald (31 October 1984). "Statement on the Assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India". Retrieved 27 October 2022.
  35. ^ Nelson, Dean (30 January 2014). "Delhi to reopen inquiry in to massacre of Sikhs in 1984 riots". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  36. ^ Chawla, Prabhu (15 April 1989). "Thakkar Commission report leak: Govt try to accuse Arun Nehru of being the main culprit". India Today. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  37. ^ Hazarika, Sanjoy (7 January 1989). "Protests Follow Hanging of 2 Sikhs". The New York Times. Vol. 138, no. 47743.
  38. ^ "Centre blocks release of controversial film on Indira Gandhi's assassins 'Kaum de Heere'". The Times of India. Mumbai. Times News Network. 21 August 2014. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Film on Indira Gandhi's assassins barred from release". The Tribune. Chandigarh, India. Press Trust of India. 21 August 2014. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  40. ^ "Delhi HC clears release of Punjabi movie 'Kaum De Heere'". The Tribune. Press Trust India. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 15 September 2021.

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