Thu, Jun 29, 2017 | updated 09:34 AM IST

Why All India Radio could not announce the death of Indira Gandhi till six in the evening

Updated: Oct 31, 2016 14:59 IST      
Why All India Radio could not announce the death of Indira Gandhi till six in the evening
By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi [India], Oct.31 (ANI): The events of October 31 1984 are still vivid in my memory. I was the head of the News Services Division of the All India Radio. As was my usual practice, I had just returned home after a visit to the newsroom to have a look at the morning 8 A.M. series of bulletins. I had just finished my breakfast, when the RAX telephone rang. At the other end was Sharada Prasad, the Information Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Sharada Prasad told me: "Ramamohan, the Prime Minister has been shot by her security guards. The injury is serious and she has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). For further information you will have to be in touch with the doctors."

I soon rushed to the newsroom of the All India Radio and deployed reporters at the AIIMS and at the official residence of the Prime Minister at 1, Safdarjang Road.

In our bulletins, we stated that the Prime Minister has been shot at by security guards at her residence, the injury is serious and she has been shifted to the AIIMS. Sharada Prasad updated me saying that the doctors are trying to save her.

In the newsroom, we were aware that the injuries suffered by Indira Gandhi were fatal and there was little chance of her survival.

Being a public broadcaster, the All India Radio had to get the information confirmed by the government. Unfortunately, on that day, the President was out of the country, the Home Minister, the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary were out of Delhi. The Prime Minister's son, Rajiv Gandhi, was away in Calcutta.

In a parliamentary democracy, the government automatically stands dissolved with the death of a Prime Minister

Looking back at the precedents, when the Prime Minister died, an interim Prime Minister was sworn in. Gulzarilal Nanda acted as Prime Minister on two occasions. There was speculation that someone may be sworn in till a regular Prime Minister was elected.

Very soon, foreign broadcasting stations like the BBC were announcing that Indira Gandhi had been shot dead by her security guards in her house, but we in the All India Radio had to wait. I was told that in case of the death of the King of England, the news was not given out until the successor Prince, who was on a tour in South Africa, was informed.

Meanwhile, All India Radio cancelled all of its programmes and was broadcasting devotional music

I was told that the President, who was on a foreign tour, was on his way back, and that Rajiv Gandhi was returning from Calcutta (now Kolkata) President Zail Singh went straight to the hospital after landing in Delhi, and so did Rajiv Gandhi.

The All India Radio staff stationed at the AIIMS said that confabulations were going on and it was likely that there would not be an interim Prime Minister, and Rajiv Gandhi would be sworn in as the next Prime Minister of the country. But no one would confirm the information.

I went to the Vice President R. Venkataraman to seek his advice. I had known him closely when he was the Defence Minister and I was the spokesman for the Ministry and the armed forces. He told me that he would cross check the information. Soon he told me that Rajiv Gandhi would be sworn in at six in the evening. He also decided to come to the newsroom himself. He himself announced in our 6 p.m. bulletin that Rajiv Gandhi has been sworn in as the Prime Minister following the death of Indira Gandhi.

Following reports that some persons had distributed sweets near the AIIMS after hearing of the death of Indira Gandhi, violence broke out in the area. My house was in West Kidwai Nagar, next to the AIIMS Safdarjang Hospital complex, and I told my family not to move out.

Incidentally, in the All India Radio News Services Division we had a canteen. Following reports from our correspondents that there was tension in the city, I authorized the purchase of enough rations for nearly a week. Our canteen fed staff of the All India Radio for the next three days.

Among the unsung heroes of the critical days that followed, were the All India Radio and Doordarshan correspondents, news readers and staff car drivers. They stayed in the office for three days to ensure uninterrupted service. Two engineers of the All India Radio were pulled out of their vehicles and set on fire. I remember virtually quarantining the Station Director of the All India Radio, M.S. Batra, for a night.

For three days there was uncontrolled violence in parts of Delhi. The army had to be called to restore normalcy.

One of the first steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi after he was sworn in as Prime Minister was to address the grievances of Sikhs, and he signed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord. But the controversy regarding the violence that followed the death of Indira Gandhi has not yet died down.

The Government of India soon promulgated rules regarding the announcement of the death of senior ministers. And I as Principal Information Officer of the Government of India, had the misfortune to announce the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India and can be reached on his e-mail:raoramamohan@hotmail.com (ANI)

Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) [India], June 29 (ANI): Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday awarded ace Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth Rs. 50 lakh and a 1000 square yard plot in Amaravati region.

Full Story >>

UP: Five dead, three injured after truck rams car in Fatehpur

Updated: Jun 29, 2017 09:23 IST     

Fatehpur (Uttar Pradesh) [India], June 29 (ANI): As many as five people were killled and three got injured after a speeding truck hit a car in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

Full Story >>

Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], June 29 (ANI): The Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked and indiscriminate firing of small arms, automatics and mortars in the wee hours of Thursday in the Poonch Sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Full Story >>

Baltal (Jammu and Kashmir), June 29 (ANI): First batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims left from Sonamrg's Baltal camping ground and Pahalgam in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday for this years' pilgrimage.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], June. 29 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Israel next week is expected to meet Moshe, survivor of 2008 Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attack.

Full Story >>

Mumbai: Husband stabs wife, hangs self

Updated: Jun 29, 2017 07:40 IST     

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], June 29 (ANI): A 46-year-old man stabbed his wife to death and then committed suicide by hanging self to a fan at his residence in a housing society in Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], June 29 (ANI): After Sonia Gandhi stated that the Presidential election was a fight of "ideology, principle and truth" for the grand old party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday remarked that the Congress national president had forgotten about her promises of supporting the Dalits after Ram Nath Kovind's name was announced as the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) Presidential nominee.

Full Story >>

China's foray into tiny Bhutan threatening Himalayan peace

Updated: Jun 29, 2017 07:28 IST     

Gangtok (Sikkim) [India], June 29 (ANI): Unilateral actions to alter status quo in Doklam Plateau in tiny, helpless Bhutan has escalated tensions between China and its neighbours.

Full Story >>

New Delhi/ Ludhiana (Punjab) [India], June 29 (ANI): After the Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan alleged that the Indian Army "misbehave" with the people in the Kashmir Valley, defence experts on Thursday slammed the former stating that ministers, who lack knowledge or who go by 'jingoism', make such remarks.

Full Story >>

New Delhi/Bengaluru [India], June 29 (ANI): Following a controversial remark by Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan accusing the Indian Army for misbehaving with the people in the Kashmir Valley, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday wondered and questioned whether the former was serving his own party or Salahuddin, who has been recently branded as a "global terrorist."

Full Story >>

New Delhi/ Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], June 29 (ANI): After Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan accused Indian Army for misbehaving with the people in the Kashmir Valley, the Congress on Thursday slammed the former asserting that strict action should be taken so that such derogatory remarks would never be made again.

Full Story >>

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], June 29 (ANI): Amidst the ongoing protests in the hills, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday categorically stated that Darjeeling is and will remain an inseparable part of West Bengal and if the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has any other demand that can be discussed, then they are welcomed to come forward.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], June 29 (ANI): The Supreme Court will today continue the hearing on the plea filed by a Kolkata-based woman, Sharmishta Chakraborty, seeking its direction to terminate her 23-week old pregnancy.

Full Story >>

First batch of Amarnath pilgrims reach Baltal camp

Updated: Jun 28, 2017 23:31 IST     

Baltal (Jammu and Kashmir) [India] June 28 (ANI): The first batch of Amarnath pilgrims reached Baltal base camp in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], June 28 (ANI): Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday said that he welcomes NITI Ayog's suggestion of splitting seven units of state-controlled Coal India Ltd into independent companies to make it more competitive, however, added that no such proposal has been made.

Full Story >>

Lucknow [India], June. 28 (ANI): Ahead of the implementation of the Goods & Service Tax (GST) reform, the Uttar Pradesh Government is making all efforts to solve the problems faced by the trading circles for which it held a meeting with the traders on Wednesday.

Full Story >>

Army Chief to visit Sikkim tomorrow amid Chinese aggression

Updated: Jun 28, 2017 22:27 IST     

New Delhi [India] June 28 (ANI): Army Chief General Bipin Rawat will start his two-day northeast visit from Sikkim on Thursday.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], June 28 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of 31- year-old Sonu Sardar to life imprisonment.

Full Story >>

Trinamool to boycott GST rollout in Parliament

Updated: Jun 28, 2017 22:17 IST     

New Delhi [India] June 28 (ANI): The Trinamool Congress (TMC) party led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced to boycott the special sitting of Parliament on the midnight of June 30 to rollout the Goods and Services Tax (GST) where President Pranab Mukherjee will also be present along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Full Story >>

Mandsaur (Madhya Pradesh), June 28 (ANI): One more farmer in volatile region of Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday committed suicide, taking the number of deaths in the state in past 18 days to 36.

Full Story >>