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The Indira Gandhi Era, Indira Gandhi Returns

winning election, Sikh religion, main shrine, Punjab region, Golden Temple

Indira Gandhi returned to power in the 1980 elections with her Congress (I) Party. Shortly thereafter, her son Sanjay was killed when an airplane he was piloting crashed. Gandhi then persuaded her other son, Rajiv Gandhi, to enter politics. Elections in 1980 turned the control of many state legislatures from Janata governments to Congress (I) ones. An exception was in West Bengal, where a Communist Party government continued in power, winning election after election. Despite a revival in India’s economic fortunes in the late 1970s, Indira Gandhi soon faced a political crisis of major proportions. A nationalist movement had emerged among native inhabitants of Assam state against Bengali immigrants, and an extremist Sikh leader was conducting a terrorist campaign to establish a Sikh state in the Punjab region, the historical homeland of the Sikhs.

In June 1984 Gandhi ordered the army to fight its way into the main shrine of the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, where Sikh terrorists had established their headquarters. About 1,000 people, including the main terrorist leaders, died in the battle. All the buildings of the complex, with the exception of the central shrine, were badly damaged. Sikhs everywhere were outraged at the desecration. On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh members of her security guard.

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