Assassination of famous political leaders has always been prompted by some religious, political, ideological or military reasons but the end result is that we lose a person, a public figure whom we admire, respect or love to hate. In Indian history, we have come across many political personalities who have met their deaths not naturally due to age or illness but have been assassinated.
Below is a list of famous political leaders who were assassinated:
1. Mahatma Gandhi
• Year: 1948
• Place: New Delhi
• Assassin: Nathuram Godse
• Reason: Division between India and Pakistan
Let’s start with the ‘Father of the Nation’ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948. Strange but true, this great man whom everyone loved and admired was assassinated. Known to be an Indian political activist, a prominent leader of the Indian National Movement against the British and a spiritual leader who advocated peace and non-violence all throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a university student turned activist Nathuram Godse in New Delhi. He was killed while he was about to address a prayer meeting. Nathuram Godse was a Hindu nationalist associated with the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, which considered Gandhi responsible for making India weak by dividing the country into India and Pakistan.
His death was a tremendous blow to the entire world. He was the voice of non-violence in this increasingly violent world, a messiah of the poor, a powerful personality who could have changed the face of India after independence and it was unfortunate that he had to meet his death this way.
Related Link: Nathuram Godse And The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
2. Indira Gandhi
• Place: New Delhi
• Assassin: Two personal bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh
• Reason: To take revenge of the Operation Blue Star
Her full name is Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi; we know her as Indira Gandhi. She was the daughter of Jawarharlal Nehru and the first woman prime minister of our country. She was known as the only prime minister who served for four terms during the years 1966–77 and 1980-84. She was the second female head of government in the world and the world’s second longest serving female Prime Minister. During her tenure as a prime minister, she served the interests of the people of the country whole heartedly by her extraordinary way of governance.
The year was 1984. On the morning of 31 October, this great lady was shot at her residence at No. 1, Safdarjung Road in New Delhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards, few months after Operation Blue Star. This was a military operation ordered by Indira Gandhi to obtain control over Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar. The operation carried out by the Indian army created anger among the Sikh community. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards to take revenge of the operation. After shooting her, the guards threw their guns. While Beant Singh was immediately killed by the soldiers on duty on the spot, Satwant Singh was hanged to death in 1989.
3. Rajiv Gandhi
• Year: 1991
• Place: Sriperumbudur, near Chennai
• Assassin: A suicide bomber Thenmozhi Rajaratnam
• Reason: To take revenge for sending the Indian Army to fight the LTTE militants
Rajiv Gandhi was the eldest son of Indira Gandhi and the seventh prime minister of India. He took charge as the PM immediately after the assassination of his mother. He was forced to join politics by Indira Gandhi, after his brother Sanjay Gandhi died. His joining politics was not by choice but by chance. He was also an efficient leader like his mother. He supported science and technology development in the country, focussed on improving relations with Soviet Union, implemented a number of higher educational programmes in the country, initiated programmes for the betterment of the rural people and so on.
He was assassinated on 21 May 1991 by a suicide bomber Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu, in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai. She was a member of the terrorist group of Sri Lanka, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had planned and executed the attack. The motive behind the attack was to take revenge for sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to fight LTTE militants in Sri Lanka. On that fateful day, Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in Sriperumbudur and many followers and well-wishers approached him. Dhanualso came towards him as a well-wisher and bent down to touch his feet. Immediately she exploded an RDX-laden belt. Along with Rajiv Gandhi, there were 14 others who were also killed in the bomb blast. His assassination was a great shock to the people of India.
4. Phoolan Devi
• Year: 2001
• Place: Delhi
• Assassin: Sher Singh Rana
• Reason: To take revenge for the Behmai massacre
She was a well-known dacoit turned politician, who had killed 22 Thakurs in the infamous Behmai massacare. These were the very Thakurs who had stripped and raped her in front of the entire village when she was a young girl, the aftermath of which forced her to resort to robbery. But after the massacre, she surrendered and served a jail term of 11 years. Later, she joined politics and became an active member of the Samajwadi Party. She contested election in 1996 for the 11th Lok Sabha election and won from Mirzapur constituency.
The year was 2001. On June 25 she was killed outside her official bungalow. She was a sitting member of the Parliament at that time. There were three gunman who fired at her. She received five bullets and died immediately. The main accused behind the attack was Sher Singh Rana, who later surrendered. According to him, Phoolan’s assassination took place to take revenge for the Behmai massacre.
5. Pramod Vyankatesh Mahajan
• Year: 2006
• Place: Mumbai
• Assassin: His brother Pravin Mahajan
• Reason: Family conflict
Pramod Mahajan was one of the most popular second generation leaders of the BJP. He was the general secretary of the party, a member of the Rajya Sabha and also won the Lok Sabha elections. Pramod Mahajan belonged to a group of young leaders who would have brought a change in the India political scenario by adopting modern ways of thinking. He was quite popular in his home state of Maharashtra.
The year was 2006. On 22 April, he was shot at by his brother Pravin Mahajan. The reason for the attack was a family dispute. After 13 days in the hospital, Pramod Mahajan succumbed to his wounds on 3 May 2006. Pravin Mahajan was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.
Besides the above, there were many other political leaders who were assassinated. These include:
• Congress leader Lalit Maken: He lost his life for his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
• Abdul Ghani Lone: He was a lawyer and prominent Kashmiri separatist who fought for Kashmir as an independent state. He was shot dead.
• Pratap Singh Kairon: The chief minister of Punjab was killed in his car.
• Beant Singh: Chief Minister of Punjab who was assassinated in a bomb blast in Chandigarh.
• Mahendra Karma: He was a powerful member of the Indian National Congress (INC) in Chhattisgarh, an adivasi leader and a member of Communist Party of India (CPI). He was shot dead by the Maoists.