Who killed Mahatma Gandhi's wife

May 21, 1991 - Rajiv Gandhi is murdered

South India, state of Tamil Nadu, around 10 p.m .: Rajiv Gandhi wants to hold a campaign speech in Sriperumbudur, about 50 kilometers from the metropolis of Madras. As usual, scarves and flowers will be handed over to the head of the Congress Party on the speaker's podium. "All of a sudden there was some kind of explosion"says his spokesman later."I looked up and could see people being thrown into the air as if in slow motion and falling back to the ground."

Gandhi, who was Prime Minister of India from 1984 to 1989, is also among the fatalities. He was the target of a Tamil assassin's bomb. The attack by the so-called Tamil Tigers is related to Gandhi's zigzag foreign policy course during his reign. "First of all, Rajiv Gandhi supported the Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka", says Professor Dietmar Rothermund, South Asia historian at the University of Heidelberg. He had food and weapons dropped from planes for the rebels. But then Gandhi changed sides and sent almost 5,000 Indian soldiers to the side of the government of the island state of Sri Lanka. the former Ceylon, just off the south Indian coast, but the Indian occupation in the north of the island does not bring victory over the rebels.

Ghandis against violence

In 1989 Gandhi was voted out of office. Sri Lanka also has a new head of state and the Indian army is being withdrawn. But two years later, the Tamil rebels fear another election victory for Gandhi - and with it another invasion of the Indian army. The assassination ended all speculation. India is experiencing déjà vu. Just seven years after the murder of Indira Gandhi, who was Indian Prime Minister for almost 16 years, another member of the well-known Nehru Gandhi clan dies through violence with her son.

The name Gandhi is making a big impact in India. This is thanks to Mahatma Gandhi, who fought nonviolently for India's independence from Great Britain. However, there is no relationship between him and the political family. "Gandhi means perfume dealer"says historian Rothermund."The name is therefore used quite often in India.“In fact, Rajiv Gandhi's grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a close confidante of the Mahatma. And Indira, his only daughter, married a man named Feroze Gandhi.

Worked as a pilot at Indian Airlines

When Indira Gandhi is unexpectedly murdered by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, the Congress Party relies on the effect of the name Gandhi. When Rajiv, who was born in Bombay on August 20, 1944, succeeds his mother, he is a newcomer to politics. He previously worked as a pilot at Indian Airlines. As prime minister, he first arouses international hopes that India will abandon nuclear research. But India has not yet signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Domestically, he reforms the economy and relies on the development of computer software. He wants to curb the population growth in his country through education and career opportunities for women.

In 1989, Rajiv overthrew Gandhi over a bribe scandal. According to research by Swedish journalists, a billion-dollar deal with the Swedish arms company Bofors was associated with a $ 40 million bribe. "The whole thing was before his term in office and to this day it is not known who benefited from the bribes. The Gandhi family? Or the Congress Party?"says historian Rothermund. Rajiv Gandhi is voted out of office because there is suspicion of personal involvement.

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On WDR 2 you can always hear the due date around 9.40 a.m. Repetition: from Monday to Saturday at 6.40 p.m. The deadline is available as a podcast after it has been broadcast.

"ZeitZeichen" on WDR 5 (9:05 am) and WDR 3 (5:45 pm) also commemorates the murder of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 2016. The "ZeitZeichen" is also available as a podcast.