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India salutes past leaders 30 years after murder of Indira Gandhi

By Agencies in New Delhi | China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-01 07:42

India's president Pranab Mukherjee, members of Nehru-Gandhi family and Congress leaders paid a low-key tribute on Friday to Indira Gandhi on the 30th anniversary of the former premier's assassination.

No ministers of India's new government attended the event honoring Gandhi, who was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards on Oct 31, 1984, in retaliation for her ordering an attack on a revered Sikh shrine to clear out militants holed up in the complex.

"I join my fellow countrymen and women in remembering former PM Indira Gandhi" on the anniversary of her death, Premier Narendra Modi tweeted to his 7.4-million followers.

It was the first time no government representative attended the annual ceremony at the rose-strewn Gandhi memorial, local media reported.

Gandhi's daughter-in-law Sonia, 67, who cradled the leader's head in her lap as she bled to death, led those paying tribute.

Dressed in a somber black and grey sari, she was accompanied by her son, Rahul, 44, heir to the Congress dynasty, which dominated India's post-independence politics.

The pair, who led the party to its worst ever defeat in May elections, pressed their palms together in a traditional Indian gesture of namaste in front of Gandhi's memorial.

Run for unity rally

While staying away from the event marking Gandhi's death, Modi on Friday joined a unity rally near the India Gate war memorial in the capital's heart to mark the birth of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the country's first home minister.

Modi hailed Patel's contribution along with independence icon Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Patel forged a united republic out of a patchwork of princely states after independence from Britain in 1947.

Patel, deputy to India's first prime minister, Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was Indira Gandhi's father, "is truly the architect of modern India", Modi tweeted.

"Without Sardar Patel, even Mahatma Gandhi seems incomplete. It was a unique partnership that strengthened the struggle for independence," Modi said after he laid a wreath on a statue of Patel near Indian Parliament.

Local TV channels showed footage of hundreds of people participating in the so-called Run for Unity in various parts of India.

Modi, after assuming office, said that his government will commemorate Patel's birth anniversary as National Unity Day.

Patel hailed from the western Indian state of Gujarat, as does Modi.

The high-profile government turnout for Patel contrasted with the muted ceremony for Indira Gandhi, a hugely popular but also divisive figure.

The Run for Unity was another tribute to Patel by Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has appropriated Patel as a national unity symbol in what analysts said was part of a bid to break Congress' traditional hold on Indians.

Earlier this year, Modi allocated $33 million in government funds to help build a 182-meter-tall statue of Patel that will be the world's tallest.

It will be twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

AFP - Xinhua

 India salutes past leaders 30 years after murder of Indira Gandhi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (center) participates in a run to mark the birth of Indian freedom fighter and first home minister of Independent India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in New Delhi on Friday. The day is being celebrated as National Unity Day. Modi hailed Patel’s contribution along with independence icon Mohandas K. Gandhi. Manish Swarup / Associated Press

(China Daily 11/01/2014 page10)

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