This week’s episode of Pradhan Mantri showcased the incidents of the time between 1984 and 1986.
The episode opens with the aftermath of the death of Indira Gandhi and the succeeding anti-Sikh riots that ensued. We see statements from the families of the affected and, alongside, the ravages of the riots and the ruins that it left behind. When Indira Gandhi was shot, her son Rajiv was in Kolkata, and he rushed back to Delhi, while she was still being operated upon. He soon hears news that his mother was no more, but keeps stable, knowing he was in the run to be Prime Minister.
Senior Congressman Arun Nehru was of the opinion that Rajiv Gandhi needed to be sworn in as soon as possible, though the President Giani Zail Singh was on an official foreign tour. Giani Zail Singh, he said, had had his differences with Rajiv, and would prefer Pranab Mukherjee over him. He wanted to have the vice-president swear Rajiv in, but his proposal was soon rejected, due to fear of the president declaring the exercise illegal. Rajiv Gandhi, was nevertheless, sworn in by the president. Most of these parts were enacted, with Arun Nehru, hitherto mostly unknown to today’s public, playing a central role.
By the time he had been sworn in, violence had erupted against Sikhs in different parts of Delhi. Even the president’s car was attacked. In four days, over 4000 Sikhs, and only one Hindu, were killed. The Congress has been accused of intimidating mobs and giving hate speeches, with three of the biggest Congress leaders being chargesheeted later. Only 2 recorded arrests were made immediately after the riots, both being Sikhs.
After showing the dark reality behind the Anti-Sikh riots, the show moves on to describing the ‘young, dynamic and modern’ reputation of Rajiv Gandhi, one that was soon to be put to test.
The infamous Shah Bano case is then described. This case involved around Shah Bano, wife of Arif Muhammad, a lawyer in Kanpur, asking him for compensation after divorce. Muslim women were not allowed to approach courts then, and Arif himself pleaded against her. This carried on until the Supreme Court, where the case went in favor of Shah Bano, with the court ruling that every woman had right to approach the court in case of compensation after divorce. Seeing this famous case almost wholly enacted was a refreshing and enlightening experience in itself.
What followed was a huge verbal battle in and outside parliament, on whether to pass the courts ruling. The bill was ultimately passed, but the harm to Rajiv’s image feared, had already been done.
This wek’s episode of Pradhan Mantri, too like all episodes, was equally enlightening and entertaining, with Shekhar Kapur playing the ‘emotional’ anchor’s role perfectly. Eager for the next one…