| REWIND |
It was just a four-paragraph government order implementing the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, set up in 1978. But for V.P. Singh, the prime minister of a coalition government, it blew the lid off the caste cauldron. With 27 per cent reservation in government jobs, schools and colleges for socially and educationally backward classes, it was a move to cleave the BJP’s Hindu vote bank along caste lines. But it all went wrong as self-immolations and protestor-police battles created mini-Tiananmen Squares across India.
The IPKF completed its pull-out from Sri Lanka as the last ship left with Indian soldiers.
On February 4, Ernakulam in Kerala was declared the first totally literate district in the country. The distinction, fittingly, came in International Literacy Year. Kerala has the highest literacy in the country.
The All Tripura Tiger Force was founded by Lalit Debbarma to fight for Tripura’s secession from India.
DID YOU KNOW
According to nuclear weapons specialist L.S. Spector, India, in 1990, had a capacity to produce 15 nuke warheads annually, but had made only 10 at the time.
The Human Torch
Rajiv Goswami, a final-year student in Delhi University, immolating himself on September 15 to protest the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations. He died in 2004.
“BJP HAS PUT SECULARISM IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE.”
Lal Krishna Advani
When L.K. Advani stepped into his rath at Somnath, the temple of his dreams 10,000 km and 30 days away, he sent out the BJP’s most audacious message to the people of India, associating itself with the RSS-VHP line, that construction on the Ram Temple would begin on October 30 no matter what. In a final showdown, the BJP withdrew support to the V.P. Singh Government.
The show Wagle ki Duniya, based on a character by cartoonist R.K. Laxman, was aired on Doordarshan at a time when television sets had already found their way into over two-thirds of India’s homes. In the days of staid sarkari programming, people instantly connected with lead actors Anjan Srivastava and Bharti Achrekar’s middle-class muddles.
Nelson Mandela (below) was released from Victor Verster Prison, near Cape Town, South Africa, where he had been imprisoned for 27 years.
US President George W. Bush and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed a treaty to stop manufacturing chemical weapons and began reducing stocks. Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading to the Gulf War.
Establishing the first ground link between the United Kingdom and mainland Europe since the Ice Age, Channel Tunnel workers from the UK and France met 40 metres beneath the English Channel seabed.
Rs 500 was the value of just one kilogram of Darjeeling tea in auctions for exports on April 30. India is the world’s largest producer of tea—almost all of the fine Darjeeling tea is exported, the major buyers being Russia, Iran and Iraq.
1991: INDIA AT 60
REMAINS OF THE DAY
Former prime minister and front-runner in the 1991 polls, Rajiv Gandhi was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber at an election rally in Sriperumbudur. Fired by a new optimism and unburdened of the IPKF debacle, Gandhi never saw it coming as the bespectacled Thenmuli Rajaratnam garlanded him and bent, ostensibly to touch his feet—except that she was bending only to detonate the bomb-belt she was wearing under her salwar kameez. A dream was over, and a nightmare had just begun. The LTTE’s IPKF score had been settled. In blood.
“I HAVE THE PM’S MANDATE”
So said Oxford-educated finance minister Manmohan Singh. He promised to think big and he did. In July, as loans burgeoned and the public sector lay defunct, it took this mild-mannered academic to give the economy the kind of shock therapy it needed. Doing away with industrial licencing, relaxing investment norms and devaluing the rupee to more realistic market levels—this was Singh’s bitter pill for India’s anaemic economy. When he pushed the most radical policy rethink ever, saying, “The world must know India has changed”, Singh, for once, won a unanimous, if begrudging, agreement.
The world’s first railroad hospital, the Jeevan Rekha (Lifeline Express), set off on July 16. The train, with coaches donated by the Indian Railways, was operated by the Impact India Foundation.
P.V. Narasimha Rao liberalised India’s protectionist economy in reaction to a severe foreign exchange crisis.
President’s rule lifted from Punjab after five years to make way for elections in 1992.
DID YOU KNOW
Chandra Sekhar was India’s shortest-serving prime minister, with the exception of A.B. Vajpayee’s 13-day coalition of 1996. Holding office for seven months, Shekhar resigned on March 6, 1991 after the Congress withdrew support.
DISMANTLING LICENCE RAJ
The New Industrial Policy of July 1991 was released, freeing most sectors of the economy of licencing obstacles. Sectors like aviation were opened to private players for the first time.
PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE
Bollywood moved into the bedroom and dispensed with blushing rosebuds and twittering birds as Govind Nihalani made a bold attempt at exploring infidelity with Drishti. Dimple Kapadia and Shekhar Kapur played a couple exploring extra-marital affairs that lead to a breakdown of their marriage.
ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE BJP LEADER
“The present Muslim generation is not to be punished for what their forefathers did.”
On October 20, a low-intensity earthquake hit the Garwhal hills. Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, it lasted less than a minute. But when the earth stopped quaking, most of Uttarkashi, Tehri and Chamoli were devastated, with at least 1,000 dead in Uttarkashi alone, and over 42,000 destroyed.
The Persian Gulf War (left) began as the US led a 30-nation coalition to liberate Kuwait from Iraq.
Germany formally regained complete independence after the four post-World War II occupying powers—France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union—relinquished all remaining rights.
Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union for almost seven years and executive president for nearly two, stepped down from office as the Soviet Union broke up into Russia and the CIS.
$975 million was India’s foreign exchange reserve at the peak of the July forex crisis. At the time, India had to swap 20 tonne of its gold in the Swiss market. Later, it also shipped an additional 46 tonne of gold to London as collateral.
1992: INDIA AT 60
END OF REASON
The Ramjanmabhoomi agitation reached its zenith as thousands of kar-sevaks converged on Ayodhya and demolished the Babri Masjid on December 6. In a matter of just five and a half hours, a 400-year-old monument was reduced to a pile of rubble and India’s long-heralded secular traditions lay in a shambles. For millions around the country, it was the dawn of the proverbial Ram Rajya. For many others, it was the end of reason and minority rights. The riots that followed left over 700 dead across the country, but the BJP still considered it a living proof of the unstoppable power of the Hindu Rashtra.
The Indian Air Force inducted its first women officers, Savneet Shergill and Shivika Khurana. They were both inducted in the non-technical arms.
The cable TV boom had viewers plugging into the Gulf War, and the World Cup in Australia. By November, 12.82 lakh Indians watched Star TV, which started in December 1991.
DID YOU KNOW
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal, on February 1, declared former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson an absconder in the Bhopal Gas Leak case. He has still not been extradited for trial.
“I DON’T HAVE TO REGRET ANYTHING. IF THERE IS ANYTHING TO REGRET, IT IS THAT SUCH A THING HAS BEFALLEN THE COUNTRY.”
P. V. NARASIMHA RAO after the demolition of the Babri Masjid
TRYING TO PUT THE GENIE BACK
On December 5, former prime minister V.P. Singh, along with a host of Janata Dal and communist leaders, was arrested at Ram Sanehi Ghat in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh. They were on their way to Ayodhya to obtain a first-hand account of the Babri Masjid situation as it developed there. Singh recorded a detailed statement on the demolition with the Liberhan Commission of inquiry into the matter.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh was a vital cog in the machinery that eventually brought down the Babri Masjid. As the soft face of the BJP, he hoodwinked the Centre with false assurances and played on Narasimha Rao’s near-obsession for constitutional propriety. And as the smoke of burning Muslim homes was beginning to cloud the horizon, he pre-empted the dismissal of his government by the Centre by resigning on December 6.
“I’M LIVING HOUR TO HOUR.”
Harshad Mehta was a small-time stockbroker on Dalal Street who became a self-made celebrity living in a palatial mansion with a golf course, swimming pool and a fleet of flashy cars. Arrested on June 4, the Big Bull is estimated to have siphoned off close to Rs 5,000 crore by manipulating banks and building false positions on a number of high value stocks. Mehta died of a heart attack in 2001.
The Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Democrat candidate Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States, defeating Republican incumbent George Bush. “There is nothing wrong with America today that cannot be cured by what is right with America,” he said in his inaugural speech after taking oath.
Suspected Armenian forces massacred 613 Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly.
25 lakh was the number of people awaiting telephone connections on the eve of India’s economic reforms. Today, over 206 million Indians own phones, including mobile connections. Fixed line phones have been dropping in number.