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1981 - 1990


On June 19, 1981, India launched its first experimental communication satellite called APPLE, from the Kourou space centre in French Guiana, APPLE weighed 673 kg, designed and fabricated by scientists and engineers of the Indian Space Research Organisation at Bangalore. At tracking stations in Sriharikota, Bangalore and Ahmadabad it started giving signals, thirty minutes after lift-off. It responded to all the commands, which was a break through in satellite control technology for India. India joined the select group of countries that have designed and built communication satellites, when the 90-cm antenna on board pointed towards Nagpur and the test TV signal was received. Indira Gandhi inaugurated the satellite programme, when all the tests were completed, at a teleconference held between New Delhi and Ahmadabad, relayed by TV stations all over country. After 27 months in space, on September 19, 1983, APPLE was abandoned.


Indira Gandhi's second term as Prime Minister was marred by political turbulence in Punjab. Sikh militants under their leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale turned Punjab into a killing field. Demanding a separate state of Khalistan, they launched a violent movement. They took control of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs and ran a parallel government. They defied the authority of Indian government for nearly three years, terrorizing, kidnapping and killing innocent people in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. As Indira Gandhi was left with no alternative, asked the army to flush out the militants from the holy complex without damaging the shrine. Operation Bluestar was launched by the army and after a strong resistance from the militants wiped out Bhindranwale and most of his militants and took control of the temple. In the crossfire, many innocent lives were also lost.


Operation Bluestar hurt the Sikh community. On October 31, five months later Indira Gandhi was riddled with 18 bullets by her own security guards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh inside the garden of her New Delhi residence.