Captured in time

As independent India turns 75, some of the defining images of those seven decades.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announces Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination to a crying crowd at Birla House, New Delhi, in 1948.

A voter in front of ballot boxes marked with the candidates’ symbols in independent India’s first ever general election in 1951-52. The election, which saw a total of 17.3 crore voters registered, was conducted over a period of four months with an eventual voter turnout of 45.7 per cent.

A cartoon from Shankar’s Weekly dated February 23, 1958 lampooning Nehru’s weak stand between the regional languages faction and the Hindi faction. The satirical magazine, founded by political cartoonist Keshav Shankar Pillai, ran from 1948 till 1975 and was a platform for aspiring caricaturists across India.

India’s centre forward Balbir Singh attacking the Great Britain goal during the field hockey final at the London Olympic Games on August 12, 1948. India won 4-0, reaffirming its dominance in the one sport that had been its strong suit even before independence.

Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of the Pakistan Army (seated, centre) signing the Instrument of Surrender in Dhaka on December 16, 1971, in the presence of Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora (seated, left) of the Indian Army. Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 war led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the nuclear test site in Pokhran, Rajasthan, in May 1974. Code-named ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’, the “peaceful nuclear explosion” on May 18 made India the sixth nation to join the nuclear club.

Cuban President Fidel Castro congratulating Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her being elected the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, on March 7, 1983.

Indian cosmonaut trainees Wing Commander Ravish Malhotra (left) and Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma in the mock-up of the Soyuz-T spaceship at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Centre on June 30, 1983. Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian in spcae, was part of the three-man team that went to space the following year.

The anti-Sikh pogrom in November 1984 saw Delhi go up in flames and left over 2,100 people dead. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31 by her Sikh bodyguards led to the targeted violence.

A woman and her child lie dead on a street after a toxic gas leak in Bhopal on December 3, 1984. The accident at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant killed thousands and contaminated water and soil.

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees near Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, in 1987. The 1983 ‘Black July’ riots, followed by the outbreak of civil war in Sri Lanka, saw a large influx of refugees into India.

Rajeev Goswami, a student from Delhi, commits self-immolation during the protests against the Mandal Commission report in 1990. The report recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs, and the V.P. Singh-led Central government had implemented the report.

A man walks through the rubble in Gujarat’s Bhuj a day after a massive earthquake wreaked havoc across the region on January 26, 2001. Concerns over the disaster relief efforts led to the appointment of Narendra Modi, a BJP functionary little known outside party circles, as the State’s Chief Minister later that year.

The body of a young girl washed ashore in Chennai, after the tsunami hit the coast on December 26, 2004. The killer waves rocked the entire Indian Ocean region, causing immeasurable damage and loss of life across India’s southern coast.

ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission “Mangalyaan” lifts off from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on November 5, 2013. India deftly executed the Mars Orbit Insertion, the most crucial and complex manoeuvre of the mission, and reached the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014, after a journey that lasted over 300 days.

When Sushmita Sen becomes Miss Universe 1994, it provided a major fillip to the cosmetics and fashion industry in India.

Abhinav Bindra celebrates his victory in the final of the men’s 10m air rifle event at the Beijing Olympic Games on August 11, 2008. Bindra was the first Indian to win a gold medal in any individual event at the Olympics.

Neeraj Chopra in action during the men’s javelin throw final at the Tokyo Olympics on August 7, 2021. His gold medal, India’s first ever Olympic triumph in track and field events, was the culmination of a seven-decade-long wait which witnessed a handful of near-misses.

Social activist Anna Hazare, flanked by Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal (right), after ending his fast for the Jan Lokpal Bill at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on April 9, 2011. The Jan Lokpal Bill agitation was part of the India Against Corruption movement that led to the undoing of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2014.

Narendra Modi bows down in a sign of respect to the Indian Parliament after becoming Prime Minister designate on May 20, 2014. His victory, fuelled by a social media blitzkrieg, transformed India’s trajectory and the manner in which elections would be fought and won in the following years.

People protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens in New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh on December 31, 2019. The amended Act was seen to be discriminating against Muslims, and it sparked nationwide protests.

A man walks after cremating his relative, who succumbed to COVID-19, at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 28, 2021. Beginning March 2021, the pandemic unleashed a second wave that was deadlier than the first and marked by severe shortage of hospital beds, life-saving medical equipment, and vaccines.

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Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announces Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination to a crying crowd at Birla House, New Delhi, in 1948.
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