Indian history has been witness to
only one female Prime Minister - Indira Gandhi. She was the third Prime
Minister of India and the daughter of the first - Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru.
Her charm, intelligence and charisma made her a powerful statesperson,
much loved and admired by her people.
A Politically Charged Childhood
Born on 19th November 1917, in Allahabad, she was greatly loved by her parents and her grandfather Motilal Nehru, who was a famous lawyer, and a public figure in his own right.
Her father had joined the freedom struggle, so little Indira, or Priyadarshani as she was lovingly called, was exposed to politics from the age of 3 or 4 years. Her house was the centre of political activity, as all the important leaders stayed there on visiting Allahabad. Mahatma Gandhi was a frequent visitor to her father's residence and she was greatly affected by his thinking. A visit to the Sabarmati Ashram left an indelible mark on her psyche and she was impressed by the simple, hard life and patriotic feelings that she witnessed there.
She passed her Metric from Pune University
and was then sent on to Shantiniketan, formed by Rabindranath Tagore. Here
she was made to lead a strict highly disciplined life. From here she went
on to study in Switzerland and then to Oxford University in London.
Her Father's Daughter
After her return to India she married Feroze Gandhi, in March 1941 much against the wishes of the conservative Hindu community, as he was a Parsee. But Nehru was on her side. When Indira's father was in jail he used to write beautiful, long letters to her about his patriotic feelings and the current political situation. This led her to understand the intricacies of the nation, better than the most. In 1942, she joined the 'Quit India' Movement along with her husband and was arrested and jailed.
After India gained freedom, Pandit
Nehru was elected Prime Minister. After his death in 1964, Lal Bahadur
Shastri took over. And then in 1966, Indira Gandhi was elected leader of
Her Tenure As Prime Minister
Indira will be remembered for her commendable efforts in the development and progress of science, space exploration, irrigation, as well as policies like the nationalisation of banks and the 20-point programme.
But on the other hand, the enormity of the problems she faced was the cause of much heartache. There were problems in Assam, Punjab as well as East Bengal. And in 1971, Pakistan attacked India and forced another smaller partition - the creation of Bangladesh.
On June 26th, 1975, Mrs. Gandhi declared
an emergency, due to the turbulent political situation in the country at
that time. Janta Party leaders like J.P. Narayan were arrested and jailed.
But Mrs. Gandhi lost out to them in the next election in 1977 and was re-elected
to power in 1980. Later, in Punjab there was a demand for a separate
state of Khalistan, and the Sardarji's were up in arms. But their demands
were not met and this was the cause of her ultimate assassination.
On Wednesday, October 31, 1984, when
Indira Gandhi was proceeding to her office, she was gunned down by her
own bodyguards. This day has gone down in History as national Unity Day,
as a tribute to the memory of a Great lady, leader and statesperson.
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