Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, and Kamala Nehru. She was the only child of the Nehru couple. After completing her schooling she joined Shantiniketan. She also enrolled at Somerville College, Oxford. She married journalist Feroz Gandhi in 1942. The couple had two sons Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi. She was assassinated on October 31, 1984, by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation to have operated the Operation Blue Star. She was cremated near Raj Ghat. Her funeral was televised live on national and international stations, including BBC.
Political Career of Indira Gandhi:
Indira at the age of 11 organized the Monkey Brigade. She joined the Indian National Congress party in 1938. Due to her anti- British movement she was jailed from September 11, 1942 to May 13, 1943 at the Naini Central Jail in Allahabad. After India gained independence her father became the Prime Minister of India. She served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his governance. She worked in riot-affected areas of Delhi in 1947. She served as the chairman of the Central Social Welfare Board, member of the Working Committee and Central Election Committee and the Central Parliamentary Board. She was also the president of the All India Youth Congress from 1956 to 1960. Gandhi adhered to the quasi-socialist policies of industrial development that her father begun.
In 1959 Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri appointed Indira as minister of Information and Broadcasting. As a minister she encouraged the making of expensive radios and started family planning programmes. She became the Prime Minister of India in 1966. In doing so she became the first woman Prime Minister of India. She served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms (1966-77) and a fourth term from 1980-84. She became the second female head of government in the world after Sirimavo Babdarnaike of Srilanka. She remained the world’s second longest serving female prime minister.
After she became the Prime Minister the Congress was split into two factions- the Socialists led by Gandhi and the Conservatives led by Morarji Desai. The Indian National Congress split in 1969. The Indo-soviet Treaty of Peace, friendship and Cooperation was signed by Gandhi between India and Soviet Union in 1971 that specified mutual strategic cooperation. She established closer relationship with the Soviet Union.
The Simla agreement was signed by India and Pakistan which bound the two countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute by negotiations and peaceful means. She carried out the vision of her father to develop the nuclear weapons program. In 1967 she gave authorization of developing nuclear program. In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, unofficially code named “Smiling Buddha” near Pokhran in Rajasthan. Faced by protests, Indira Gandhi directed a letter to the world that the test was for peaceful purposes and India was committed to develop the program for industrial and scientific use.
The Green Revolution gained momentum during her era. It refers to a series of research, development and technology transfer initiatives that increased agricultural production around the world. The revolution transformed India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk. The success was mainly attributed to the farmers of Punjab. In year 1969 she nationalized banks. The nationalization of banks led to rapid development and contributed to the regional development and to the expansion of India’s industrial and agricultural base.
“Garibi Hatao” was the theme for Gandhi’s 1971 bid. The program created through “Garibi Hatao” were developed and funded by the Indian National Congress.
In 1975 her election to the Lok Sabha was declared void by the High Court of Allahabad on grounds of electoral malpractices. She imposed a state of emergency in 1975 because of the disorder following the order of the High Court of Allahabad. Police were granted power to impose curfew and indefinitely detain citizens. All publications were subjected to substantial censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed issued ordinance that did not need to be debated in the Parliament, allowing her to rule by decree. She became the only Indian Prime Minister to have declared emergency in order to ‘rule by decree’.
In 1977 Indira Gandhi called elections. However, the Congress party was crushed in the elections. The Janata Party came into power. The Janata Party ordered for the arrest of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. Indira was imprisoned. She was the only Prime Minister to be imprisoned after holding the office of the Prime Minister. The Congress returned back to power in the election following the dissolve of Parliament in the winter of 1979.
Gandhi ordered the Indian army to attack Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the head of the Sikh religious institution the Damdami Taksal of Punjab who lead a campaign for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution for greater rights to the Sikhs. In retaliation she was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards Beant Singh and Satwant Singh on October 31, 1984 to have operated the Operation Blue Star.
Honours to Indira Gandhi:
A number of medical colleges, institutes, universities and so forth have been named after Indira Gandhi. The Indira Awaas Yojna, a low cost housing program for the rural poor, is named after her. The International Airport in New Delhi is named after her as Indira Gandhi International Airport. The Indira Gandhi National Open University is also named after her.
(FAN OF Mrs. INDIRA PRIYADARSHINI GANDHI)
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