INDIRA GANDHI – IRON LADY OF INDIA


Indira ‘Priyadarshini’ Gandhi was born on 19 November, 1917, in Allahabad to Kamala and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira’s father was a well-educated lawyer and an active member of the Indian Independence Movement. Since the Nehru family was the centre of national political activity, Indira Gandhi was exposed to politics when she was a little child. A leader like Mahatma Gandhi was among the frequent visitors of the Nehru house in Allahabad. She passed her Metric from Pune University and went to Shantiniketan in West Bengal. Here, the students were made to lead a very strict and disciplined life. She later went on to study in Switzerland and Oxford University in London. Indira, then stayed few months in Switzerland with her ailing mother. In 1936, after Kamala Nehru finally succumbed to tuberculosis, she returned to India. At the time of Kamala’s death, Jawaharlal Nehru, was languishing in the Indian jails.
After his return to the country, Indira showed an active participation in the national movement. She also became a member of the Indian National Congress. Here, she met Feroze Gandhi, a journalist and key member of the Youth Congress – the youth wing of the Congress Party. In 1941, despite his father’s objections, she married Feroze Gandhi. In 1944, Indira gave birth to Rajiv Gandhi followed two years later by Sanjay Gandhi.

Following the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri on 11 January 1966, in Tashkent, the race to the coveted throne of Prime Minister began. The party faced a serious trouble, as, all the senior leaders of the Congress party desired to contest. Unable to reach at a consensus, the high-command picked Indira as their contender. The virtual reason behind Indira’s selection was the thought that “Indira would, indirectly be run by the top leadership.” But Indira Gandhi, showing extraordinary political skills elbowed the Congress stalwarts out of power.
In 1971, in order to stop the Bangladeshi refugees from flowing in into the country, Indira Gandhi supported the East Pakistan’s struggle for freedom against West Pakistan. India provided logistical support and also sent troops to fight against West Pakistan. India’s triumph in the war of 1971 against Pakistan enhanced the popularity of Indira Gandhi as a shrewd political leader.

In September 1981, a Sikh militant group demanding “Khalistan” entered into the premises of the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Despite the presence of thousands of civilians in the Temple complex, Indira Gandhi ordered the Army to barge into the holy shrine. The operation was carried out with tanks and armored vehicles. The act was viewed as an unparalleled tragedy in the Indian political history. The impact of the onslaught increased the communal tensions in the country. Many Sikhs resigned from the armed and civil administrative office and also returned their government awards. On 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, as a revenge of the Golden Temple assault, assassinated the Prime Minister at her Safdarjung Road residence.

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