A tribute to the Iron Lady of India
Her childhood was deprived of family love
Indira Gandhi known as the iron lady of India was born on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad at Anand Bhavan, her ancestral house to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and his wife Kamla Nehru. In 1919 when Mohandas Gandhi first visited her house he encouraged her parents to take part in the freedom struggle of the country. She was just a four year old girl when her father was first jailed in their fight for the country’s freedom from the British. As a result Indira had to be sent to boarding school and as the father and daughter were away from each other they used to communicate through letters. They used to communicate through letters as they were the best means of communication at that time. Nehru has written the letters to his ten year old daughter from the Dehradun prison during the year 1933. Apart from personal things Nehru’s letters were full of knowledge as they talked about the Aryans, the epics like Mahabharata and politics. He played an important role in Indira Gandhi’s life as a good teacher, a guide and a philosopher. The letters were later published in some books.
Education- Schools and Colleges she went to
She did her pre-schooling in Delhi from the Modern School. She studied in many schools in India and Europe during her primary education. Indira Nehru had to move to a boarding school as her father was a freedom fighter and went in and out of jail frequently. She was very happy to be in the school where she took part in various curricular activities and was appointed the minister of student parliament of the school. She didn't believe in getting high scores in her academics but well balanced her academics and curricular. She was good in language from her early days and even worked as the editor for her school magazine. She was said to be a shy and reserved girl during her school days yet had a personality that was pleasing. After finishing her metric education from Bombay University, Indira Nehru took admission in Shantiniketan in Bengal in the year 1934. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru wanted to send her daughter to Switzerland for studies but couldn’t as he could not focus on it due to his deep indulgence in politics. However he gave freedom of choice to the young Indira Nehru to select her subjects. Nehru had great thinking and believed it was not right to not let girls have choices of their own and keep them captive in the four walls of the houses. He was a firm believer of women empowerment. Due to her mother Kamla Nehru’s ill health she joined the college late. She lived with three four girls in the hostel room provided to her as Nehru didn’t want her daughter to be provided and special treatment. She soon adapted to the college environment easily.
In the year 1936 she took admission in the Somerville College at the University of Oxford in United Kingdom but could not clear her entrance as she was devastated by her mother’s death due to tuberculosis. She moved to England and studied for a few months at the Badminton School in Bristol before finally clearing the admission entrance test at the Oxford University in the year 1937. However due to prolonged ill-health she was unable to complete her studies at Oxford University and had to return to India in the year 1941. She was good in subjects like political science, history and economics but had to struggle in the language subject of Latin. Years later the University of Oxford conferred her with an honorary degree and she was also selected as an Oxasian a title for illustrious Asian graduates.
Marriage and kids
Indira Nehru had known Feroze Gandhi since her school days. During her stay in UK she used to meet Feroze Gandhi regularly who too was there studying in the London School of Economics. Feroze Gandhi was close to Indira’s mother and had stood by her side all through her mother’s illness. Indira Gandhi loved her mother a lot and was very close to her. She married Feroze Gandhi on 26 March 1942. As they both belonged to different castes their marriage was objected by their family members. But they had decided to marry each other going against their family’s wishes. He belonged to a Parsi family. Their marriage cards were printed in Hindi, Roman and Urdu and were married according to the Parsi customs. Soon after the marriage the couple was sent to jail for the first time on the charges of subversion by the British from September 11, 1942 to may 13, 1943 at the Naini Central Jail in Allahabad. In the year 1947 India became independent from the British rule and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was appointed as the first prime minister of independent India.
The couple had two sons Rahul Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi after their marriage. Though the couple had a home at Allahabad Indira became occupied due to her assistance to her father who was then the Prime Minister of India. She had to stay with her father at his Teen Murti house in Delhi to assist him in his endeavors. And both her sons too stayed with her during this time. Being too busy in politics she could not spend much time with her family. As a result of her political life she had to be in Delhi most of the times away from her husband who stayed at Allahabad and worked in the newspaper called The Herald as the managing director and later on became the first chairman of the Indian Oil Corporation. As a result distances grew up between Feroze Gandhi and her who had to be out of home most of the times. At the time when Feroze Gandhi had the first heart attack in 1958 she was out to Bhutan for a visit. After returning she stayed with Feroze Gandhi in Kashmir for some time to look after him. Later in the year Feroze Gandhi passed away after suffering a second heart attack at the Willingdon Hospital in New Delhi where he was being treated. Indira Gandhi always acknowledged her husband Feroze Gandhi’s presence in her life. He had stood with her in the most difficult times of her life.
Besides being the prime minister she used to take out time to take care of preparations before the arrival of the guests of the country. She used to look after the setups in the house prior to any dignitary’s arrival. She was a good host and took great care of her guests. She was a strong woman who had to face many tough situations in life. She had confidence that her younger son Sanjay Gandhi would be a good face in the Indian politics but his sudden death in a plane crash in the year 1980 somewhat disturbed her internally. Sanjay left behind his wife Menaka Gnadhi and son Varun Gandhi. After his death she encouraged her elder son Rajeev Gandhi to take Sanjay’s place. On her mother’s persuasion he agreed and later was elected as a member of the parliament from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in February 1981. He assisted his mother from then onwards. He then went on to become the president of the Youth congress. Many saw this move as Indira Gnadhi’s efforts to make Rajeev Gandhi an efficient candidate for the Prime Minister’s post. Rajeev Gandhi was married to Sonia Gandhi who belonged to Italy. It is said that Indira was not happy with her son’s decision to marry an Italian girl. Rajeev Gandhi was killed in a suicide bomb attack in the year 1921 on May 21. Rajeev had two children named Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi is married to Robert Vadra who is a business man and Rahul Gandhi is at present one of the most eligible bachelors in the country.
As the leader of the biggest Democracy in the world
Indira Gandhi's political career started as a child when she was just twelve years old. She became the leader of the Monkey Brigade that comprised of children and who worked for the India’s freedom movement. In 1955 when Congress party needed a leader for Indian congress committee’s executive body, Indira Gandhi’s name was pondered upon. In July 1958 Pandit when U. N. Dhebar retired from the post of the President of the Congress party he suggested some names to Pandit Nehru for the leadership. It is said the Indira was one of the suggestions he gave to Nehru. She was made the President of the Congress party on the 8th of February 1959 and remained on the post till January 1960. After Pandit Nehru became the prime minister she acted as a hostess and supporter to him and assisted him in his political life. She was appointed as the chairman of the Central social welfare board from 1953 to 1957. Later in the year 1956 she was appointed as the president f the all India youth congress and served at the post till the year 1960.
In 1964 after her father’s death she was elected for the first time to the parliament as minister of Information and Broadcasting under Lal Bahadur Shastri’s government. She became the first woman prime minister of India after the then prime minister Pandit Lal Bahadur Shashtri in the year 1966. She displayed immense courage and leadership during the 1971 war between India and East Pakistan. India won and Bangladesh was formed due to her clever steps and she was praised all over for leading the country efficiently. Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee even addressed her as the goddess Durga for her courage. The win in the war was followed by the Indian Army Pokharan Test Range, a nuclear test at the desert village Pokharan in Rajasthan. This spoke of her strengths and her interests in the National Security issues. She encouraged and helped in the flourishing of the Green Revolution in India.
During the year 1969 she took a big step to develop the country’s economic sector and nationalized fourteen major banks in the country.
She had an enormous win in the 1971 general elections but she was accused for violating the laws of election. A high court in 1975 accused her on charges of infraction. Due to this disturbance and others in the country she requested the president to declare a state of emergency in the country and postpone the elections. This deterred her public image and lead to her party’s defeat in the 1977 elections. There were splits in her party and corruption emerged within. In the year 1978 she joined the parliament again and the following year that is 1979 once again emerged as the Prime Minister. In efforts to prove India’s non alliance in the global world she made visits to the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. and several other countries.
During the 1980s India saw internal riots when the Sikhs demanded a separate state. Indira Gandhi in a move to suppress the Sikh Separatist movement ordered some seventy thousand soldiers inside the Golden temple in Amritsar where a campaign by the Sikhs was going on. There were reports of more than four hundred people being killed during the operation. This step that she took to curb a movement that could have lead to the country’s division unfortunately lead to a nationwide outrage against her from the Sikh community in the country. Sadly it further lead to her assassination by her own trusted Sikh bodyguards at her residence in Delhi on October 31, 1984. In her last speech on the October 30, 1984 in Bhuvneshwar probably sensing her end near, she had said that she is not worried if she remains alive or dead as she has lived long. She remarked that she has long served the people of her country and her every drop of blood that will fall on the ground will awaken her country and give the country strength. She expressed her faith in her country’s women and the young of the nation and will efficiently take the responsibility of their motherland on their shoulders. She will always be remembered as one of the greatest political leaders of India. On her 28th death anniversary let us remember one of the most influential leaders of the largest democracy in the world. She was an iron lady in the true spirit indeed.
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