Indira Gandhi: The First Female Prime Minister of India


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Indira Gandhi, the only daughter of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is destined to enter politics. 

She was appointed as prime minister in 1966 and gained widespread public support for agricultural improvements, which led to India’s self-sufficiency in food production and success in the Pakistan War, leading to the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971. 

Broadly speaking, Gandhi was due to him. They were expelled for increasingly authoritarian policies, including a 21-month state of emergency, which restricted the constitutional rights of Indians. However, in 1980, she was re-elected for the fourth time. 

Four years later, after a deadly clash at the holiest Sikh temple in Punjab, Gandhi was assassinated by two of his bodyguards on October 31, 1984, which brought his son Rajiv to power and triggered an attack against Sikhs to give a spark to the widespread riots.

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi: Early Life and Family

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad, India, the only child of Kamala and Jawaharlal Nehru. As a member of the Indian National Congress, Nehru was influenced by the party leader Mahatma Gandhi and devoted himself to the struggle for independence in India. 

This struggle resulted in Jawaharlal imprisoned for many years. Indira spent a lonely childhood. Indira spent a few years at a Swiss boarding school and later studied history at Oxford Somerville College. 

Her mother died of tuberculosis in 1936. In March 1942, despite the opposition of her family, Indira married Percy's lawyer, Firoz Gandhi (not related to Mahatma Gandhi) and they soon had two children: Rajiv and Sanjay.

Indira Gandhi: Political Career and Achievements

In 1947, Nehru became the first prime minister of the newly independent country. Gandhi agreed to go to New Delhi as his mistress, to greet diplomats and world leaders at home, and to be with his father in India and abroad. 

She was elected to the prominent 21-member working committee of the Congress Party in 1955, and four years later was named its chairperson. After Nehru's death in 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri (Lal Bahadur Shastri) became the new Prime Minister and Indira became the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. 

But Shastri's leadership was short-lived. Only two years later, he died suddenly and Indira was appointed prime minister by the leader of the Congress Party.

In just a few years, Gandhi became popular for launching successful plans that transformed India into a food self-sufficient country, an achievement known as the Green Revolution.

In 1971, he supported Bangladesh's movement to separate East and West Pakistan, and provided refugee camps for 10 million Pakistani civilians who fled to India to escape the looting of Pakistani troops, and eventually provided troops and weapons. 

India's decisive victory over Pakistan in December led to the establishment of Bangladesh, and Gandhi was posthumously awarded Bangladesh's highest national honor 40 years later.

Indira Gandhi: Authoritarian Leader

After the national elections of 1972, Gandhi was accused of misconduct by her political opponents, and the Allahabad High Court found her guilty of electoral corruption in 1975 and prohibited from participating in any other elections for next six years. 

She did not resign as expected, but declared a state of emergency on June 25. Citizens' civil liberties were suspended, the news was strictly censored, and most of their opponents were detained without trial. During what became known as the "reign of terror", thousands of dissidents were imprisoned without due process.

Democracy was restored in the next few years, but the People’s Party did little to solve the country’s severe poverty crisis. In 1980, Gandhi campaigned under a new party, Congress (I), and was elected to her fourth term as prime minister.

Indira Gandhi: Assassination

In 1984, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab was captured by Sikh militant extremists who accumulated weapons inside the temple. In response, Gandhi sent Indian troops to retake the temple by force hence the very renowned operation ‘Blue Star’ happened. 

In the subsequent gunfire, hundreds of Sikhs were killed, triggering an uprising in the Sikh community.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was murdered outside her home by two bodyguards she trusted, seeking revenge for the incident in the temple which created another riot after her death.

Written by: Renu Gorknath Chauhan

Edited by: Gourav Chowdhury

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