1917 - 1984
India's First Female Prime Ministerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Mataj”, “Great Mother of India”. This was the name bequeathed upon Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi), first woman prime minister of India. Gandhi, both passionately loved and hated by her people represented the image of change in the nation of India. Through perseverance, support, and tenacity, Gandhi made a landmark in India’s history of tribulation and discrimination against woman and their ambitions.
Indira Gandhi was born on December 19th, 1917 in Allahabad; the only child of Kamla and Jawaharlal Nehru. Indira’s childhood was spent immersed in the political world, while moving back and forth between the family’s two homes in both Switzerland and Allahabad. As a little girl, Indira was educated at Tagor’s Santiniketan from 1934 to 1935. Both of the girl’s parents were very active in politics, specifically the “Indian Independence Movement”. At age 11, Indira gathered other children and formed the “Monkey Brigade”, an organization which spied on the Indian police. Familiar with the English ways, Indira went on to receive her full college education at Somerville College in Oxford, which, at that time, was a very unusual thing for an Indian woman. In 1938, Indira proceeded to join the Indian National Congress Party, something which she had always dreamed of. In 1942, Indira caught the eye of journalist, Feroze Gandhi, and soon the couple was married. Eventually, Indira bore her husband two sons, Sanjay and Rajiv, who went on to succeed her office of Prime Minister.
Indira’s father, Jawaharlal became the Prime Minister in 1947, and while he served in office, Indira acted as an aid and advisor to him and accompanied him to other countries, while gaining political experience. This was still a difficult time following the 1947 Hindu-Muslim Conflict and the Partition of India. Sadly, Jawaharlal died shortly after his term as Prime Minister in 1960. In 1964, Indira was elected to Parliament as Minister of Information and Broadcasting under Lal Bahadur Shastri. Following this, in 1966, when the time came to elect a new Prime Minister, there were many contenders and the feelings between them were harsh. In order to pacify all the sides, the government chose Indira Gandhi only because she was a “compromise candidate”, and they thought they could easily manipulate her. Not so. Indira Gandhi, during her terms as Prime Minister was said to have shown, “amazing political skills and tenacity with which she elbowed the Congress dons.” So, on January 24. 1966, Indira Gandhi became India’s first female Prime Minister. Obviously with this change came dissention between the people of India. The Sikhs of the country were unhappy with a woman in office, and because of that and other issues, conflict rose and tempers flared. Indira, however, with the Hindu people of India, was said to have been, “riding on the crest of popularity”, when in 1973, in Delhi and Northern India, demonstrations rose.
The Sikh people, who numbered merely 13 million, were disproportionately over represented in the military, partly due to their excellent discipline and traditional respect and use of weaponry. Although supportive of Indian democracy, they came to suspect Indira tended to wield dictatorial powers, and discriminated against Sikhs through de facto ordinances. Discontent stretched back to 1966, when India marginally bowed to Sikh demands by creating the Punjab as a state with a Sikh majority. But this religious sectionalism and unequal treatment fostered animosity between Sikhs and Hindus. Rebellious Sikh leadership took refuge in their Golden Temple Complex at Amritsar in 1983 but were violently ousted by Indian troops in June of 1984. Blaming Indira, Sikh opposition to her increased. In November, 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her own Sikh bodyguards.
Indira Gandhi, ruled with a strong hand attempting to create a unified India. She firmly believed in the policy of “rapid introduction of socialism in the country.” Although she was involved in electoral fraud, Gandhi proved herself true to her country by endearing herself to many of India’s inhabitants and increasing “India’s industrialization and food production”. One goal was, “Garibi Hatao”, which means, “Remove Poverty”. According to most Hindus, Indira Gandhi utilized “the use of army to resolve internal disputes greatly increased in her time; and she encouraged a culture of sycophancy, that is flattering others for political gain. Partly in response to her assassination, the rise of Hindu nationalism has done damage to minority religions such as Sikhism and Christianity. Where the Sikhs had failed to be a bridge of peace between Hindus and Muslims due to their political struggle, Christianity still holds promise as a practice without caste or sycophancy, as all are "one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28). Indira could not acquire unity gained through patriotism that superseded Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh religious loyalties. The "great mother of India" could not gather her children, with their millions of gods, without the use of military force, subsequently her reign ended in a rain of bullets. This author witnessed first hand the chaos that followed.
1. How many brothers and sisters did Indira Gandhi have?
b. 2 sister, 1 bro
c. 3 sisters
d. 1 brother
2. For how many terms did Indira Gandhi get elected?
d. Almost 1, but was assassinated
3. Who were the people who were against Indira during her role as P.M.?
4. Who in Indira Gandhi’s family was a Prime Minister at one point?
a. Her mother
b. Her father
c. Her eldest brother
d. Her grandfather
1. http://websww.8m.net/honmembers/gandhi.html “Indira Gandhi”
Manas: History and Politics, Indira Gandhi
“Indira Gandhi: What She Stood For” (Quotations from her speeches and Writings)