Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)
Indira Gandhi was one of the most charismatic leaders of modern India whose ideas and activities touched different spheres of India's public life and politics and left an imprint on world affairs, especially, the Non-alignment Movement. She was the Prime Minister for over fifteen-and-half years.
Born on 19 November 1917 at Allahabad to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru Indira Priyadarshini was educated at Viswa Bharati University, and Oxford, and became involved in political life almost from childhood.
In 1942 Indira married Feroze Gandhi. She became a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 and was elected President in 1959. She became a member of the Cabinet of Lal Bahadur Shastri as Minister for Information. In 1966 on the sudden demise of Shastriji, she was made the Prime Minister.
Indira Gandhi strengthened the democratic structure and tradition of India. She had tremendous influence on the masses. Among the major achievements of Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister were India's role during the liberation war in Bangladesh including humane handling of refugees and winning of 1971 war against Pakistan. She gave direction to India's economy to reach the declared objectives of democratic socialism and greater social justice for weaker sections. It was under her leadership that the signing of Shimla Pact with Pakistani Premier Z.A. Bhutto and the signing of Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation took place. She nationalised banks, abolished privy purses of maharajas and conducted the first nuclear tests at Pokhran. The imposition of emergency rule in 1975 proved to be a major mistake that she realised later.
Indira Gandhi was deeply interested in literature, music and fine arts. Various cultural institutions, performing artists, educationists, intellectuals received her patronage and encouragement. She was proud of India's cultural heritage and it was on her initiative that Asiatic Society, Calcutta received the status of an institution and national importance. She was conferred Bharat Ratna in 1971.
Indira Gandhi passed into history when she fell to the assassin's bullets on 31 October 1984 at her residence. These assassins were none other than her own security men. As a mark of respect to the departed leader her birthday is observed as National Integration Day.