There could possibly be a lot of controversies and enough repercussions of the leadership of Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, but the undeniable fact is that she was one of her kind.
India’s first and only, till date, female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was also the second longest-serving Indian Prime Minister after her father. From January 1966 to March 1977, and from January 1980 to until her assassination in October 1984, she represented Indian National Congress in an iconic way.
On the 36th death anniversary of the first woman Prime Minister of India, Infano is putting together some of the major facts about India’s Iron Woman.
The childhood influence
Gandhi had always been influenced by the Indian Independence Movement. When she was 5 YO, she burned her favourite foreign doll, influenced by the Swadeshi movement, as the doll was made in England. At 12, she was leading children in the Vanar Sena which included 60,000 young revolutionaries who made flags, addressed envelopes, and conveyed messages.
Born on November 19, 1917, Gandhi was the only daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She worked as an assistant to her father before joining the cabinet. She was also elected as the president of the Indian National Congress in 1960. Upon sworn in, she nationalised 14 banks during her tenure.
Led the war with Pakistan
Indira Gandhi went to war with the neighbouring country Pakistan and supported East Pakistan which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh.
Before this historical victory, ministers who used to call her ‘Goongi Gudiya’ started calling her ‘Durga’ to pay her respect.
“I am not a person to be pressured — by anybody or any nation,” Indira Gandhi said in an interview after the war ended. She was also awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, for India’s historic victory.
Woman of the Millennium
The idea of equal pay for equal work for both men and women was given consideration in the Indian Constitution under the Gandhi administration.
She also conducted the country’s first nuclear test, Pokhran I. The development of nuclear weapons was authorised in 1967.
She was called the Iron Lady of India during her 16-year long tenure. In the year 1999, Gandhi was named ‘Woman of the Millennium’ by the BBC.
Identified by power, not gender
Indira Gandhi, no matter how controversial her life was, had always been a figure to look upon. She broke several patriarchies to live her life the way she wanted.
From going against her family’s wishes to marry the love of her life to taking actions in the parliament for the nation, she never gave up.
“I think all her life she was more man than woman in the conventional sense, and her identity was defined more by her aristocratic lineage and later by power than by gender,” Sagarika Ghose writes in her book describing Gandhi.
The tragic end
Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards, who also happened to be Sikh nationalists, on October 31 1984, due to the aftermath of Operation Blue Star. She was shot at 31 bullets; 30 bullets had hit her, of which 23 had passed through her while 7 remained inside her.
Her death was tragic! But, it would not be wrong to say that she inspired several women in India. She remained as a powerful icon who shattered several societal rules and led the nation by several examples.
This article is a tribute to the first woman prime minister of India. Infano does not support any political party and intends to only write about the women who made a mark/ are making a mark in society.