Nancy B. Varghese
Indira Gandhi was a powerful figure in Indian politics during the genesis of India’s independence. She was a force to be reckoned with, and history books have painted vivid imagery of what it must’ve been like to live in a country ruled by the first powerful woman Prime Minister India ever got.
While politics and history have both criticised, as well as eulogised the woman, it is no secret that Indira Gandhi gave the country some of its landmark moments, period. The woman made some of the boldest moves that subsequent Prime Ministers could only contemplate at parliamentary sessions. Maybe they were too drastic; but, for once, there was a woman at the helm of affairs who wasn’t just calling the shots; but, was dictating the execution of the whole process, as well! For that, we can definitely agree that Indira Gandhi was undoubtedly the most ‘ballsy’ Prime Minister India ever had; more so because she was a woman - first of her kind - in an era when women weren’t supposed to get away with much!
On the occasion of Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, here is a recap of some unexpected moves made by ‘India’s Iron Lady’ pre- and post-independence era.
Even as a child, Indira Gandhi was actively involved in India’s freedom struggle. In 1930, she founded the ‘Vanar Sena’ or ‘Monkey Brigade’, (inspired by the monkey army, led by Hanuman, that helped Lord Rama in the Ramayana) comprising of approximately 60,000 revolutionaries who put up notices about demonstrations, made flags, conveyed messages, and addressed envelopes to do their part in the movement.
Back when the concept of a love marriage was not just rejected, but also painfully looked down upon, Indira Gandhi went on to marry a Parsi politician and journalist, Feroze Gandhi in the year 1942. The marriage was severely opposed by Orthodox Hindus as it was an inter-communal love marriage that was also not one set up by her parents.
A crisis was born in 1971 and taking the iron-clad decision, Indira Gandhi went to war with Pakistan in support of the Independence movement. India emerged victorious and East Pakistan gave way to the formation of, what we recognise today, as Bangladesh.
Perhaps Gandhi’s most unforgettable act in the history of her reign as Prime Minister, was the 1975 Emergency that is said to have left India crippled for a 21-month period - what with the press being censored, elections being suspended and civil liberties being curbed in the country.
In 1984, under the orders of Indira Gandhi, the Indian military stormed into Amritsar’s Golden Temple, to drive out the Sikh extremist religious leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The resulting heavy casualty on the armies and civilians alike led to a lot of criticism from the Sikh community around the world. What is now known as the most horrific assault on the Sikh community in India, Operation Blue Star was a significant event in the history of the country.
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