INDIRA GANDHI: REMEMBERING THE IRON LADY ON HER 104th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY

November 19th marks the 104th birth anniversary of India’s first woman Prime Minister

Friday, the 19th of November marks the 104’th birth anniversary of India’s first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Being a controversial, yet admirable figure in Indian polity, Mrs. Gandhi has paved the way for many politicians after her and has been responsible for one of the most talked-about eras in the country’s modern history. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of India, Indira was born in 1917 to India’s first Prime Minister and nationalist leader Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru, and later on, followed her father’s footsteps into politics. In 1959, at the age of 42, she was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress and later appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha and served as the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting after the passing of her father. In 1966, she was elected as the Prime Minister of India, making her the first, and till now, the only woman to hold the esteemed office. She served as PM, first from 1966 to 1977, and later from 1981 to 1984. As a PM, she is infamously known for the centralisation of power and making India a military power, she ordered the ‘Operation Blue Star’ in the Golden Temple which later resulted in her assassination by her own Sikh security guards. 

Though she is remembered to have caused the darkest times in modern India, she is still an enigmatic figure for many. Here we share the top ten quotes of the Iron lady to remember her on her birthday. 

 

1. ON DEMOCRACY  – Indira Gandhi was a strong supporter of the democratic values for the nation, as she believed it gave space for dissent and discussion even when it was not perfect. However, her controversies surrounding the election fraud was a black mark in her life.

“This is why we feel that democracy is important: because democracy allows you to have small explosions and therefore avoid the bigger explosions”.

2. ON INDIA – She immensely believed that the object of political mobilization, welfare policies, etc was solely for India and stood by it even when the country went to war with Pakistan under leadership. Even on the international stage she stood up and defended the country with all her might.

“Winning or losing of the election is less important than strengthening the country.”

3. ON DEATH – Mrs. Gandhi throughout her career had enemies lingering around her. She knew this and towards the end of her life, she was aware that she may face an assassination attempt. This was revealed by her grandson and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in an online interview.

“If I die a violent death, as some fear and a few are plotting, I know that the violence will be in the thought and the action of the assassins, not in my dying.”

4. ON BEING PRIME MINISTER – Though her career as a Prime Minister was one of the darkest ages of the country, she stood strong by her values whenever she led the country. It is still debated why did she do all the things she did as PM but her values stayed strong, especially those tight by her father, Jawaharlal Nehru

“I have already reached out to the janata, and I am only trying to acquaint myself with people’s problems.”

5. ON BEING A WOMAN  – Though Mrs. Gandhi never identified as a feminist, one of her core beliefs as a politician was equal opportunities to women. She encouraged women to gain education, jobs and participate in the country’s developments.

“To be liberated, a woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in the context of her own capacity and her personality.”

6. ON EDUCATION – Her views on education are not unheard of. After the revelations in the Kothari Commission, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced the first National Policy on Education in 1968, which called for a “radical restructuring” of the education sector. It gave equal educational opportunities to everyone in order to achieve national integration, cultural and economic development. The policy called for compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14.

“Education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances.”

7. ON THE ENVIRONMENT – Mrs. Gandhi was a passionate fighter for the environment. People remember her for singularly backing and pushing through Project Tiger, which called for the protection of Indian Tigers on the verge of extinction. her other achievements are the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 all of which was passed during her tenure. She also called for special conservation of the vulnerable Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“We have to prove to the disinherited majority of the world that ecology and conservation will not work against their interest but will bring an improvement in their lives.”

8. ON CAPITALISM – Though she was not in the same lines of her father on economic policies, Mrs. gandhi believed in its essential framework and believed that poverty was the greatest threat to the country. Hence, her election campaign was also ‘garibi hatao’ (abolish poverty).

“As early as December 1954, the parliament took the decision to frame our plans and policies within the socialist pattern of society. Control over the commanding heights of the economy was necessary, particularly in a poor country where it is extremely difficult to mobilise adequate resources for development and reduce inequalities between different groups and regions.”

9. ON NATIONALISM – It isn’t difficult to argue she was a strong nationalist. Infact, her critics say that was her darkest side as it led to her iron fist policies and later the Emergency.

“Even if I died in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it. Every drop of my blood… will contribute to the growth of this nation and to make it strong and dynamic.”

10. ON COURAGE – Indira Gandhi was one of the strongest politicians India has ever known, and is one of the most admirable figures when it comes to individuality and holding yourself with dignity.

“Without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue. You have to have courage – courage of different kinds: first, intellectual courage, to sort out different values and make up your mind about which is the one which is right for you to follow. You have to have moral courage to stick up to that – no matter what comes in your way, no matter what the obstacle and the opposition is.”

 

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