Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumbOn the world stage, men have been the leaders. This is not because they have been the best or even the best prepared for the tasks of running a country or business. This reflects the laws and privileges of the white male in Western society. Women were treated as property, with no rights of their own except for those bestowed on their husbands; women were the wives, mistresses, and courtesans of the men in their lives. While there were some notable exceptions, such as monarchs like Queen Elizabeth I of England, Queen Victoria of England, Queen Isabella of Spain, and Catherine the Great of Russia, women were not permitted to take their rightful place in Western society.


In America, women started their crusade for equality and the vote from the mid-19th century. The Seneca (New York) Conference held in 1848 was a good first step in this process; powerful rights crusaders like Frederick Douglass intervened on the part of women’s rights as well as those of slaves. But women in the U.S. would not gain the vote until the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Women since that time have served in the Congress and Statehouses, but none have been elected or even nominated for the Presidency of these United States. The situation was different in other countries.

It took the small country Sri Lanka (Ceylon) to have the first female leader of a country. Sirimaro Bandananaike became Prime minister in 1960. In neighboring India, the third Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi who took office in 1966. And it would be 1969 before Golda Meir started the first of her four terms as Prime Minister of Israel. But it would be at least two decades later before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1990s. Angela Merkel would not become the Chancellor of Germany until 2005. We must view these pioneers with great respect and admiration.

Hopefully, this signals a time when women have their own identities and do not need to live in the shadow of a man. As I was doing research on women photographers in the 19th century, they were hard to find. Most of them ran the studios, developed the film, and ran the business. But it was the husband’s name that was on the prints and the studio. Yes, some were recognized on their own, but except for Julia Margaret Cameron of Britain, most of the women who had their name associated with their photography were either not married or Lesbians. Anyway, let’s hope that women can and will take their rightful place in society, not hidden behind (or “under”) a man.

Let get on with our exploration of the life and leadership of India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi… GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 4579 Words ]


Quotations Related to Indira Gandhi:

[ http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/i/indira_gandhi.html ]


“Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one.”
— Indira Gandhi

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.”
— Indira Gandhi

“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. 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.”
— Indira Gandhi

“A nation’ s strength ultimately consists in what it can do on its own, and not in what it can borrow from others.”
— Indira Gandhi

“All my games were political games; I was, like Joan of Arc, perpetually being burned at the stake.”
— Indira Gandhi

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.”
— Indira Gandhi

“My father was a statesman, I am a political woman. My father was a saint. I am not.”
— Indira Gandhi

“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”
— Indira Gandhi


Indira Gandhi: India’s First Female Head of Government…


Indira Gandhi 2Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi
(19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84). She was assassinated by Sikh extremists. Gandhi was the second female head of government in the world after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, and she remains as the world’s second longest serving female Prime Minister as of 2012. She was the first woman to become prime minister in India.

Gandhi was the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India. She adhered to the quasi-socialist policies of industrial development that had been begun by her father. Gandhi established closer relations with the Soviet Union, depending on that nation for support in India’s long-standing conflict with Pakistan. She was also the only Indian Prime Minister to have declared a state of emergency in order to ‘rule by decree’ and the only Indian Prime Minister to have been imprisoned after holding that office.

The Indian National Congress (abbreviated INC, and commonly known as the Congress) is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party’s modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian political spectrum. Founded in 1885 by members of the occultist movement Theosophical Society—Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Monomohun Ghose, Mahadev Govind Ranade and William Wedderburn—the Indian National Congress became the leader of the Indian Independence Movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million participants in its struggle against British rule in India. After independence in 1947, it became the nation’s dominant political party, led by the Nehru-Gandhi family for the most part; major challenges for party leadership have only recently formed.


The Indira Gandhi legacy…  (4:49)




Sirimavo Bandaranaike

Sirimavo BandaranaikeSirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (April 17, 1916 – October 10, 2000) was a Sri Lankan politician and the modern world’s first female head of government. She served as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka three times, 1960–65, 1970–77 and 1994–2000, and was a long-time leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Bandaranaike was the widow of a previous Sri Lankan prime minister, Solomon Bandaranaike and the mother of Sri Lanka’s fourth Executive President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, as well as Anura Bandaranaike, former speaker and cabinet minister.

During this time Sirimavo was brought forward as legitimate successor to her husband’s party leadership and she entered politics. In 1960 M. P. de Zoysa Jnr stepped down from his seat in the Senate (appointed upper house of Parliament) paving the way for Sirimavo to be appointed as a member of the Senate from the SLFP. She led her party to win the July 1960 elections on the pledge to continue her husband’s policies, notably the Sinhala Only Act, and to proceed with repatriation of the estate Tamils to India. On July 21, 1960, as a Senator she became prime minister, thus becoming the first female prime minister in the world.

Known to her fellow Sri Lankans as "Mrs. B," she could skillfully use popular emotion to boost her support, frequently bursting into tears as she pledged to continue her assassinated husband’s policies. Her opponents and critics called her the "weeping widow".

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Jawaharlal Nehru

NehruJawaharlal Nehru (14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964), often referred to with the epithet of Panditji, was an Indian politician who became the first Prime Minister of independent India (1947–64) and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the 1930s and ’40s. Nehru was elected by the Indian National Congress to assume office as independent India’s first Prime Minister, and re-elected when the Congress Party won India’s first general election in 1951 and 1952. Nehru contributed to the establishment of a secular Parliamentary democracy in India and was one of the founders of the international Non-Aligned Movement.

The son of moderate nationalist leader and Congressman Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru became a leader of the left wing of the Congress when fairly young. Rising to become Congress President under the mentorship of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Nehru was a charismatic and radical leader, advocating complete independence for India from the British Empire. In the long struggle for Indian independence, Nehru was eventually recognized as Gandhi’s political heir. Throughout his life, Nehru advocated Democratic socialism/Fabian Socialism and a strong Public sector as the means by which economic development could be pursued by poorer nations. He was the father of Indira Gandhi and the maternal grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who would later serve as the third and sixth Prime Ministers of India.

Nehru raised the flag of independent India in New Delhi on 15 August 1947, the day India gained Independence. Nehru’s appreciation of the virtues of parliamentary democracy, secularism and liberalism, coupled with his concerns for the poor and underprivileged, are recognized to have guided him in formulating socialist policies that influence India to this day. They also reflect the socialist origins of his worldview. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, and grandson, Rajiv Gandhi, also served as Prime Ministers of India.

On 15 January 1941 Gandhi said, "Some say Pandit Nehru and I were estranged. It will require much more than difference of opinion to estrange us. We had differences from the time we became co-workers and yet I have said for some years and say so now that not Rajaji but Jawaharlal will be my successor."

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Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)

The Harmandir Sahib (Darbar Sahib), also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev. In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev completed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, and installed it in the Gurdwara. In 1634, Guru Hargobind left Amritsar for the Shivalik Hills and for the remainder of the seventeenth century the city and gurdwara was in the hands of forces hostile to the Sikh Gurus. During the eighteenth century, the Harmandir Sahib was the site of frequent fighting between the Sikhs on one side and either Mughal or Afghan forces on the other side and the gurdwara occasionally suffered damage. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and English name of "Golden Temple".


The present day Golden Temple was rebuilt in 1764 by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718–1783) with the help of other Misl Sikh chieftains. It was more beautified with adding more architecture. Between 1802–1830 Ranjit Singh did the sewa of gold plating the Temple and adding marble to it as well, while the interior was decorated with fresco work and gemstones.

Harmandir Sahib is considered holy by Sikhs. The most holy text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside the temple. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally.

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Rise of Militancy (Sikh Separatists)

On 29 April 1986, an assembly of separatist Sikhs at the Akal Takht made a declaration of an independent state of Khalistan. These events were followed by a decade of violence and conflict in Punjab before a return to normality in the region. During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, there was a dramatic rise in radical State militancy in Punjab. The period of insurgency saw clashes of the Sikh militants with the police, as well as with the Hindu-Nirankari groups. The Khalistani militant activities manifested in form of several attacks such as the 1987 killing of 32 Hindu bus passengers near Lalru and the 1991 killing of 80 train passengers in Ludhiana.

The Khalistan-related militant activities continued in the 1990s, as the perpetrators of the 1984 riots remained unpunished, and many Sikhs felt that they were being discriminated and their religious rights were being suppressed.

GlobalSecurity.org reported that, in the early 1990s, journalists who did not conform to militant-approved behavior were targeted for death. It also reports that there were indiscriminate attacks designed to cause extensive civilian casualties: derailing trains, exploding bombs in markets, restaurants, and other civilian areas between Delhi and Punjab. It further reported that militants assassinated many of those moderate Sikh leaders who opposed them and sometimes killed rivals within the militant group. It also stated that many civilians who had been kidnapped by extremists were murdered if the militants’ demands were not met. Finally, it reports that Hindus left Punjab by the thousands.

In October, 1991, The New York Times reported that violence had increased sharply in the months leading up to the kidnapping, with Indian security forces or Sikh militants killing 20 or more people per day, and that the militants had been "gunning down" family members of police officers.

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Key Events & Policies: Career of Indira Gandhi

War with Pakistan in 1971

The Pakistan army conducted widespread atrocities against the civilian populations of East Pakistan. An estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in the country. The United States under Richard Nixon supported Pakistan, and mooted a UN resolution warning India against going to war. Nixon apparently disliked Indira personally, referring to her as a "witch" and "clever fox" in his private communication with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (now released by the State Department). Indira signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, resulting in political support and a Soviet veto at the UN. India was victorious in the 1971 war, and Bangladesh was born.

Foreign Policy

Gandhi invited the late Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Shimla for a week-long summit. After the near-failure of the talks, the two national leaders eventually signed the Shimla Agreement, which bound the two countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute by negotiations and peaceful means. Due to her antipathy for Nixon, relations with the United States grew distant, while relations with the Soviet Union grew closer.

She was criticized by some for not making the Line of Control (LoC) a permanent border while a few critics even believed that Pakistan-administered Kashmir should have been extracted from Pakistan, whose 93,000 prisoners of war were under Indian control. But the agreement did remove immediate United Nations and third party interference, and greatly reduced the likelihood of Pakistan launching a major attack in the near future. By not demanding total capitulation on a sensitive issue from Bhutto, she had allowed Pakistan to stabilize and normalize. Trade relations were also normalized, though much contact remained frozen (sealed) for years.

Nuclear Weapons Program

Gandhi contributed and further carried out the vision of Jawarharalal Nehru, former Premier of India, to develop the program. Gandhi gave authorization of developing nuclear weapons in 1967, in response to the Test No. 6 by People’s Republic of China. Gandhi saw this test as Chinese nuclear intimidation, therefore, Gandhi promoted the views of Nehru to establish India’s stability and security interests as independent from those of the nuclear superpowers.

The program became fully mature in 1974, when dr. Raja Ramanna reported to Gandhi that India has ability to test the first nuclear weapon. Gandhi gave verbal authorization of this test, and preparations were made in a long-constructed army base, the Indian Army Pokhran Test Range. In 1974, India successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, unofficially code named as "Smiling Buddha", near the desert village of Pokhran in Rajasthan. As the world was quiet by this test, a vehement protest came forward from Pakistan. Great ire was raised in Pakistan, Pakistan’s Prime minister Zulfi Ali Bhutto described this test as "Indian hegemony" to intimidate Pakistan. Gandhi directed a letter to Bhutto and, later to the world, describing the test as for peaceful purposes and India’s commitment as to develop its program for industrial and scientific use.

Green Revolution

Special agricultural innovation programs and extra government support launched in the 1960s finally transformed India’s chronic food shortages into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk, the success mainly attributed to the hard working majority Sikh farmers of Punjab. Rather than relying on food aid from the United States – headed by a President whom Gandhi disliked considerably (the feeling was mutual: to Nixon, Indira was "the old witch"), the country became a food exporter. That achievement, along with the diversification of its commercial crop production, has become known as the "Green Revolution". At the same time, the White Revolution was an expansion in milk production which helped to combat malnutrition, especially amidst young children. ‘Food security’, as the program was called, was another source of support for Gandhi in the years leading up to 1975.

Established in the early 1960s, the Green Revolution was the unofficial name given to the Intense Agricultural District Program (IADP) which sought to insure abundant, inexpensive grain for urban dwellers upon whose support Gandhi—as indeed all Indian politicians—heavily depended. The program was based on four premises: 1) New varieties of seed(s), 2) Acceptance of the necessity of the chemicalization of Indian agriculture, i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, etc., 3) A commitment to national and international cooperative research to develop new and improved existing seed varieties, 4) The concept of developing a scientific, agricultural institutions in the form of land grant colleges.

1971 Election Victory and Second Term

Indira’s government faced major problems after her tremendous mandate of 1971. The internal structure of the Congress Party had withered following its numerous splits, leaving it entirely dependent on her leadership for its election fortunes. Garibi Hatao (Eradicate Poverty) was the theme for Gandhi’s 1971 bid. The slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programs that came with it were designed to give Gandhi an independent national support, based on rural and urban poor. This would allow her to bypass the dominant rural castes both in and of state and local government; likewise the urban commercial class. And, for their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight.

The programs created through Garibi Hatao, though carried out locally, were funded, developed, supervised, and staffed by New Delhi and the Indian National Congress party. "These programs also provided the central political leadership with new and vast patronage resources to be disbursed… throughout the country.” Scholars and historians now agree as to the extent of the failure of Garibi Hatao in alleviating poverty – only about 4% of all funds allocated for economic development went to the three main anti-poverty programs, and precious few of these ever reached the ‘poorest of the poor’ – and the empty sloganeering of the program was mainly used instead to engender populist support for Gandhi’s re-election.

Corruption Charges and Verdict of Electoral Malpractice

On 12 June 1975 the High Court of Allahabad declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha void on grounds of electoral malpractice. In an election petition filed by Raj Narain (who later on defeated her in 1977 parliamentary election from Rae Bareily), he had alleged several major as well as minor instances of using government resources for campaigning. The court thus ordered her to be removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running in elections for six years. The Prime Minister must be a member of either the Lok Sabha (Lower house in the Parliament of India) or the Rajya Sabha (the Higher house of the Parliament). Thus, this decision effectively removed her from office. Mrs Gandhi had asked one of India’s best legal minds and also one of her colleagues in government, Mr. Ashoke Kumar Sen to defend her in court. It has been written that Mrs Gandhi was told she would only win if Mr. Sen appeared for her.

MrpfpindiraghandiGandhi meeting with Shah of Iran Mohammad-Reza
Pahlavi and Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi during the latters’
State visit to India in 1970.

But Gandhi rejected calls to resign and announced plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. The verdict was delivered by Mr. Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha at Allahabad High Court. It came almost four years after the case was brought by Raj Narain, the premier’s defeated opponent in the 1971 parliamentary election. Gandhi, who gave evidence in her defense during the trial, was found guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure, and of using government machinery and officials for party purposes. The judge rejected more serious charges of bribery against her.

Indira insisted the conviction did not undermine her position, despite having been unseated from the lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, by order of the High Court. She said: "There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments". And she dismissed criticism of the way her Congress Party raised election campaign money, saying all parties used the same methods. The prime minister retained the support of her party, which issued a statement backing her. After news of the verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging their loyalty. Indian High Commissioner BK Nehru said Gandhi’s conviction would not harm her political career. "Mrs Gandhi has still today overwhelming support in the country," he said. "I believe the prime minister of India will continue in office until the electorate of India decides otherwise".

State of Emergency (1975–1977)

Gandhi moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the unrest. Her Cabinet and government then recommended that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declare a state of emergency, because of the disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court decision. Accordingly, Ahmed declared a State of Emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352 of the Constitution, on 26 June 1975.

Rule by Decree

Within a few months, President’s Rule was imposed on the two opposition party ruled states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu thereby bringing the entire country under direct Central rule or by governments led by the ruling Congress party. Police were granted powers to impose curfews and indefinitely detain citizens and all publications were subjected to substantial censorship by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Inder Kumar Gujral, a future prime minister himself, resigned as Minister for Information and Broadcasting to protest Sanjay Gandhi’s interference in his work. Finally, impending legislative assembly elections were indefinitely postponed, with all opposition-controlled state governments being removed by virtue of the constitutional provision allowing for a dismissal of a state government on recommendation of the state’s governor.

Indira Gandhi used the emergency provisions to grant herself extraordinary powers.

"Unlike her father Jawaharlal Nehru, who preferred to deal with strong chief ministers in control of their legislative parties and state party organizations, Mrs. Gandhi set out to remove every Congress chief minister who had an independent base and to replace each of them with ministers personally loyal to her…Even so, stability could not be maintained in the states…”

It is alleged that she pressured President Ahmed to issue ordinances that did not need to be debated in the Parliament, allowing her to rule by decree.

Simultaneously, Gandhi’s government undertook a campaign to crush dissent, including the arrest and detention of thousands of political activists; Sanjay was instrumental in initiating the clearing of slums around Delhi’s Jama Masjid under the supervision of Jag Mohan, later Lt. Governor of Delhi, which allegedly left thousands of people homeless and hundreds killed, and led to communal embitterment in those parts of the nation’s capital; and the family planning program which forcibly imposed vasectomy on thousands of fathers and was often poorly administered.

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Indira Gandhi Interview 1971…  (5:15)



Please take time to further explore more about Golden Temple, Harmandir Sahib, Head of Government, Indian National Congress, Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sikh Extremists, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and The Emergency (India) by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…





Other Events on this Day:

  • In 1782…
    Statesman and orator Daniel Webster is born in Salisbury, New Hampshire.

  • In 1807…
    Confederate general Robert E. Lee is born at Stratford Hall, Virginia.

  • In 1861…
    Georgia secedes from the Union.

  • In 1898…
    Brown University defeats Harvard University in a 6-0 shutout at Franklin Field in Boston, winning the first intercollegiate ice hockey game and inaugurating the oldest college hockey rivalry in U.S. history.

  • In 1903…
    The French newspaper L’Auto announces the creation of the Tour de France, a race across France billed as "the greatest cycling trial in the entire world." The race was conceived by editor Henri Desgrange and sports journalist Géo Lefèvre as a way to boost the newspaper’s circulation. Their idea will work — six months later, the special edition of L’Auto describing Maurice Garin’s Tour de France victory will sell more than 130,000 copies.

  • In 1937…
    Millionaire aviator Howard Hughes sets a new transcontinental air speed record, flying from Los Angeles to New York in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds aboard a redesigned H-1 Racer. At an average speed of 322 miles per hour, Hughes breaks his own record by nearly two hours.

  • In 1953…
    Seventy percent of homes with a TV watch Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) give birth to a son on I Love Lucy.

  • In 1955… 
    President Dwight D. Eisenhower steps before news cameras at the White House, becoming the first U.S. president to hold a televised press conference. Eisenhower expresses his hope that the cameras will not prove to be a "disturbing influence."

  • In 1966…
    Indira Gandhi, daughter of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is chosen by the Congress Party to become India’s first female head of government, following the death of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.

  • In 1974…
    With 29 seconds on the clock, Fighting Irish guard Dwight Clay scores the winning shot for the University of Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team to narrowly upset UCLA 71-70, ending the Bruins’ record 88-game winning streak.

  • In 1977…
    Snow fall in Miami for the first and only time.


Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)


Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Indira Gandhi…

Wikipedia: Head of Government…

Wikipedia: Sikh Extremists…

Wikipedia: Sirimavo Bandaranaike…

Wikipedia: Jawaharlal Nehru…

Wikipedia: The Emergency (India)…

Wikipedia: Indian National Congress…

Wikipedia: Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)…

Brainy Quote: Indira Gandhi Quotes…


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Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Rajendra Prasad: First President of Republic of India…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Mother Teresa: Born in 1910…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Fazal Sheikh: Interest in Displaced Peoples…

Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Benazir Bhutto: First Prime Minister of Modern Muslim Country