Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 and was the only child of Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru. Being influenced and inspired by her parents, Indira Gandhi rose to power in India and eventually became the first lady prime minister of India. She dedicated her life to progress in her country despite the overwhelming problems and challenges she encountered.
Her road to power and politics started when she turned twelve years of age. During the time of British imperialism, many Indian National Congress workers from Allahabad did not know when or if the British would arrest them or search their homes. In order to find out when this would occur, the Monkey Brigade was formed. Although Indira claimed to have thought of the idea, some asserted that the Monkey Brigade was the idea of the Congress. In any event, Indira became the leader of this children’s group whose purpose was to help end British control in India.
Being its leader, she delivered speeches while other children actually warned the people who were going to be arrested. The Congress figured that the British would not suspect children of participating in such involvement. In 1938, Indira finally joined the Indian National Congress Party, something she always longed to do. Soon afterwards in 1942, she married journalist Feroze Gandhi to whom she eventually bore two sons. Soon after the couple was married, they were sent to prison on charges of subversion by the British.
Her first and only imprisonment lasted from September 11, 1942 until May 13, 1943 at the Naini Central Jail in Allahabad. Fortunately, India won its independence from Britain in 1947. In that same year, Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru became prime minister. Since her mother had died in 1936, Indira acted as hostess and confidante and traveled Nehru to meet famous political figures. Later in 1959, Gandhi became the fourth woman elected president of the Indian National Congress.
Five years later in 1964, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri appointed Indira Gandhi as minister of information and broadcasting. This position was the fourth highest ranking position in the Cabinet. Many Indians were illiterate. Therefore, radio and television played a major part in informing them. As minister, she most importantly encouraged the making of inexpensive radios and started a family planning program. After Shastri’s death in 1966, Indira Gandhi served as prime minister until India held the next election. She won that election, and in 1967, became the first woman ever elected to lead a democracy. In 1971, Gandhi was re-elected by campaigning with the slogan “Abolish Poverty.”
However in 1975, Gandhi was found guilty of violating election laws. Later, the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of India. Also, to control population growth, Gandhi implemented a voluntary sterilization program. As a result, adversaries criticized her and her administration in general. To secure her power and because of escalating riots, on June 26, 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency which limited the personal freedom of Indians.
Also, she ordered the arrests of the main opposition leaders. In her opinion, she declared an emergency for the good of India. In 1977, she was voted out of office but regained her position as prime minister in 1980. Unfortunately on October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards assassinated her. They did so to avenge the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Gandhi ordered the storming in June because of terrorist activity- As prime minister, Gandhi tried to improve the lives of Indians. Her main accomplishments were improving relations with the Soviet Union and victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan. Also in 1971, India sent its first satellite into space.
Economically, Indira Gandhi led India to one of the fastest growing economies in the world toward the end of her time as prime minister. She was indeed the new face of powerful women in India.