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INDIRA GANDHI

Indira Nehru Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 and would be 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 prime

minister. 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. Although

some deemed it a joke, Indira took her job very seriously. One of the most

significant actions of the Monkey Brigade involved Indira. The Congress party's

top officials were organizing a civil disobedience movement. After the meeting,

the documents containing the plans of the movement were placed in the trunk of

a car with Indira in the back seat. Before the car was ready to leave the area, a

police inspector stopped the car in order to search it. However, Indira pleaded
with him not to inspect the car because the delay would cause her to arrive late

at school. Fortunately, the inspector believed her and the car was not searched.

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 and served until his

death in 1964. Since her mother had died in 1936, Indira acted as hostess and

confidante and traveled with Nehru to meet famous political figures. Later in

1959, Gandhi became the fourth woman elected president of the Indian National

Congress. After her father's death, the new 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 one of the

first women 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, her dictatorship was for the good of India. But she

allowed free elections in 1977, and the Indian people voted her out of office.

She 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 had ordered the

storming in June because of what her government considered terrorist activity of

extremist Sikhs who had occupied the Temple.

As prime minister, Gandhi tried to improve the lives of Indians. With her

neighbors, the Soviet Union and China, she improved relations. She also

promoted science and technology. In 1971, India sent its first satellite into space.

Economically, Indira Gandhi led India to become one of the fastest growing

economies in the world toward the end of her time as prime minister.