Songs About Jane – A Widow’s Reign
Indira Gandhi, daughter of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, became the first female Prime Minister of our country on 19th January, 1966. It was in January itself, when she was voted to power twice. To commemorate the beginning of her tenure in this month, here’s a glimpse into her controversial yet commanding rule.
During her tenure, she gathered exceptional amount of fame when she commanded India’s invasion of Pakistan for the creation of Bangladesh which led to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
Under Indira Gandhi’s able guidance, India provided shelter, food and medicines to about 10 million people who fled their homes to the neighbouring West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam, to elude the marauding Pakistani army and its hoodlums. Being intrepid and not succumbing under the international pressure of the United States which was supporting Pakistan, India trained the Bangladeshi Liberation soldiers. With the country celebrating its 40th independence anniversary in 2011, the Sheikh Hasina government decided to confer the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona on Indira Gandhi posthumously for her “outstanding contribution” to the country’s independence from Pakistan.
However, her rule was rocked by many controversies.
Allegations by the Socialist party that she had defrauded the 1971 elections culminated into a national scandal. Consequently, in 1975, the Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of Raj Narain and against Mrs. Gandhi, declaring her 1971 parliamentary election in the constituency of Rae Bareilly as null and void because of electoral malpractice. Meanwhile, the ABVP-led Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat and the Sampoorna Kranti agitation led by Jayaprakash Narayan in Bihar was gaining momentum.
On June 25th, the opposition leaders under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narain conducted a rally in Delhi demanding her resignation and encouraging the citizens to join them. The following morning Indira Gandhi declared a National Emergency in view of “threats to national security”.
During the 19 months of emergency rule, democracy was suspended, many opposition politicians were imprisoned and a compulsory birth control programme was introduced. Finally, in 1977, the long postponed general elections were held which substantiated the discontent among people as Gandhi was swept from the office.
Notwithstanding her ‘emergency dictatorship’, Indira returned by a landslide victory on the 7th of January, 1980 as the incumbent government of the Janata Party fell apart. Her Congress (Indira) party had won 351 of the 525 contested seats in the lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha. Neither the Janata nor the Lok Dal party gained the requisite 54 seats to qualify for recognition as the official opposition.
Another jar that Gandhi received soon after her victory was the death of her elder son, Sanjay Gandhi. He died from head wounds in an air crash on 23rd June, 1980 near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. This incident compelled her to induct her younger son, Rajiv Gandhi into politics.
Furthermore, in the early 1980s, several regional states intensified their call for greater autonomy from New Delhi. The Sikh secessionist movement, known as the Khalistan Movement, was the most prominent of them where the Sikhs demanded formation of a separate sovereign country ‘Khalistan’.
On 12th April, 1980, Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the founder of the aforementioned movement, held a meeting with Gandhi before declaring the formation of “National Council of Khalistan” at Anandpur Sahib. In May 1980, Dr. Jagjit Singh travelled to London and announced the formation of Khalistan. A similar announcement was made by Balbir Singh Sandhu, in Amritsar, who went a step ahead by releasing stamps and currency of Khalistan.
Gradually, these Khalistan advocates resorted to violence and belligerency.
In 1984, the Sikh leaders set up base in their sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar. Gandhi retorted by directing the Indian army in, and hundreds of Sikhs were killed in the government assault. This was known as the Operation Blue Star. The Indian Government was widely condemned for this action and many Sikhs strongly uphold that the attack resulted in the desecration of the holiest Sikh shrine. In retaliation, Gandhi’s own Sikh bodyguard gunned her down on the grounds of her residence on October 31, 1984.
Though Gandhi is widely shamed for many of her actions, what cannot be denied is that she was the most influential lady of her time who shattered that glass ceiling constructed by our patriarchal society. Her title of ‘Iron Lady of India’ is justified and her legacy continues to live.
Intrigued by the Indian political system, Muskaan is a MUN enthusiast, an avid debater, a dilettante baker, a history buff and a tireless blabber. A staunch believer in the principle that life is as difficult as you make it, she is the sort of person who prides herself in being an optimist. Aspiring to be Sheldon Cooper, she possess the potential of making a world record in babbling about various television series all day long.
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