Today marks the 34th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Also India’s first female prime minister and the second-longest serving PM of the country after her father Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by two of her own security guards.
The only child of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru, Indira Gandhi made her political plunge after her father’s death in 1964. She married Feroze Gandhi and the couple had two sons Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.
Her elder son Rajiv Gandhi became the youngest Prime Minister of India at the age of 40. While campaigning for the general elections in 1991, he was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber. Her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, who was rumoured to succeed Indira Gandhi, died in a horrific plane crash in 1980.
Indira Gandhi was appointed the President of Congress party in 1959 and also served as her father’s personal assistant from 1947 till 1964. After Nehru’s death in 1964, she served as a Cabinet minister under Lal Bahadur Shastri’s leadership but later became Prime Minister of the country in 1966 after Shastri’s sudden death.
From 1966 to 1977, she was able to retain the position but lost after an emergency was imposed by her in 1975 leading to a national discontent and countrywide protests. In the early hours of June 25-26 in 1975, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi notified to the nation that the President has proclaimed Emergency on account of “imminent security threats” to the country. Soon after, constitutional rights of citizens were suspended and curbs placed on the freedom of the press.
The Army, in a 10-day operation, codenamed Blue Star, flushed out heavily armed militants and radicals from inside the shrine complex in June 1984. The same year, in an act of revenge, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards — who were Sikhs — for sending troops into the holy shrine. Violence erupted in several parts of the country after her death in which Sikhs were killed by angry protesters.
Indira Gandhi was known for her strong personality and also went to war with Pakistan supporting the Independence Movement in East Pakistan leading to the formation of Bangladesh. In 1999, Indira Gandhi was named ‘Woman of the Millennium’ by a BBC poll.