Indira Gandhi, one of the strongest post-independence political figures of India was born on this day – November 19 – in the year 1917. The son of India’s first-ever Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ended up occupying the coveted post for three terms during her political tenure. Under her political leadership, India played a crucial role in liberating Bangladesh from Pakistan. On her 102nd birth anniversary, here are some lesser known facts about the “Iron Lady” of India.
Considered as one of the most influential leaders of the world in her era, the courageous instincts were seen in her as early as she was a little girl. At the age of 5, when the country was observing the non-cooperation movement against the British regime, Indira had ended up burning her doll which was “Made in England”. Passionate Quotes From Indira Gandhi.
In 1942, at the age of 25, Indira had challenged the societal norms as she decided to marry Feroze Gandhi who was a Parsi. The wedding drew widespread flak towards her father Jawaharlal Nehru, as several among his followers from the majoritarian community were aggrieved over the inter-religious marriage.
The issue turned serious to an extent where Mahatma Gandhi – the tallest socio-religious-political leader of the era – to issue an approval for the wedding. “I invite the writers of abusive letters to shed your wrath and bless the forthcoming marriage,” he had said.
Indira, who later went on to become the Prime Minister, drew massive applause for her decisive role in the war to liberate East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). A rare known episode before the war involves her visit to the United States in 1971. As per the Oval Office recordings later obtained, President Richard Nixon had told US Secretary Henry Kissinger that the Indian PM was an “old witch”.
Analysts have interpreted his remarks to have been evoked out of frustration, as the US was siding with Pakistan and wanted to coerce India from the military confrontation in the area now known as Bangladesh. However, Indira Gandhi was not pressurised by Washington as New Delhi’s then closest ally – the Soviet Union – had backed the war to liberate East Pakistan. After the war, Indira had sent out a scathing veiled message to the US, saying, “I am not a person to be pressured — by anybody or any nation.”
One of the least known facts about Indira Gandhi is her close friendship with late former UK PM Margaret Thatcher — both were the first female prime ministers of their respective nations. After Indira’s assassination on this day in 1984, an emotional Thatcher came to India to attend the funeral. In the statement she handed over to Rajiv Gandhi, the Tory Party chief had said: “I cannot describe to you my feelings at the news of the loss of your mother, except to say that it was like losing a member of my own family. Our many talks together had a closeness and mutual understanding which will always remain with me. She was not just a great statesman but a warm and caring person.”