MOSCOW, October 31 (RIA Novosti) — Friday marks 30 years since the death of Indira Gandhi, a prominent Indian politician and prime minister in 1966-1977 and 1980-1984, who was shot dead by her own bodyguards, triggering a surge of violence across the country.
Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh, northern India) to a family that helped lead the fight for India's independence.
At the time, her father Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became the first prime minister of India after the country gained independence in 1947, had just embarked on his political career as a member of the Indian National Congress party (INC). Her grandfather Motilal Nehru was a prominent leader of the INC "old guard." The Nehru women were also politically active: Indira's grandmother Swaroop Rani Nehru and mother Kamala faced repeated repression.
When she was two, Indira Gandhi met "the father of the nation," Mahatma Gandhi. Following his advice, at the age of eight, she organized a children's group in her town which made homespun clothes. As a child, she participated in demonstrations and worked as a courier for independence fighters.
In 1934, she entered Visva-Bharati University founded by famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. But after her mother's death, she had to leave university and move to Europe. In 1937, she enrolled in Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied management, history and anthropology.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, Indira decided to return home to be with her people during this difficult time. Her route home passed through South Africa, home to a large Indian community. There, in Cape Town, she gave her first political speech.
In 1941, she returned to India, and in 1942 she married Feroze Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi), a journalist from Allahabad and a childhood friend. In September 1942, the couple was arrested, and Indira remained imprisoned until May 1943.
In 1944, her son Rajiv was born, followed by a second son, Sanjay, in 1946.
On August 15, 1947, India gained its independence. The first national government was formed. Indira Gandhi served as her father's personal assistant during his tenure as prime minister, accompanying him on all foreign trips.
In 1955, Gandhi became a member of the Working Committee and the INC Central Election Commission, the chair of the party's women's organization and a member of the INC All India Committee's Central Parliamentary Council. In the same year, Gandhi and her father participated in the Bandung conference, which launched the Non-Aligned Movement. From 1959 to 1960, Gandhi chaired the Congress.
In early 1961, Gandhi became a member of the INC Working Committee and began to make trips to sites of ethnic conflict in India.
In 1964, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri appointed her Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
Following Shastri's death in 1966, Indira Gandhi succeeded him as prime minister. She faced strong opposition while in office. When her government nationalized India's 14 largest banks in 1969, the INC's conservative leaders tried unsuccessfully to expel her from the Congress, causing the party to split apart.
In 1971, a war with Pakistan broke out. It was against this backdrop that Gandhi signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union.
The war damaged the economy and increased domestic tensions that led to unrest in the country. In response, Gandhi declared a state of emergency in June 1975.
This decision undermined her credibility with the people, and she lost the 1977 election. Gandhi and members of her family were arrested twice on corruption.
In 1978, having announced the establishment of the INC (R) party, Gandhi was re-elected to Parliament, and in the 1980 election, she won back the office of prime minister.
Shortly after returning to power, Gandhi suffered a devastating personal loss — her younger son and chief political adviser, Sanjay, was killed in a plane crash. In the last years of her life, Gandhi mainly focused on international politics, and in 1983 she was elected chair of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Indira Gandhi's second term was marked by conflict with Sikh separatists in Punjab. On October 31, 1984, she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for ordering Operation Blue Star against Sikh extremists.
After Gandhi's death, the INC and the government were led by her elder son Rajiv. In 1991, he was killed by a terrorist from the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for deploying Indian troops to Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s.