Good, Bad and Ugly: Here are events for which Indira Gandhi is remembered

Good, Bad and Ugly: Here are events for which Indira Gandhi is remembered

Popularly remembered as “Iron lady of India”, Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister of India from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her death in 1984.

New Delhi: The country is observing death anniversary of the first and only female Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. The late Congress leader was assassinated by her own bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

Popularly remembered as the “Iron lady of India”, Indira Gandhi served as the Prime Minister of India from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her death in 1984.

It was under Indira’s reign as a Prime Minister that the infamous Operation Blue Star took place in Golden Temple, Amritsar. Soon after, she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. As per reports, around 31 shots were fired at her.

On Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary, here are 8 events for which the former PM is still remembered:  

Operation Bluestar

Operation Bluestar had a huge impact on the country’s politics in 1980s. It was on June, 1984, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, ordered the Indian Army to conduct the operation to flush out militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. 

The operation claimed several lives and damaged large portions of the Sikh shrine. The Sikh community was enraged by what it felt was desecration of the revered shrine. Later in the year, Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her own Sikh bodyguards. 

1971 Indo-Pak war

Indira Gandhi is fondly remembered for her role in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. In 1971, the Awami League in Pakistan secured a majority in the elections and began emphasising on the autonomy for East Pakistan. This led to 10 million East Pakistanis crossing the border and infiltrating to the Indian side. 

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Since the influx largely affected the economy of the country, India asked Pakistan to create conditions for the return of refugees to their homes in East Bengal. The talks, however, failed and Pakistan attacked India on December 3, 1971. The war lasted for 13 days. 

The war culminated with the separation of East and West Pakistan and led to the creation of Bangladesh. The 1971 war brought the greatest moments of glory for then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and she even ordered ceasefire. 

The Emergency period

The period between 1975 and 1977 saw the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi have a state of emergency declared across the country. A number of human rights violations incidents were reported from the time, including a mass forced sterilization campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son. This period is considered to be one of the most controversial times in India’s history.

Indira Gandhi, however, apologised for the excesses during the Emergency, but was not repentant about it. 

Green Revolution

The India inherited by Indira was a weak and troubled country. The war of 1965 had left India dry, and the country soon went into recession. The government under Indira responded by taking steps to liberalise the economy and agreeing to the devaluation of the currency in return for the restoration of foreign aid. 

To deal with India’s food problem, Indira Gandhi headed the Green Revolution that transformed the country from a nation heavily reliant on imported grains to one that could feed itself.

Operation ‘Smiling Buddha’

India’s successfully carried out its first nuclear test on May 18, 1974, in Rajasthan’s Pokhran. It made India a nuclear power and the country became the sixth member of the ‘Nuclear Club’, the most respected and feared club in the world. 

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The test was codenamed ‘Smiling Buddha’ because it was conducted on Buddha Purnima that year. The nuclear test was in response to the Test number six – a code name for China’s nuclear test. With her nod for the test, Indira Gandhi gave a go ahead to Indian nuclear scientists to explore possibilities of a peaceful nuclear explosion.

Social reform

Indira Gandhi enshrined the principle of equal pay for equal work for both men and women in the Indian Constitution. She also questioned the continued existence of a privy purse for former rulers of princely states. The former PM also argued the case for abolition based on equal rights for all citizens and the need to reduce the government’s revenue deficit. It was Indira Gandhi who in 1967, introduced a constitutional amendment that assured the de facto use of both Hindi and English as official languages.

Poverty as election agenda

In the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader Indira Gandhi, brought to the fore the ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan that came up with an unprecedented undertaking that India’s political economy would be rearranged in a fundamental way. Indira Gandhi discovered her voice, connected with the masses, led from the front to seek a mandate for a new national direction.


However, the ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan became a personal contest and the Grand Alliance responded with its own counter war-cry of ‘Indira Hatao’. Without anyone wanting it, the 1971 election became a referendum on Indira Gandhi and her promise to steer India towards a social transformation.

Perhaps the most consequential aspect of Indira Gandhi’s political victory was that at her urging, the electorate signed the final death warrant of a particularly anachronistic arrangement surviving in free and democratic India. 

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Relationship with ASEAN

One of the major developments in Southeast Asia during Indira Gandhi’s premiership was the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. Her relations with reunified Vietnam and decision to recognise the Vietnam-installed Government of Cambodia in 1980 saw the India and ASEAN being able to develop a viable partnership.

first published:Oct. 31, 2021, 2:46 p.m.

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