Indira Gandhi(Indira Priyadarshini Nehru) was born on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad, the only child ofKamala and Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India.Nehru family was the center of national political activity; Indira Gandhi was exposed to politics when she was a little child. Mahatma Gandhi was among the frequent visitors of the Nehru house in Allahabad. She passed her Metric from Pune University and went to Shantiniketan in West Bengal. Here, the students were made to lead a very strict and disciplined life. She later went on to study in Switzerland and Oxford University in London. Indira then stayed few months in Switzerland with her ailing mother. In 1936, after Kamala Nehru finally succumbed to tuberculosis, she returned to India. At the time of Kamala's death, Jawaharlal Nehru, was languishing in the Indian jails.
After his return to the country, Indira showed an active participation in the national movement.In 1938 she joined the National Congress party and became active in India's independence movement. Here, she met Feroze Gandhi, a journalist and key member of the Youth Congress - the youth wing of the Congress Party. In 1941, despite his father's objections, she married Feroze Gandhi. In 1944, Indira gave birth to Rajiv Gandhi followed two years later by Sanjay Gandhi.
After the independence, Indira Gandhi's father Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi decided to shift to Delhi to assist his father. Her two sons remained with her but Feroze decided to stay back in Allahabad. He was working as an editor of The National Herald newspaper founded by Motilal Nehru. In 1951-52 Parliamentary Elections, Indira Gandhi handled the campaigns of her husband, Feroze, who was contesting from Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh. After being elected as MP, Feroze opted to live in a separate house in Delhi.Feroze soon became a prominent force against the corruption in the Nehru led government. He exposed a major scandal involving prominent insurance companies and the Finance Minister T.T. Krishnamachari. The Finance Minister was considered to be a close aide of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Feroze had developed as a noted figure in the country's political circle. He, with a small coterie of supporters and advisors continued to challenge the Central government. On 8 September 1960, Feroze died after a major cardiac arrest.
In 1955 she was elected to the executive body of the Congress party, becoming a national political figure in her own right; in 1959 she became president of the party for one year. In 1962, during the Chinese-Indian border war, she coordinated civil defense activities.Following the death of her father in May 1964, Gandhi became minister of information and broadcasting in Lal Bahadur Shastri's government.It was believed that Indira Gandhi was an adept at the art of politics and image-making. This is corroborated by an event happened during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. While the war was going, Indira Gandhi went on a holiday trip to Srinagar. Despite repeated warnings by the security forces that Pakistani insurgents had entered very close to the hotel, she was staying, Gandhi refused to move. The incident fetched her huge national and international media attention.
When Shastri died suddenly in January 1966, in Tashkent, the race to the coveted throne of Prime Minister began. The party faced a serious trouble, as, all the senior leaders of the Congress party desired to contest. Unable to reach at a consensus, the high-command picked Indira as their contender. The virtual reason behind Indira's selection was the thought that "Indira would, indirectly be run by the top leadership." But Indira Gandhi, showing extraordinary political skills elbowed the Congress stalwarts out of power.The following year she was elected to a 5-year term by the parliament members of the dominant Congress party.In 1971, in order to stop the Bangladeshi refugees from flowing in into the country, Indira Gandhi supported the East Pakistan's struggle for freedom against West Pakistan. India provided logistical support and also sent troops to fight against West Pakistan. India's triumph in the war of 1971 against Pakistan enhanced the popularity of Indira Gandhi as a shrewd political leader. In 1975 Gandhi was convicted of a minor infraction of the election laws during the 1971 campaign. Maintaining innocence, she charged that the conviction was part of an attempt to remove her from office and, instead of resigning, declared a national state of emergency on June 26.
During the state of emergency, her political foes were imprisoned, constitutional rights of the citizens were abrogated, and the press placed under strict censorship. The Gandhian socialist Jaya Prakash Narayan and his supporters sought to unify students, peasants and labor organizations in a 'Total non-violent Revolution' to transform Indian society. Narayan was later arrested and jailed.In 1977, fearing military coup if the emergency continued further, Indira Gandhi called for elections. She was brutally thrashed by the emerging Janata Dal, led by Morarji Desai and Jai Prakash Narayan. Congress managed to win only 153 Lok Sabha seats, as compared to 350 seats it grabbed in the previous Lok Sabha.In the next elections, Congress returned to power with a landslide majority. Experts viewed the victory of the Congress as a result of inefficient and ineffective "Janata Dal".
The following year Gandhi headed the Congress Party as she returned to Parliament. In 1979 she again became prime minister. In efforts to prove India's nonalliance in the global community, she visited the United States and the U.S.S.R., the former Soviet Union, which consisted of Russia and several smaller states. Internally, riots broke out among Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh religious sects, or groups. Sikhs, looking to separate themselves from India, secured weapons within their sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar, and assumed religious protection. Gandhi ordered government troops to storm the temple, leading to many Sikh deaths. This led to her assassination at her residence on October 31, 1984, by her own Sikh security guards. In death, Gandhi remains a symbol of courage and democracy in one of the world's most populated countries.