“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”- Indira Gandi
Happy birthday this month to Indira Gandi (19 November, 1917 – 31 October, 1984), India’s only female Prime Minister. Born in Allahabad, India, her father was a leading member of the Independence movement for India, and became India’s first Prime Minister in 1947. Gandi’s mother died of tuberculosis in 1936, and Indira took on the role of hostess for her father while he was Prime Minister, giving her access to many influential political leaders and a chance to practice the skills of debate and diplomacy she would need if she was to make politics her career. She moved up the ranks of the Congress Party and became prime minister when her father’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, died in 1966.
Gandi represented a new wave of ideas within her party, including nationalizing banks, obtaining nuclear capability, and modernizing farming practices. She also went to war with Pakistan, which led to independence for the area to be known as Bangladesh.
Gandi was convicted and jailed for corruption in relation to her re-election campaign, and she stepped down in 1977. She was re-elected in 1979 into political power, and became prime minister again in 1980.
In 1984, Sikhs in the Punjab area were pushing for independence, and Gandi ordered the army to confront protesters at the sacred Golden Temple in Amritsar. Hundreds of people were injured and killed, and on October 31, 1984, two of her bodyguards, both Sikh, shot and killed her.
While Indira Gandi did not view herself as a feminist, she continually acted in ways that encouraged women to participate in politics, and to help equalize the playing field for the women in her country, including documenting within the Indian constitution the policy of equal pay for equal work for both women and men.
Indira Gandi spent many years developing an ability to stand up for what she believed in, debating with ranks of politicians both at home and in the international political field. Join your school debate team to hone the skills you need to outline your beliefs to the world and influence your future. Want to learn how to debate at school? NYCUDL Girls Debate League can help! Check them out on Twitter and on their blog for more information.