She was India's first female Prime Minister and served for 15 years until her assassination in 1984.
Why is she important?
As a child, she is said to have even burned her own doll because it was made in England.
When she was twelve she lead the Vanar Sena (Monkey Brigade) with over 70,000 young revolutionaries who did everything possible to support the nationalist movement. They did everything from making flags to putting up advertisements for public demonstrations.
Even in marriage in 1942, Indira Gandhi was setting the stage to be a maverick of her time. She married Feroze Gandhi, a Parsi. However, Indira Gandhi was Hindu. Mixed marriages were not common at the time, and the fact that the marriage was not arranged was very taboo.
The marriage caused such a spectacle and backlash from the public that Mahatma Gandhi (a family friend of Indira Gandhi and with no relation) had to issue a public statement requesting that the public dismiss their unease and vocal distaste of the union for blessings instead.
As Prime Minister, she led a newly independent India into self sufficiency. Through the Green Revolution, India became independent for grains.
In 1971, Pakistani conflict erupted and she was vocal of her support of the Bengali movement to separate East Pakistan from the West, and create an independent Bangladesh. India then provided much needed refuge to over 10 million Pakistani citizens; which thinned Indian resources and became politically "complicated" with the United States. However, U.S. war with India was avoided with Pakistan's surrender.
An Imperfect Leader
Freedoms were limited, opponents imprisoned, the press censored, and millions were sterilized in the face of over population. When she finally ended her undemocratic emergency rule she lost re-election in fear of her sterilization policy; which was used to sterilize 7.8 million men.
Still an Inspiration
However, for the time her actions and political power were revolutionary. A friend to Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi, a saint to Pakistani refugees in their fight for freedom, and the ruler of an independent India with a firm hand following her father made Indira Gandhi a forced to be reckoned with. She will still be remembered and honored for the incredible work she has done and for pioneering a way for strong female political leaders in the future.
We will hold lessons to be learned from her both empathetic and controversial actions throughout her political career as India's first female Prime Minister.
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