Destiny’s child

Destiny’s child

In December 1971, after India’s victory over Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh,a senior British diplomat wryly commented that the triumph had made then prime minister Indira Gandhi the “Empress of India".

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The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has declared 31 October—the 25th death anniversary of the woman who bears this epithet—as Martyrdom Day. Tribute advertisements will be featured in the print and electronic media, and the ad blitz will go on until 19 November—her 92nd birth anniversary.

The pinnacle of Indira Gandhi’s popularity, when even her political opponents were hailing her as goddess Durga, came just five years after she was sworn in as prime minister in 1966. In the beginning, she was often the object of mirth and ridicule—Ram Manohar Lohia famously called her ‘gungi gudiya’ (dumb doll).

Click here to view photographs of Indira Gandhi with her young sons Rajiv and Sanjiv, addressing a public meeting in 1984, sitting by the side of Mahatma Gandhi as a seven year old and more

The extent of her role in all that transpired during her political reign, including the Green Revolution, Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971, and the declaration of Emergency in 1975, is debated even today. Did she often merely carry out the suggestion of her advisers? Was her life’s mission to keep alive the legacy of her father Jawaharlal Nehru?

We put together some images of the woman who ruled India for two decades and left an indelible stamp on the nation.

Photographs courtesy Hindustan Times archives