Indira Ghandi Overview (02:20)
India's first female prime minister was a democrat who became a dictator and prioritized power over her family. A divisive leader, she was assassinated.
Childhood Impressions (02:49)
Indira Nehru was born in 1917 at the height of the British Raj. Her grandfather followed an English social model until the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, in which 1,000 civilians were killed. The Nehru family destroyed British possessions—one of Indira's earliest memories.
Indian National Congress Party (02:09)
The Nehru family became politically influential and Jawaharlal was elected opposition leader in 1929. He called for independence, sparking civil disobedience acts. Indira's parents were imprisoned and she was left alone. In 1936, her mother died of tuberculosis.
Love and Romance (02:35)
Feroze Ghandi had become Kamala Nehru's assistant. Against the Nehru family wishes, he and Indira became friends when she moved to London to study. They were engaged in Paris, but she kept it secret.
Indira’s Oxford studies were interrupted by war and tuberculosis. She joined Feroze in London in 1941 and they returned to India. She convinced her family to approve of their union; after a honeymoon in Kashmir, she focused on the independence movement.
Quit India Movement (02:00)
In 1942, Indian nationalists threatened to boycott the war effort. The British arrested congress members; Indira was also detained—an experience that toughened her mentally and physically. Her commitment to independence threatened her marriage to Feroze.
Independence and Partitioning (03:00)
Ghandi had two sons, Rajiv and Sanjay. In 1947, Britain withdrew and Jawaharlal became prime minister. Pakistan was created in the West and East, dividing the Punjab. Violence erupted among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.
Search for Personal Happiness (03:05)
During partitioning, Ghandi became unofficial adviser to her father—placing politics before her family. In 1959, she was elected Indian National Congress president, but stepped down to try to salvage her marriage. In 1960, Feroze died of a heart attack.
First Female Prime Minister (02:01)
In 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru died. In 1966, Indira agreed to lead the world's largest democracy of nearly 500 million people.
Turmoil in India (02:39)
After partition, regional princes drained government resources, causing food shortages. Ghandi appealed to foreign leaders for humanitarian assistance and showed her own Congress strong leadership. She named herself Mother India and promised to wipe out poverty.
Green Revolution (01:29)
In 1967, Ghandi provided rural communities with water, electricity, and fertilizer and stripped regional princes of their titles and power. The reforms alleviated India’s famine and she won reelection.
Pakistan Refugee Crisis (02:13)
After 13 years of military rule, East Pakistan called for independence from West Pakistan. In 1971, the Pakistani military crushed political unrest, killing 3 million. Civilians flooded into India; Indira appealed for international assistance.
Indo-Pakistan War (01:52)
The U.S. backed the West Pakistani regime; Ghandi supported East Pakistan in a political gamble. West Pakistan bombed Indian air bases and Ghandi swiftly defeated its forces, allowing the creation of an independent Bangladesh.
Suspending Democracy (02:27)
In 1972, India suffered famine and inflation. Ghandi crushed a railway strike, a move that damaged her popularity. In 1975, she was found guilty of vote rigging, declared a state of emergency, and detained opposition leaders.
Social Reform Program (02:25)
Ghandi granted Sanjay an exclusive license to produce cheap cars; his company failed but he gained wealth and government influence. He introduced a plan to increase literacy, beautify the environment, abolish the bridal dowry, and end the caste system.
Mass Sterilization Controversy (01:15)
Sanjay's radical family planning program caused outrage in India and abroad. Ghandi seemed oblivious to the harm he was doing.
Defeat and Political Comeback (02:33)
In 1977, Ghandi lost a general election. The new government placed her family under surveillance and she was transformed into a martyr. In 1979, the government was dissolved and she became prime minister again in 1980.
Credits: Light Phase and Matter: Catherine Bell (00:16)
Credits: Light Phase and Matter: Catherine Bell
Operation Blue Star (02:47)
In May 1984, Ghandi sent the Indian military to stop Bhindranwale's religious violence campaign in Amritsir. Poor intelligence contributed to hundreds of militant and pilgrim casualties; many Sikhs felt Ghandi had violated their holy space and wanted revenge.
Assassination and Legacy (03:47)
After Operation Blue Star, Ghandi refused to dismiss her Sikh guards. Hear details of her shooting on October 31, 1984. Millions mourned her as Mother India and Rajiv became prime minister. A controversial politician, she set India’s prosperity in motion.
Credits: Indira Ghandi: Extraordinary Women (00:47)
Credits: Indira Ghandi: Extraordinary Women
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