Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of India, was born on November 19, 1917, in a Kashmiri Pandit family in then Allahabad (Prayagraj). Born as Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, she is the only woman Prime Minister India ever got.
Indira Gandhi is the longest-serving Prime Minister of the country after her father Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of independent India.
As a Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi saw a lot of ups and downs and also shaped the contours of politics in the country and is most fondly remembered for her role in the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the formation of Bangladesh.
Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India in 1966. When freedom calls were resonating in 1971 in then East Pakistan, India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi intervened in the conflict to liberate Bangladesh.
It all began after the Awami League in Pakistan secured a majority in the 1971 elections and stressed upon the autonomy for East Pakistan, which led to 10 million East Pakistanis crossing the border and infiltrating to the Indian side.
According to the Indian Army, the influx of people largely affected the Indian economy and India asked Pakistan to create conditions for the return of refugees to their homes in East Bengal.
However, talks failed and Pakistan attacked India on December 3, 1971. The India Army adopted an “aggressive strategy” on the eastern front and “defensive strategy” on the western front.
In 1971, India and Pakistan were engaged in a war for 13 days. During the Indo-Pak war, Indira Gandhi remained affirm in her support to Bangladesh.
Indira Gandhi gave adequate autonomy to her Defence heads in the run-up and course of the 1971 war and ensured the war doesn’t linger.
On December 3, a pre-emptive strike on some of Indian airbases was made. Indira Gandhi was in Calcutta at that time and soon rushed to Delhi to address the nation. She said, “War has been forced on us.”
India responded with offensives and the war ended with the separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan resulting into the creation of Bangladesh. It was India’s victory and Gandhi announced a ceasefire.
The 1971 war brought the greatest moments of glory for then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She was termed ‘goddess’ by several political leaders. BJP veteran and former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in particular, described her as the all-powerful “Goddess Durga”.
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