India After Indira

Indira Gandhi in Washington, D.C. in 1966. Warren K. Leffler / Library of Congress

Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, marked the passing of the generation that brought India to independence. Mrs. Gandhi was nourished, almost from birth, on the Congress Party’s struggle against the British, and was particularly influenced by her party’s close links with British socialism in the 1930s. She was deeply suspicious of the business class, even though it supported her with millions of rupees. She was convinced that only if the nation’s industry, agriculture and services were closely guided by the state would equity and justice be assured. Wary of "imperialist" pressures on India—political, educational and economic—she never relinquished her belief that "foreign hands" sought to undermine not only Indian stability and independence but her personal political power as well. Although the United States seemed most often to be the target of her concern, the Soviets, British, Chinese, French and most of her South Asian neighbors were also frequently suspect.

Mrs. Gandhi shared the concern of her father’s generation that India’s unity and integrity were fragile and under continuing threat. The partition into two states, India and Pakistan, was the first great trauma for the independence politicians. Then, in the 1950s, came the integration of hundreds of small princedoms of the old British Raj and the struggle to prevent India from collapsing into a babel of independent linguistic and ethnic states. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mrs. Gandhi fought against political rivals at the national level, and sought to weaken and destroy politicians with strong regional bases who threatened to shift the political balance of power from New Delhi to the state levels; such a shift, she believed, would inevitably weaken the unity and authority of the central government.

Mrs. Gandhi was proud of India’s technological progress but remained close to the traditions and customs of the countryside. Unlike her father, who openly disdained traditional religion, she regularly visited and worshipped at temples and shrines, and privately sought the counsel of astrologers. Her

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.