Is she the best friend of Bangladesh? Is she the most vibrant political personality in her contemporaries? Is she being called the iron lady in history? I am sure that all the questions asked before had been very much positive in much way for a lady.
This is Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi - who is supposed to be well known to the world by her name only-needs no introduction further to make her full acquaintance. She was the only woman prime minister of India served for two terms: 1966-1977 and also 1980-1984 until her assassination with maximum dignity. Certainly, her contribution to the birth of Bangladesh is very much contributing; full of political climax and thereby beyond of all appreciations.
Accordingly, for many reasons, her name is involved with the great war of our independence. By her limitless political sagacity which was mostly inherited from her father Nehru, Indira was able to draw the attention of common people of the world to an unjust war perpetrated by Pakistani military against an unarmed nation--Bangalees.
Indira Gandhi made all the ways to give birth of an independent Bangladesh. She brought the sympathy of the world leaders for the freedom loving Bangalees in the shortest time. The accumulation of the world support had been drummed up by Gandhi during her visit to different places in the world.
Maj Gen Sukhwant Singh writes, "To apprise the heads of government of important countries of the situation in the subcontinent personally, Mrs Gandhi went on two foreign tours which took her among other countries to the US and the Soviet Union." (The Liberation of Bangladesh, p.33).
Gen Sukhwant Singh further puts an evidence for Mrs. Gandhi and writes, 'On 23 October, the Prime Minister proceeded on a three-week tour of several Western countries, including the US, France, West Germany, Britian, Belgium and Australia. She explained that her mission "was necessary in the present situation to put across to the world leaders the reality of the situation in the subcontinent."(Ibid, p. 111).
Mrs. Indira Gandhi's political personality is as high as peak of the mountain. All Indians as well as her friends across the world have been celebrating hundred year's birth day this year. Indira Gandhi was born at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in1917 in a very renowned Nehru family.
His father Jawaharlal Nehru was not only a famous politician and first prime minister of India but also a scholar extraordinary. He has written some famous books on world history and Indian discovery. His autobiography is a famous classic on Indian history, culture, society, and social relationship.
Nehru's long preparation to make his daughter a successful Indian leader came to be true not only by her statesmanship but also her acute astuteness. During a tough time in jail Jawaharlal Nehru wrote huge number of letters to his daughter which was eventually a vivid description of world history. This is made as Glimpses of World History afterwards, a wonderful historical description of ancient and modern period. Nehru rebuilds India by economic regeneration, progressive modern lives and holistic ideals to face challenges came afterwards.
Indira Gandhi was educated from Pune University, International School of Geneva, Switzerland, Vishwabharati University, Shantiniketan; Kolkata and Somerville College, Oxford. Her extensive preparation for knowledge gathering was unique starts from India and never ends. In 1941, she married to Feroze Gandhi, a Parsi lawyer, in spite of her father's disagreement.
Feroze had serious interest in politics who opposes many decisions of Nehru's government. Soon after their marriage a psychological gap made them away from their sweet lives. Indira Gandhi left Allahabad to assist her father in Delhi but Feroze opposes to leave the city which eventually culminates in estrangement. Gandhi had two sons - Rajiv and Sanjay. Feroze died following a sudden cardiac arrest in 1960.
In 1955, Indira Gandhi first made her appearance in politics after being elected a member of working committee and, thereafter, president of national congress in 1959. Nehru died in 1964 and Lal Bahadur Shastri took the office while Gandhi was appointed Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Following Shastri's unnatural death Indira was elected by the congress leaders the primer. She was the prime minister for more than 15 years in India in which the most challenging job was to fight against Pakistan.
Indira's life was marked by several incidents and perhaps most conspicuous for her unconditional support to the people of Bangladesh. She was the right woman in history to follow the political development in Pakistan after partisan of 1947. She sees economic deprivation and disparity of East Pakistan, political persecution and cultural aggression against Bangalees as a keen follower of political development. It is supposed that her support to the people of Bangladesh became more conducive and sympathizing because of her long attachment with history.
On 10 January, 1971 in Delhi airport during Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's home coming gatherings, Indira Gandhi says, "We made three promises to the people of India. First, all those who came to India seeking refuge will return home to Bangladesh. Second, we shall provide all-out support to the Mukti Bahini [freedom fighters] and help the people of Bangladesh. And third, we shall free Sheikh Sahab [Bangabandhu] from jail. We have fulfilled our three promises".
During war, Indira Gandhi gave shelter of 10 million people mostly in West Bengal and also some provinces including Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura. And, this was the greatest exodus in history. People of all religions mostly Hindus fled away due to unthinkable torture and mayhem brought against minority first and then all people regardless their belief and culture. The most important thing in our liberation history is to form Mukti Bahini and their direct assistance including training, shelter, arms and ammunition assisted by Indian government.
Pakistani president Yahya Khan and his military commanders unleashed the reigned over the unarmed civilians, killed numberless innocents during war. Even, military orders were given to kill the people seeing in demonstration before the formal war had begun.
USA and China the most powerful military assistance were ensured in favor of Pakistan. In spite of very critical diplomatic tension Mrs. Indira Gandhi successfully brought the support of world leaders for Bangladesh people. She took the most terrible risk for her country against two world giants USA and China as she experienced a defeat against China only seven years back in 1962.
Mrs. Gandhi was not officially recognized by Bangladesh since independence. This is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has given her due respect and dignity and decided to confer the Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona on Indira Gandhi.
This is also too late to remember her but good thing is always good and never die even in course of time. Gandhi is the first foreigner who is given the highest state honor and credits should be given to our primer for her sense of gratitude. To be sure, Indira Ghandhi will remain in the heart of our people ever if our political ideal revolves round the basic tenet of our liberation war.
The writer is a Professor and Chairperson, Department of Philosophy, Jagannath University, Dhaka
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