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I AM COURAGE

ELECTED AS CONGRESS PRESIDENT

  • Indira Gandhi was elected as Congress President in 1959 in Bangalore, re-elected as Congress President in 1978 in New Delhi (1978-1984) and again in 1984 in Calcutta.
  • Indira in her presidential inauguration speech quoted from a popular Hindi song:

“…We are the women of India
Don’t imagine us as flower-maidens
We are the sparks in the fire…“

  • Indira’s use of this poem shows that while she was aware of the gender roles in India, she did not consider it an obstacle to herself.
  • Her political character began to shine once she became the Congress President. Indira accused the Communist government in Kerala of being agents of the Chinese, and feared it would result in violence and anarchy. She had her father dismiss the democratically elected Communist government in Kerala. This was the first time in independent India’s history that a state government had been dissolved.

    Period as Minister of Information and Broadcasting (1964-66)
  • As Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Indira regarded both television and radio as educative media. She sponsored an Urdu service, a general overseas service, extended broadcasting hours and encouraged more discussions on air. But as a member of government, Indira made more of an impact in areas outside her ministry’s jurisdiction.
  • For instance, the language riots that broke out in Madras in March 1965. This was the year when the constitution had stipulated that Hindi would become the official language of India, replacing English. Unrest broke out in Tamil-speaking South India, where some opponents of Hindi went as far as publicly immolating themselves. Indira immediately hopped on to a plane to Madras where she gave assurances to the protestors and helped restore peace.
  • Indira was in the midst of another crisis in Kashmir in August 1965. Ostensibly she flew to Srinagar on 8th August for a holiday, being aware that the situation there was volatile. Soon she learned about Pakistani troops, disguised as civilian volunteers determined to capture Srinagar and foment a pro-Pakistan uprising in Kashmir. Indira was urged to take the next flight back to Delhi but she refused. Not only did she stay; she flew to the front when hostilities broke out. The press hailed her as ’the only man in a cabinet of old women’. Indira returned to Delhi and then went back to Kashmir again when hostilities erupted in full force, in September. She told a huge crowd in Srinagar, “We shall not give an inch of our territory to the aggressor“. She inspected the bombed-out areas of the Punjab border, visited military hospitals in Ferozepur, carried on to Abohar, Fazilka, Ambala, Amritsar and Gurdaspur. According to correspondent’s reports, ’wherever she went, Mrs. Gandhi was greeted by enthusiastic crowds’.