Smt. Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi saw herself as a latter-day Joan of Arc - such was her ardour and faith in herself as a patriot. Like the French, she too died as a martyr-as a martyr for the unity of her country.
She had said before her barbarous murder: "Every drop of my blood will contribute to the growth of this nation and make it strong and dynamic."
She was a woman of courage and herself admired people with the fighting spirit, people who triumphed over handicaps. For instance, Helen Keller and Douglas Bader.
In her childhood her father was a source of inspiration to her. We all remember the letters that he wrote to her, wrote to Indira Priyadarshini, from goal; these were to form the "Glimpses of World History".
Anand Bhawan, Allahabad, was next only to Gandhiji's ashram as the headquarters of the freedom struggle. Here she came into contact with the great men and women of the time. Indeed she was brought up on a diet of freedom. When she was only 12, she organised her own "army" to liberate the country: it was called the Vanar Sena.
Her real education was in the school of political life but of course she had her former schooling at Poona, Santiniketan and in Europe. She married Feroze Gandhi in 1942. Their honeymoon, one might say, was the Quit India movement.
Her real political apprenticeship was under her father after he had become Prime Minister.
Her election as President of the Congress in 1959 marked her entry into politics as an all-India figure.
On her father's death she was drafted into the Union cabinet by Lal Bahadur Shastri as a reluctant minister for Information and Broadcasting. Shastri died in January 1966 and she became his successor.
Her Prime Ministership was stormy and embattled. First came the confrontation with the so-called Syndicate in the party which led to a split in the Congress in 1969. This was followed not before long with the crisis created by the massive inflow of refugees from East Bengal.
We need not recount the developments of this time which led to the Bengladesh war in which she had to defy the might of a superpower like America. The Navnirman movement in Gujarat and Jayaprakash Narayan's call for a "total revolution" caused tension all over the North and led to the declaration of internal emergency in 1975.
After the emergency was lifted the Janata came to power and she had to face much harassment and even imprisonment for a short while. In 1978 there was another split in the Congress but she commanded a majority and her group came to be called the Congress (I).
In 1980 she was swept back into power. But her troubles were not over. Tle Congress (1) lost Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and there was trouble in a number of states like Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Punjab.
The rise of regionalism in Punjab with the Sikhs spearheading a secessionist movement proved a challenge to her leadership. She was compelled to order "Operation Bluestar" but there was no considerable abatement of Sikh terrorism. On October 31, 1984, her own bodyguards brutally sprayed her with bullets and the life of a courageous lady of burning patriotism was extinguished.