Homage to Indira Gandhi - A Prime Minister Who Put India Back On The International Map

By M. K. Dharmaraja

Nov 19, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) A grateful Nation pays homage to Indira Gandhi on November 19 – the anniversary of her birthday. Born with the name ‘Priyadarshini’, one with pleasing looks – she remained true to the description, radiating an ambience of rare charisma in her footsteps everywhere ‘Shrimati Indira Gandhi adorned whatever she handled with the gift of a golden touch.   

Brought up in a family enjoying the heights of affluence Indira was nurtured in the backdrop of the freedom struggle. She grew up listening to patriotic songs like “Vandemataram”.

Shrimati Indira Gandhi was indeed a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional figure. A flash-back takes one to Asiad 1982, staged in Delhi. A change of guard brought Indira Gandhi to the helm. She took up the challenge and with the help of her team proved to the sports world that India can stage the Asiad. Starting from scratch, with not a ‘naye paisa’ in the coffer, it was as if Indira Gandhi waved a magic wand. And a magic carpet for sports and games was spread across the venues. The sports extravaganza cast a spell all around.

Asiad 1982 brought India immense prestige. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave the Nation’s capital the state-of-the-art most modern stadia. The International Olympic Council’s President, Samaranch flew into Delhi to confer the supreme honour of the “Gold Order”. He came specifically to present India’s Prime Minister the ‘blue-ribbon’ of the world sports and games. She was hailed as the ‘Patron Saint’ of Indian Sports.

I was commissioned to go round the various stadia and present a word-picture of the events through newscast at the end of the day. Indiraji’s love of the Nation’s sports and games and concern for the performer’s welfare enabled me to have the good fortune and privilege of an interaction with the towering leader.

The charismatic flavour of Indira Gandhi’s Statesmanship could be seen in the rapport she enjoyed with World Leaders. Her disarming frankness could remove the mists of misunderstanding.

The US President Mr. Reagan cherished his friendly relation ship with Indira Gandhi from the time of her visit to Washington. He spoke in glowing terms of her counsel during the periods of international crises. Queen Elizabeth of Britain and Premier Margaret Thatcher spoke appreciatively of her Statesmanship. She asserted India’s independent stance on world issues without tilting towards any bloc “India is neither pre-east or pro-west; we stand erect; we are only pro-India” was her constant ‘mantra’.

Foreign policy was Indira Gandhi’s greatest asset. She maintained a high profile in International politics. The year 1983 cast the dye on her role as the Head of the Non-Aligned Movement of a hundred and one nations, the largest in its history. The Movement’s summit hosted by India was a diplomatic triumph testifying the country’s role in the cause of peace, disarmament and development.

I had the advantage of free access to the Prime Minister on significant occasions. Here one recalls her visit to Sri Lanka in 1967. It was in the wake of the assassination of the Island’s Premier S.W.R. Bandarnaike. As a privileged member of her team of “State-Guests”, I could interact with her but without my tape-recorder. At the Ratmalana International Airport, she said “This is my second visit to the emerald isle where I first came with my father as a young girl. It’s a wonderful feeling”.

Throughout the Indian Prime Minister’s week-long stay I was with her almost always. Her visit to the higher altitude beauty spot Kandy was an eye-opener! Indira Gandhi’s hour-long address to the large gathering was interspersed with repeated chorus of standing ovation and peals of applause “An enchanting island, an enchanting people” were her words inspiring the Sinhalese like a magic chant.

On the way to Kandy at Horagolla, Shrimati Gandhi was guest of the Island’s Parliamentary Opposition Mrs. Sirimao Bandarnaike. Her elder daughter Sunetra had come from Oxford for the occasion. The younger Chandrika in mini skirt was standing by whoever could foresee that the Osborne-educated Chandrika Kumaratunge would ride the crest of destiny as the island’s powerful Executive President.   

In the eventful years of Shrimati Indira’s stewardship India came to occupy the ‘commanding heights of economy, our society poised for economic and technological advance at a quicker pace.

The Nation specifically remembers Indira Gandhi within a brief period of less than a month, her death-anniversary on October 31 and birth anniversary on November 19.

The World bowed in reverence as the sad news of her demise flashed across the Continents. The flood of words followed like a torrent from the world media. The hymns of homage under scored her pre-eminence as an “outstanding statesman of the era”.

As a ring-side witness to Indira Gandhi’s significant actions and speeches this writer was most impressed on the historic day when Bangladesh was liberated from a despotic regime that ran the stern writ from a far-flung western terrain. It was ‘blissful’ to watch from the Lok Sabha Press Gallery the Prime Minister alight with her light step to make “a statement”. She informed the House, “The West Pakistan forces have unconditionally surrendered in Bangladesh. The instrument of surrender was signed in Dacca at 1631 hours IST today by Lt. General A.A. K. Niazi on behalf of the Pakistan Eastern Command. Lt. General Jagjit Singh Arora GOC-in-C of the Indian and Bangladesh forces in the Eastern Theatre accepted the surrender. Dacca is now the free capital of a free country”. Each sentence was greeted with ovation. The Prime Minister concluded her statement with, “All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man’s quest for liberty”.

The blend of military personnel who liberated Bangladesh reflected the secular image of India diligently upheld by Indira Gandhi. SHFJ Manekshaw - a Parsi, General Arora a Sikh and Commander Jacob who paved the way for entry into Dacca, a Jew. All functioned under Indira Gandhi a Hindu wedded to a Parsi. She reflected the Hindu way of life of co-existence of various faiths.

That was Indira Gandhi of charismatic charm who left a sublime imprint on the sands of time! (PIB Features)