Wed, 16 Nov 2016
We remember Indiraji’s life as one of leadership,courage and sacrifice: Sonia Gandhi
It is a privilege for me to welcome President Pranab Mukherjee, on this very important occasion, a day that marks the beginning of the Indira Gandhi Birth Centenary Year. Few Indian statesmen now alive could claim to have worked as closely with Indiraji, or for as long, as our distinguished Rashtrapatiji. It is most gracious of you, Rashtrapatiji, to share your memories of this remarkable leader and her legacy to all Indians.
Indira Gandhi was not a figure of history for me: she was my mother-in-law. We lived under the same roof, shared joys and sorrows; it is from her that I learned about India, its culture, its values. It is from her that I imbibed my earliest political lessons. She was the Prime Minister of India, but to me she was a mother, a mentor, a friend. It was in my arms that she drew her last breath.
Indira Gandhi was a remarkable woman, the like of whom this country has not since seen. But she was much more than that. She was an institution a leader with the courage of her convictions and nerves of steel, unflinching in the face of duty, resolute against all that was unjust. She led our nation through the tumultuous battles of the 60s and 70s, never faltering in her dedication to the masses who gave her their complete trust.
She faced economic crises, and prevailed. She managed the greatest refugee crisis in human history. She refused to compromise on India’s noble humanitarian traditions. She faced war with courage and determination, and her victory saw the triumph of democracy and the liberation of a nation, Bangladesh. And when powers abroad attempted to dictate terms to India, she stood up for what was right and she was vindicated by history.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was one of those rare figures who shaped the destiny of her land. She was not just the daughter of one of the great statesmen of our age, Jawaharlal Nehru but a child of India’s freedom struggle itself, a witness to the birth of this nation and of the idea that is India. To her this idea was not a philosophical proposition laid down by her father, but a living experience as she travelled the length and breadth of this country, listening to the hearts of its men and women and giving them a voice.
Some dismissed her as weak and incapable. Others called her a tyrant. But with the trust of her countrymen and women, painstakingly won, and with her dedication to their cause, she went on to serving her people, sacrificing her very life.
It was, above all, this sense of duty that guided Indira Gandhi in her mission. She sought neither personal glory
nor wealth every ounce of her energy was channelled in the service of her nation.
When Indira Gandhi spoke, she spoke for all Indians, men and women of all religions, regions, and backgrounds. No language was a barrier. She celebrated our magnificent diversity, battling those forces that foster division and strife among our people She had a vision for India in the world of the twenty-first century, but it was not a soulless vision that came at the cost of our pluralist diversity. She saw an India that would not follow blindly the path laid by the West. She saw it crafting
its own future guided by its democratic and cultural ideals.
Where others failed, she wanted India to show the world the way. It made her mission doubly challenging, but Indira
Gandhi was not a woman daunted by challenge. On the eve of her martyrdom, she declared, I quote, “every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation.” And indeed it did. Her sacrifice in preserving a united, diverse, egalitarian India will be remembered. All the more so at a time when, in the quest for shortcuts to greatness, we find leaders willing to undermine the very foundations of our national character.
Friends, few human beings enjoy the privilege of shaping the history and altering the geopolitics of a sub-continent.
Indira Gandhi did so. Few have been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice in the cause for which they have lived.
Indira Gandhi did so. Today we remember her life as one of leadership, courage and sacrifice. On this auspicious occasion, I bow my head in her memory. It is my honour now to request our Rashtrapatiji to address us.