Leaders who shaped Independent India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. A pioneer of satyagraha, or resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience—a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence—Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma (an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore).In India, he is also called Bapu and officially honoured as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers in protesting excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, but above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led Indians in protesting the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, on many occasions, in both South Africa and India.

Gandhi strove to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn he had hand spun on acharkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and social protest.

Since he returned to India in 1915, till India was free in 1947, till he was murdered in 1948, Gandhi led a life of example. Now, more than six decades since the British left, India is still trying to pick up the pieces of 1947, and somewhere, there is the calm voice of Mahatma Gandhi, guiding us along the way.

“My life is my message” – MK Gandhi

Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru often referred to affectionately as ‘Pandit-ji’, was an Indian statesman who was the first and longest-serving Prime Minister of India (1947–1964). One of the leading figures in the Indian independence movement, Nehru was elected by the Indian National Congress to assume office as independent India’s first Prime Minister, and re-elected when the Congress Party won India’s first general election in 1952. As one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement, he was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the 1930s and ’40s. Nehru established parliamentary government and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs.

“Nehru was a great man… Nehru gave to Indians an image of themselves that I don’t think others might have succeeded in doing.” – Sir Isaiah Berlin

As India’s first Prime minister and external affairs minister, Jawaharlal Nehru played a major role in shaping modern India’s government and political culture along with sound foreign policy. He is praised for creating a system providing universal primary education, reaching children in the farthest corners of rural India. Nehru’s education policy is also credited for the development of world-class educational institutions such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Indian Institutes of Technology,and the Indian Institutes of Management.

“Democracy is good. I say this because other systems are worse.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

Dr. Rajendra Prasad

When the Indian freedom struggle finally reached a climax, and the British realized independence was the only way forward, the Constituent Assembly was formed to draft India’s constitution, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected its president. When, in 1950, the constitution was ratified, Dr. Prasad was made President of India, a post he held for 12 years.

Dr. Prasad was instrumental in giving a new India a global identity. He retired from the post of President in 1962 and was, fittingly, awarded the Bharat Ratna.

“In attaining our ideals, our means should be as pure as the end.” – Dr. Rajendra Prasad

Indira Gandhi 

Born to Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamla Nehru, Indira Gandhi was expected to take up the mantle of politics some time or another. Her moment of truth came when Lal Bahadur Shastri died unexpectedly in 1966. She took over as Prime Minister.

If England had Margaret Thatcher, India had Indira Gandhi. The first thing that comes to mind when you think Indira Gandhi is ‘Operation Blue Star’ and the national emergency, but one achievement that has rarely been celebrated is the fact that it was during her tenure that India kick started its nuclear programme.

Gandhi became Prime Minister three times and was assassinated in 1984. She left behind a legacy of confidence, that India could achieve anything it set its eyes upon. She was also a symbol of women power. Today, if anyone tells doubts the abilities of women, just say ‘Indira Gandhi’.

“Martyrdom does not end something, it is only a beginning.” – Indira Gandhi

These are the people who shaped independent India. In life they were mortal. But in death, they are immortal.

Thanks MSN India.

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