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November 19, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Today would have been Indira Gandhi's 92nd birthday, had she not been assassinated by members of her own guard in her own backyard on October 31st, 1984 (I was there in New Delhi in a cab when the driver suggested it might be safer if he turned around and took me straight home). Often confused as a relative of the more famous Gandhi, fashionable, stylish and well groomed Indira was actually the daughter of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and used her married name, although divorced from her Parsi exhusband. Daughter and mother of Prime Ministers of India, she herself held office with an iron fist, remembered for the "Emergency", a brief period of martial law often overlooked in the democratic vibrancy of Indian politics. Will Mrs Gandhi's legacy of dynasty be continued by her half Italian grandson?
posted by infini (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm pretty sure today is still her 92nd birthday. Isn't it? Does a person have to still be alive to have a birthday?
posted by Perplexity at 10:55 AM on November 19, 2009


Today would have been Indira Gandhi's 92nd birthday, had she not been assassinated by members of her own guard in her own backyard on October 31st, 1984

February 12th would have been Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, had he not been assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre on April 14th, 1965.
posted by flarbuse at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2009


My understanding is that she asked Mohandas Gandhi to "adopt" her family since her husband's actual family name, Khan, was too unpalatably Muslim-sounding* for the electorate. The Mahatma replied with something along the lines of "All Indians are my children" and thus a dynasty was renamed.

*Yes, I know, Parsis aren't Muslims...
posted by kittyprecious at 11:01 AM on November 19, 2009


Also, assuming that she had never been assassinated, it's still actuarially possible that she would've died of other causes before her 92nd birthday.
posted by blucevalo at 11:01 AM on November 19, 2009


Were she alive (not dead), and a metafilter user, this would go better in MetaTalk.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


a brief period of martial law

Nearly two years, right? Brief on a geological timescale, I suppose. And don't forget the forced sterilizations!


Sic semper tyrannis, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:11 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Often confused as a relative of the more famous Gandhi

According to my coworkers from Mumbai, this was the whole reason the name was changed. There was no other motivation besides tricking people into thinking they were related to Mahatma.
posted by sideshow at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


How many people does it take to assassinate Indira Ghandi?

Sikhs.
posted by isopraxis at 11:48 AM on November 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


I've admitted on Metafilter before that everything I know about (non-American) history, I learned from fiction books. In this case, I know that Salman Rushdie thinks she was quite a witch.
posted by muddgirl at 12:05 PM on November 19, 2009


But how many does it take to assassinate Indira Gandhi?

I didn't know that about her name (although I did know that she was Nehru's daughter). I just finished reading a fantastic novel (really, a concatenation of short stories) about the time in between the assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi called Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga (who won a Booker Prize for White Tiger). Higly recommended. (Ah, I see I'm not the only one who's part of the comparative lit school of history :) ).

I have read some on the Emergency and talked to family members about it. India is the world's largest democracy, but there is something dictatorial about its Prime Ministers. They did command a lot of power esp. so soon after Partition.

Q. What's the only word you can't abbreviate in polite society? A. assassinate -- you can thank my high school history teacher for that one
posted by bluefly at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2009


Yeah, Rushdie's portrait of her in Midnight's Children is damn near the Guernica of Indian art. If you've never read the book (and if you only ever read one Rushdie novel, it should be the one), you can get the gist from the character sketch of "The Widow" here.

Basically, Rushdie considered Indira the ruthless, narcissistic assassin who pierced the noble heart of the Indian dream of independence. There's much in the historical record to support this assertion.
posted by gompa at 12:11 PM on November 19, 2009


A savage monster and a blight on India. She will go down as just another a manipulative, opportunistic politician who got exactly what she deserved. Good fucking riddance.
posted by antihostile at 12:18 PM on November 19, 2009


Forced sterilizations? How would they even be part of any kind of justified martial law?
posted by kathrineg at 12:48 PM on November 19, 2009


Here's what wikipedia has to say about forced sterilization:
Indira Gandhi, late Prime Minister of India, implemented a forced sterilization programme in the 1970s.Officially, men with two children or more had to submit to sterilization, but many unmarried young men, political opponents and ignorant men were also believed to have been sterilized. This program is still remembered and criticized in India, and is blamed for creating a wrong public aversion to family planning, which hampered Government programmes for decades.
It's interesting, for some reason I usually think of forced sterilization being done to women, it's kind of interesting that a female leader would choose to sterilize men. I actually looked it up and it turns out that in the U.S. both men and women were sterilized based on eugenic theories. This started in 1907 and mostly became unpopular after WWII, and almost entirely went away by the 1960s. The last forced sterilization in the U.S. was in Oregon, in 1981
posted by delmoi at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2009


February 12th would have been Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, had he not been assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre on April 14th, 1965.

It's a shame that he died before his moon-landing program could come to fruition.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:36 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sterilizing men is cheaper/easier, I guess.

Disgusting to use sterilization as a threat or a weapon.
posted by kathrineg at 1:39 PM on November 19, 2009


Oh, Wikipedia (not suprisingly) has an entire article about "The Emergency", it doesn't have any information about the sterilization, but according to the page on Compulsory Sterilization I linked to earlier, both men and women were sterilized.
posted by delmoi at 1:47 PM on November 19, 2009


I believe (from what I've heard and from family) that it was her second son Sanjay and not Indira herself who was responsible for the "forced" part of the national population control policy that was really necessary to be implemented after the last almost famine in 1966.
posted by infini at 1:48 PM on November 19, 2009


Really necessary? Than I suppose they obviously did it by an honest lottery system, and plenty of the society's elites were sterilized too right?
posted by aspo at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2009


you want equality and meritorious society in such a historically patriarchal culture as well? lets start with food, shelter adn clothing
posted by infini at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2009


Last year I read "A Fine Balance", which was well-written and very interesting, but by far the most depressing book I have ever read. According to that book, she was Margaret Thatcher without the regard for human rights and basic decency.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:27 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then they weren't really necessary. A combination of eugenics and sterilization as a political weapon are not defensible. Hell, they can't have been really necessary because two years would not have been long enough to cause much difference (especially not over a short time frame) and India is still around and prospering.
posted by aspo at 2:30 PM on November 19, 2009


lets start with food, shelter adn clothing

How about let's start by not forcibly sterilizing people?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:41 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually found "A Fine Balance" maudlin and insipid, but as account of the Emergency period it is detailed and devastating. It's no "Midnight's Children," but I was grateful for what it taught me and recommend it for that alone.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:40 PM on November 19, 2009


A savage monster and a blight on India. She will go down as just another a manipulative, opportunistic politician who got exactly what she deserved. Good fucking riddance.
posted by antihostile at 4:18 AM on November 20 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by armage at 6:47 PM on November 19, 2009


A complicated and controversial issue.Not nearly as simple as antihostile would like us to believe. Asia Sentinel's John Elliott decides that the legacy, twenty-five years later, doesn't look very good. However she will always idealised by the poor as she was the driving political force behind the Green Revolution which created employment not only for agricultural workers but also industrial workers by the creation of lateral facilities such as factories and hydro-electric power stations. This transformed India from a starving nation to an exporter of food.
posted by adamvasco at 12:04 AM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Indira Gandhi is a fascinating figure, but that "fashionable, stylish and well groomed" just goes to Google Image Search. That's kind of lame, man.
posted by Hollow at 12:24 AM on November 20, 2009


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