Indira Gandhi

(1917-1984) – Prime Minister of India 1966-1977 and 1980-1984

Educated in Indira Gandhi came to Somerville in 1937 to read Modern History. She was only able to stay for one year – ill health forced her to leave – but her memories of Somerville were powerful and emotionally warm (if not meteorologically so: she found her room appallingly cold).

In 1941, she returned to India. Acting as official host and assistant during her father Jawaharlal Nehru’s prime ministership (1947-1964), Gandhi began to establish herself as a politician in her own right’. In 1966, as leader of the Congress party, she was elected Prime Minister. She won three consecutive terms of office, steering the country through the war with Pakistan and the declaration of Bangladesh’s independence, and then lost power in 1977 following a highly controversial period of emergency rule in 1975. Her party won the election of 1980 and she became Prime Minister for a fourth term. In June 1984, a violent clash with Sikhs at the Golden Temple caused increased anti-Gandhi feeling and in October 1984, two of Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in the grounds of her home.

In 2012 Somerville, the University of Oxford and the Government of India launched the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development. As part of that initiative, Somerville and the University of Oxford now offer a series of scholarships in Gandhi’s name for Indian students, supporting study in public policy and sustainable development, with a particular focus on India-related projects.

Did you know? In 1976, Somervillian Margaret Thatcher visited Indira Gandhi in Delhi: ‘I lunched with Indira Gandhi in her own modest home, where she insisted on seeing that her guests were all looked after and clearing away the plates while discussing matters of high politics.’

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