[gahn-dee, gan-]
Gandhi, Indira, 1917-84, Indian political leader; daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. She served as an aide to her father, who was prime minister (1947-64), and as minister of information in the government of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964-66). On Shastri's death in 1966, she succeeded as prime minister. Her first administration, marked by her increasing personal control of the Indian National Congress party, led to a party split. Her faction, New Congress, won overwhelming electoral victories in 1971 and 1972. She triumphed in foreign affairs with India's 1971 defeat of Pakistan, which resulted in the establishment of the state of Bangladesh. Found guilty in June, 1975, of illegal practices during the 1971 campaign, she refused to resign, declaring a state of emergency. Her administration arrested opponents and imposed press censorship. In November the Supreme Court overruled her conviction. In 1977 her faction in the Congress party lost the parliamentary elections; she lost both her seat and her position as prime minister. In 1980, she again became prime minister, this time as leader of the Congress (Indira) party, and held the office until assassinated by her security guards in 1984. Her son Rajiv Gandhi succeeded her as prime minister.

See biographies by K. Bhatia (1974) and D. Moraes (1980); T. Ali, Nehru and the Gandhis, (1985); I. Gandhi, Letters to an American Friend, 1950-1984 (1985).

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand, 1869-1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar.

In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years. In 1893 he went to South Africa, where he was later joined by his wife and children. There he became a successful lawyer and leader of the Indian community and involved himself in the fight to end discrimination against the country's Indian minority. In South Africa he read widely, drawing inspiration from such sources as the Bhagavad-Gita, John Ruskin, Leo Tolstoy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, and his personal philosophy underwent significant changes. He abandoned (c.1905) Western ways and thereafter lived abstemiously (including celibacy); this became symbolized in his eschewal of material possessions and his dress of loincloth and shawl. While in South Africa he organized (1907) his first satyagraha [holding to the truth], a campaign of civil disobedience expressed in nonviolent resistance to what he regarded as unjust laws. So successful were his activities that he secured (1914) an agreement from the South African government that promised the alleviation of anti-Indian discrimination.

Return to India

He returned (1915) to India with a stature equal to that of the nationalist leaders Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Gandhi actively supported the British in World War I in the hope of hastening India's freedom, but he also led agrarian and labor reform demonstrations that embarrassed the British. The Amritsar massacre of 1919 stirred Indian nationalist consciousness, and Gandhi organized several satyagraha campaigns. He discontinued them when, against his wishes, violent disorder ensued.

His program included a free, united India; the revival of cottage industries, especially of spinning and the production of handwoven cloth (khaddar); and the abolition of untouchability (see caste). These ideas were widely and vigorously espoused, although they also met considerable opposition from some Indians. The title Mahatma [great soul] reflected personal prestige so high that he could unify the diverse elements of the organization of the nationalist movement, the Indian National Congress, which he dominated from the early 1920s.

In 1930, in protest against the government's salt tax, he led the famous 200-mi (320-km) march to extract salt from the sea. For this he was imprisoned but was released in 1931 to attend the London Round Table Conference on India as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. When the Congress refused to embrace his program in its entirety, Gandhi withdrew (1934), but his influence was such that Jawaharlal Nehru, his protégé, was named leader of the organization.

Indian Independence

In 1942, after rejection of his offer to cooperate with Great Britain in World War II if the British would grant immediate independence to India, Gandhi called for satyagraha and launched the Quit India movement. He was then interned until 1944. Gandhi was a major figure in the postwar conferences with the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, and Muslim League leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah that led to India's independence and the carving out of a separate Muslim state (Pakistan), although Gandhi vigorously opposed the partition.

When violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims, Gandhi resorted to fasts and tours of disturbed areas to check it. On Jan. 30, 1948, while holding a prayer and pacification meeting at New Delhi, he was fatally shot by a Hindu fanatic who was angered by Gandhi's solicitude for the Muslims. After his death his methods of nonviolent civil disobedience were adopted by protagonists of civil rights in the United States and by many protest movements throughout the world.


See his autobiography (tr. 1927, repr. 1966); his collected works (50 vol., 1958-72); selected writings, ed. by R. Duncan (1972); R. N. Iyer, ed., The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (3 vol., 1986-87) and The Essential Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (1991) ; biographies by D. G. Tendulkar (8 vol., 1951-54), B. R. Nanda (1958, repr. 1989), L. Fisher (1959), G. Ashe (1969), and S. Wolpert (2001); studies by J. V. Bondurant (rev. ed. 1965), E. Erikson (1969), J. M. Brown (1972), and A. von Tunzelmann (2007).

Gandhi, Rajiv, 1944-91, prime minister of India (1984-89). Oldest son of Indira Gandhi, he flew for Indian Airlines until his brother died in 1981 and he was drafted into politics by his mother. He was elected to parliament and when his mother, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in 1984 he succeeded her as prime minister, leading the Congress party (see Indian National Congress) to a sweeping election victory. His government encouraged foreign investment, and industry boomed with the loosening of business controls. In 1987 he sent Indian peacekeeping forces to Sri Lanka in an unsuccessful attempt to mediate an end to Tamil-Sinhalese violence there. Allegations of corruption and arrogance diminished Gandhi's popularity, and in 1989 he resigned as prime minister when the Congress party lost its parliamentary majority. He was assassinated by Tamil separatists in 1991. In 1999, Gandhi was posthumously charged with participating in a kickback scheme in a 1989 arms deal. He was married to Sonia Gandhi.
Gandhi, Sonia, 1946-, Indian politician, b. Turin, Italy, as Sonia Maino. She met Rajiv Gandhi in 1965 when they were students in Cambridge, England. They were married in 1968 and settled in his family home in India. Sonia Gandhi, who became an Indian citizen in 1983, was close to her mother-in-law, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, accompanying her on many trips throughout India. When Indira was assassinated (1984) and succeeded as prime minister by Rajiv, Sonia remained in the background. When Rajiv, too, was assassinated (1991), she continued to shun political life. She finally entered the public arena in 1998, campaigning for the faltering Congress party (see Indian National Congress); she was instrumental in Congress's winning an increased number of seats in parliament and was elected head of the party. In the 1999 elections Gandhi won a seat in parliament but failed to lead Congress in a return to power. When the 2004 elections resulted in a surprise victory for Congress and its allies, she chose not to become prime minister but remained the influential leader of the party. She resigned from parliament in 2006 when opposition politicians sought to have her disqualifed because she also headed the National Advisory Council (NAC), an unsalaried government post that nonetheless could be considered an "office of profit" and subject her to parliamentary disqualification. At the same time she also resigned her NAC post. Despite critics who object to her Italian birth, Sonia Gandhi, along with her son, Rahul, and daughter, Priyanka, remain immensely popular heirs to the Nehru family dynasty.
The Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence is presented by The World Movement for Nonviolence. The award is named after Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King.

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