Sonia Gandhi says Indira 'fought for secularism', opposed those seeking to divide India over caste, religion

New Delhi: Indira Gandhi "fought for secularism, against all those forces seeking to divide the Indian people on lines of religion and caste", Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Sunday.

On the centenary of the birth anniversary of the former prime minister, Sonia Gandhi spoke at the inauguration of a photo exhibition, ‘A Life of Courage', on the life and achievements of Indira.

"I have heard Indiraji being referred to as the Iron Lady. But iron was only one of the elements in her character; generosity and humanity were just as prominent traits," she said.

Indira, daughter of first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was born on 19 November, 1917.

She was Prime Minister of India from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination on 31 October, 1984.

On Sunday, Sonia also recalled her relationship with the former Prime Minister, who was also her mother-in-law.

 Sonia Gandhi says Indira fought for secularism, opposed those seeking to divide India over caste, religion

File image of former prime minister Indira Gandhi. Getty images

"I came to know Indira Gandhi intimately as the head of our small family over the 16 years that we lived together in one household, just a few meters from here. I saw her at close quarters, in every mood and circumstance.

"I came to understand how passionately she felt for her country, how deeply she cared for the poor and oppressed, how faithfully she followed the teachings imbibed from her father — from him, and from the other great men and women of the Indian freedom struggle who had been part of her growing up," she said.

The Congress chief spoke about Indira's tenure as prime minister, the creation of Bangladesh and the Green Revolution.

"In the 16 years that were given to her to lead the country, many were the challenges she had to confront, from the endemic problems of combating poverty and inequality to the critical ones of war and terrorism. She faced them all with courage, fortified by her dedication to making India strong, united and prosperous," Sonia Gandhi said.

"It was her championship of the Green Revolution that freed India from endemic famine... Bangladesh's creation, in which she played so vital a part, is a monument to that stand, but many are the instances through which she brought India international respect and admiration."

Former president Pranab Mukherjee, former prime minister  and other leaders were also present at the event.

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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2017 15:09:07 IST