11 January 1966
Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away
On 11 January 1966, India’s second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent, USSR (now Uzbekistan) after signing the Tashkent Declaration with Pakistani President Ayub Khan.
- Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2nd October 1904 (a date of birth he shares with Mahatma Gandhi) in Mughalsarai near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
- His father Sharada Prasad Srivastava was a school teacher who died when Shastri was not yet two years old. After his father’s death, he grew up with his mother and siblings in his maternal grandfather’s house.
- When he was about 13, his family moved to Varanasi. At this time, he dropped his caste surname. The name ‘Shastri’ was actually the degree he was awarded by the Kashi Vidyapith, a nationalist educational institution established to defy the British. He had graduated in 1925 with a degree in philosophy and ethics.
- His brush with the freedom movement came when he was still a minor. When he was in the tenth standard, he attended a public meeting in Varanasi which was called by Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malaviya for persuading people to join the non-cooperation movement. He was inspired by Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Swami Vivekananda, among others.
- In 1928, he became an active member of the Indian National Congress. He took part in the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. He also participated in the Quit India movement and the individual Satyagraha.
- He was imprisoned several times and spent a total of seven years in jail.
- When the interim government was formed in 1946, he was made the Parliamentary Secretary of UP and then became the Home Minister.
- In 1951, he was called to New Delhi and was assigned many ministries in the Union Cabinet such as railways, transport and communications, commerce and industry and home. He also held important positions within the Congress party.
- A railway accident in which many people died led to him resigning voluntarily as the railway minister.
- When Jawaharlal Nehru died in office in 1964, Shastri became the Prime Minister. In his first broadcast, he said, “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear—the building up of a secular mixed-economy democracy at home with freedom and prosperity, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with select nations.”
- As Prime Minister, he was witness to the anti-Hindi riots in Tamil Nadu. It was quelled with his assurance that English would remain the official language in the non-Hindi states.
- His support for the Amul milk co-operative and Dr. Verghese Kurien led to the White Revolution in India.
- His biggest test as PM was when the Indo-Pak War of 1965 started. It was during this time that he gave India the slogan, “Jai Jawan! Jai Kissan!”
- Shastri led the country ably during the war and despite his small and gentle appearance, showed the world that he was capable of making tough decisions.
- He signed the Tashkent Declaration with Ayub Khan under Soviet moderation on 10th January 1966 which formally ended hostilities with Pakistan.
- But, he suffered a heart attack while in Tashkent and passed away there. This came as a shock to the people of India and many alleged foul play in his death.
- His memorial in Delhi where he was cremated is called Vijay Ghat.
- He was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1966.
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