Lal Bahadur Shastri
|Lal Bahadur Shastri|
|2nd Prime Minister of India|
9 June 1964 – 11 January 1966
|Preceded by||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|Succeeded by||Gulzarilal Nanda (Acting)|
|Minister of External Affairs|
9 June 1964 – 18 July 1964
|Preceded by||Gulzarilal Nanda|
|Succeeded by||Sardar Swaran Singh|
|Minister of Home Affairs|
4 April 1961 – 29 August 1963
|Prime Minister||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|Preceded by||Govind Ballabh Pant|
|Succeeded by||Gulzarilal Nanda|
2 October 1904|
Mughalsarai, United Provinces, British Raj
(now in Uttar Pradesh, India)
|Died||11 January 1966
Tashkent, Soviet Union
(now in Uzbekistan)
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Residence||10 Janpath, New Delhi|
Lal Bahadur Shastri (pronounced [laːl bəˈɦaːd̪ʊr ˈʃaːst̪ri]; listen (help·info), 2 October 1904 – 11 January 1966) was the second Prime Minister of the Republic of India and a leader of the Indian National Congress party.
Shastri joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. Deeply impressed and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, he became a loyal follower, first of Gandhi, and then of Jawaharlal Nehru. Following independence in 1947, he joined the latter's government and became one of Prime Minister Nehru's principal lieutenants, first as Railways Minister (1951–56), and then in a variety of other functions, including Home Minister. Shastri was chosen as Nehru's successor owing to his adherence to Nehruvian socialism after Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi turned down Congress President K. Kamaraj's offer of premiership.
Shastri as Prime Minister continued Nehru's policies of non-alignment and socialism. He became a national hero following the victory in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. His slogan of "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" ("Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer") became very popular during the war and is remembered even today. The war was formally ended in the Tashkent Agreement of 10 January 1966; he died the following day, still in Tashkent, of a heart attack.
- 1 Early life and career (1904 to 1947)
- 2 Political career (1947-64)
- 3 Prime minister of India (1964-66)
- 4 Mystery behind Lal Bahadur Shastri's death
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Citations
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early life and career (1904 to 1947)
Shastri was born in Mughalsarai. His father, Sharada Prasad Srivastava, was a school teacher, who later became a clerk in the Revenue Office at Allahabad. Shastri's father died when he was only a year old. His mother, Ramdulari Devi, took him and his two sisters to her father's house and settled down there.
Shastri was educated at East Central Railway Inter college in Mughalsarai and Varanasi. He graduated with a first-class degree from the Kashi Vidyapeeth in 1926. He was given the title Shastri ("Scholar"). The title was a bachelor's degree awarded by the Vidya Peeth, but it stuck as part of his name. Shastri was influenced by major Indian nationalist leaders including Gandhi and Tilak. On 16 May 1928, Shastri married Lalita Devi of Mirzapur. He had six children, including Hari Krishna Shastri who was married to Mrs Vibha Shastri, Anil Shastri who is married to Mrs Manju Shastri, Sunil Shastri who is married to Mrs Meera Shastri, who were all Congress politicians.Ashok Shastri was his youngest son who was in the corporate world and was married to Mrs Neera Shastri, a BJP politician. Unfortunately, the family lost him at an early age of 34. His son Anil Shastri is still a senior leader of the Congress party.
Shastri enrolled himself as a life member of the Servants of the People Society and began to work for the upliftment of the Harijans under Gandhi's direction at Muzaffarpur. Later he became the President of the Society.
Shastri joined the Indian independence movement in 1921. His early activities included participation in the non-cooperation movement for which he was jailed briefly by the British. He was let off as he was then still a minor.
Shastri participated in the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. He was imprisoned for two and a half years. Later, he worked as the Organizing Secretary of the Parliamentary Board of U.P. in 1937. In 1940, he was sent to prison for one year, for offering individual Satyagraha support to the freedom movement.
On 8 August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi issued the Quit India speech at Gowalia Tank in Mumbai, demanding that the British leave India. Shastri, who had just then come out after a year in prison, travelled to Allahabad. For a week, he sent instructions to the freedom fighters from Jawaharlal Nehru's home, Anand Bhavan. A few days later, he was arrested and imprisoned until 1946. Shastri spent almost nine years in jail in total. During his stays in prison, he spent time reading books and became familiar with the works of western philosophers, revolutionaries and social reformers.
Political career (1947-64)
Following India's independence, Shastri was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in his home state, Uttar Pradesh. He became the Minister of Police and Transport under Govind Ballabh Pant's Chief Ministership on 15 Aug 1947 following Rafi Ahmed Kidwai's departure to become minister at centre. As the Transport Minister, he was the first to appoint women conductors. As the minister in charge of the Police Department, he ordered that police use jets of water instead of lathis to disperse unruly crowds. His tenure as police minister (As Home Minister was called prior to 1950) saw successful curbing of communal riots in 1947, mass migration and resettlement of refugees.
In 1951, Shastri was made the General Secretary of the All-India Congress Committee with Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister. He was directly responsible for the selection of candidates and the direction of publicity and electioneering activities. He played an important role in the landslide successes of the Congress Party in the Indian General Elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962. In 1952, he successfully contested UP Vidhansabha from Soraon North cum Phulpur West seat and won getting over 69% of vote. He was believed to be retained as home minister of UP, but in a surprise move was called to Centre as minister by Nehru. He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh w.e.f. 3 April 1952. He served as the Minister of Railways and Transport in the Central Cabinet from 13 May 1952 to 7 December 1956. In September 1956, he offered his resignation after a railway accident at Mahbubnagar that led to 112 deaths. However, Nehru did not accept his resignation. Three months later, he resigned accepting moral and constitutional responsibility for a railway accident at Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu that resulted in 144 deaths. While speaking in Parliament on the incident, Nehru stated that he was accepting the resignation because it would set an example in constitutional propriety and not because Shastri was in any way responsible for the accident.
In 1957, Shastri returned to the Cabinet following the General Elections, first as the Minister for Transport and Communications, and then as the Minister of Commerce and Industry. In 1961, he became Home Minister. As Union Home Minister, he was instrumental in appointing the Committee on Prevention of Corruption under the Chairmanship of K. Santhanam.
Prime minister of India (1964-66)
Jawaharlal Nehru died in office on 27 May 1964 and left a void. Then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Shastri Prime Minister on 9 June. Shastri, though mild-mannered and soft-spoken, was a Nehruvian socialist and thus held appeal to those wishing to prevent the ascent of conservative right-winger Morarji Desai.
In his first broadcast as Prime Minister, on 11 June 1964, Shastri stated:
"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 socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all, and the maintenance of world peace and friendship with all nations."
Shastri retained many members of Nehru's Council of Ministers. T. T. Krishnamachari was retained as the Finance Minister of India, as was Defence Minister Yashwantrao Chavan. He appointed Swaran Singh to succeed him as External Affairs Minister. He also appointed Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and former Congress President, as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Gulzarilal Nanda continued as the Minister of Home Affairs.
Shastri's tenure witnessed the Madras anti-Hindi agitation of 1965. The government of India had for a long time made an effort to establish Hindi as the sole national language of India. This was resisted by the non-Hindi speaking states particularly Madras State. To calm the situation, Shastri took the advice of Indira Gandhi and gave assurances that English would continue to be used as the official language as long the non-Hindi speaking states wanted. The riots subsided after Shastri's assurance, as did the student agitation.
Shastri continued Nehru's socialist economic policies with central planning. He promoted the White Revolution – a national campaign to increase the production and supply of milk – by supporting the Amul milk co-operative of Anand, Gujarat and creating the National Dairy Development Board. While speaking on the chronic food shortages across the country, Shastri urged people to voluntarily give up one meal so that the saved food could be distributed to the affected populace. During the 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965, Shastri created the slogan of "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" ("Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer"), underlining the need to boost India's food production. Shastri also promoted the Green Revolution. Though he was a socialist, Shastri stated that India cannot have a regimented type of economy.
Jai Jawan Jai Kisan
Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was one of those great Indians who has left an indelible impression on our collective life. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri's contribution to our public life were unique in that they were made in the closest proximity to the life of the common man in India. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was looked upon by Indians as one of their own, one who shared their ideals, hopes and aspirations. His achievements were looked upon not as the isolated achievements of an individual but of our society collectively.
Under his leadership India faced and repulsed the Pakistani invasion of 1965. It is not only a matter of pride for the Indian Army but also for every citizen of the country. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri's slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan reverberates even today through the length and breadth of the country. Underlying this is the inner-most sentiments 'Jai Hindustan'. The war of 1965 was fought and won for our self-respect and our national prestige. For using our Defence Forces with such admirable skill, the nation remains beholden to Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. He will be remembered for all times to come for his large heartedness and public service.
Shastri continued Nehru's policy of non-alignment but also built closer relations with the Soviet Union. In the aftermath of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the formation of military ties between the Chinese People's Republic and Pakistan, Shastri's government decided to expand the defence budget of India's armed forces.
In 1964, Shastri signed an accord with the Sri Lankan Prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike regarding the status of Indian Tamils in the then Ceylon. This agreement is also known as the Srimavo-Shastri Pact or the Bandaranaike-Shastri pact.
Under the terms of this agreement, 600,000 Indian Tamils were to be repatriated, while 375,000 were to be granted Sri Lankan citizenship. This settlement was to be done by 31 October 1981. However, after Shastri's death, by 1981, India had taken only 300,000 Tamils as repatriates, while Sri Lanka had granted citizenship to only 185,000 citizens (plus another 62,000 born after 1964). Later, India declined to consider any further applications for citizenship, stating that the 1964 agreement had lapsed.
War with Pakistan
Shastri's greatest moment came when he led India to victory in the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
In the utilization of our limited resources, we have always given primacy to plans and projects for economic development. It would, therefore, be obvious for anyone who is prepared to look at things objectively that India can have no possible interest in provoking border incidents or in building up an atmosphere of strife... In these circumstances, the duty of Government is quite clear and this duty will be discharged fully and effectively... We would prefer to live in poverty for as long as necessary but we shall not allow our freedom to be subverted.
Under a scheme proposed in June 1965 by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Pakistan obtained 10%, in place of their original claim of 50% of the territory. But Pakistan's aggressive intentions were also focused on Kashmir. When armed infiltrators from Pakistan began entering the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Shastri made it clear to Pakistan that force would be met with force. 29 In September 1965, major incursions of militants and Pakistani soldiers began, hoping not only to break down the government but incite a sympathetic revolt. The revolt did not happen, and India sent its forces across the Ceasefire Line (now Line of Control) and threatened Pakistan by crossing the International Border near Lahore as war broke out on a general scale. Massive tank battles occurred in the Punjab, and while the Pakistani forces made some gains, Indian forces captured the key post at Haji Pir, in Kashmir, and brought the Pakistani city of Lahore under artillery and mortar fire.
On 17 September 1965, while the Indo-Pak war was on, India received a letter from China alleging that the Indian army had set up army equipment in Chinese territory, and India would face China's wrath, unless the equipment was pulled down. In spite of the threat of aggression from China, Shastri declared "China's allegation is untrue. If China attacks India it is our firm resolve to fight for our freedom. The might of China will not deter us from defending our territorial integrity." The Chinese did not respond, but the Indo-Pak war resulted in some 3–4,000 casualties on each side and significant loss of material.
The Indo-Pak war ended on 23 September 1965 with a United Nations-mandated ceasefire. By that time, India had inflicted a crushing defeat on Pakistan. In a broadcast to the nation on the day the of ceasefire, Shastri stated:
"While the conflict between the armed forces of the two countries has come to an end, the more important thing for the United Nations and all those who stand for peace is to bring to an end the deeper conflict.... How can this be brought about? In our view, the only answer lies in peaceful coexistence. India has stood for the principle of coexistence and championed it all over the world. Peaceful coexistence is possible among nations no matter how deep the differences between them, how far apart they are in their political and economic systems, no matter how intense the issues that divide them."
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Shastri visited many countries including Russia, Yugoslavia, England, Canada and Burma. After the declaration of ceasefire with Pakistan in 1965, Shastri and Pakistani President Muhammad Ayub Khan attended a summit in Tashkent (former USSR, now in modern Uzbekistan), organised by Alexei Kosygin. On 10 January 1966, Shastri and Khan signed the Tashkent Declaration.
Prime Minister Shastri died in Tashkent, the day after signing the Tashkent Declaration, reportedly due to a heart attack, but people allege conspiracy behind the death. He was eulogised as a national hero and the Vijay Ghat memorial established in his memory. Upon his death, Gulzarilal Nanda once again assumed the role of Acting Prime Minister until the Congress Parliamentary Party elected Indira Gandhi over Morarji Desai to officially succeed Shastri.
Mystery behind Lal Bahadur Shastri's death
Shastri's sudden death immediately after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan has raised many questions in the minds of Indian citizens. The Prime Minister of India going to Tashkent for a pact and never coming back has not been accepted easily by Indian citizens. His health was fit as per his personal physician, Dr. R. N. Chugh, and he had had no sign of heart trouble before.
Shastri's sudden death has led to persistent conspiracy theories that he was poisoned. The first inquiry into his death, conducted by the Raj Narain Inquiry, as it came to be known, however did not come up with any conclusions, and today no record of this inquiry exists with the Indian Parliament's library. It was alleged that no post-mortem was done on Shastri, but the Indian government in 2009, claimed it did have a report of a medical investigation conducted by Shastri's personal physician, Dr. R. N. Chugh, and some Russian doctors. Furthermore, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) revealed that there was no record of any destruction or loss of documents in the PMO having a bearing on Shastri's death. The Russian butler attending on Shastri at the time of his death was arrested for suspected poisoning but released later as per the news source. It was maintained that Shastri had died of cardiac arrest but his family insisted he was poisoned.
After Shastri's death, aged 62, in Tashkent, USSR, on 11 January 1966, soon after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan, his wife Lalita Shastri had alleged he was poisoned. An epic poetry book in Hindi titled Lalita Ke Aansoo written by Krant M. L. Verma was published in 1978. In this book, the tragic story about the death of Shastri has been narrated by his wife Lalita Shastri. There are still serious doubts which are been taken on his death. His son, Sunil Shastri, asked the government to unravel mystery behind Lal Bahadur Shastri's death. Raising doubts about the dark blue spots and cut marks on the abdomen of his father's body after his death in 1966, Sunil asked how the cut marks appeared, if a post-mortem was not conducted.
When Shastri went to USSR for the Tashkent talks, he wanted a promise from Ayub Khan that Pakistan would never use force in the future. But the talks did not proceed. What followed the next day was Shastri’s Death. The Indian Government released no information about his death, and the media then was kept silent. The possible existence of a conspiracy was covered in India by the Outlook magazine. A query was later posed by Anuj Dhar, author of CIA's Eye on South Asia, under the Right to Information Act to declassify a document supposedly related to Shastri's death, but the Prime Minister's Office refused to oblige, reportedly citing that this could lead to harming of foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and cause breach of parliamentary privileges. Another RTI plea by Kuldip Nayar was also declined, as PMO cited exemption from disclosure on the plea. The home ministry is yet to respond to queries whether India conducted a post-mortem on Shastri, and if the government had investigated allegations of foul play. The Delhi Police in their reply to an RTI application said they do not have any record pertaining to Shastri's death. The Ministry of External Affairs has already said no post-mortem was conducted in USSR. The Central Public Information Officer of Delhi Police in his reply dated 29 July said, "No such record related to the death of the former Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri is available in this district... Hence the requisite information pertaining to New Delhi district may please be treated as nil." This has created more doubts.
The PMO answered only two questions of the RTI application, saying it has only one classified document pertaining to the death of Shastri, which is exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. It sent the rest of the questions to the Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry to answer. The MEA said the only document from the erstwhile Soviet Government is "the report of the Joint Medical Investigation conducted by a team comprising Dr. R. N. Chugh, Doctor in-Attendance to the PM and some Russian doctors" and added no post-mortem was conducted in the USSR. The Home Ministry referred the matter to Delhi Police and National Archives for the response pertaining to any post-mortem conducted on the body of Shastri in India. Sunil Shastri, son of the former Prime Minister, called the transferring of application as "absurd" and "silly joke". "He (Lal Bahadur Shastri) died as sitting Prime Minister. It sounds very silly that MHA is referring the matter of death of second Prime Minister of India to a district level police." He also demanded that "It should be looked into by highest authorities like President, Prime Minister and home minister."
Ramachandra Guha argued that Shastri shared little in common with his predecessor Jawaharlal Nehru. While Shastri preferred peace with Pakistan, writing to a friend after the Indo-Pakistani War in 1965 that the problems between both countries should be settled amicably, he had previously displayed a knack for taking quick and decisive actions during the war. He swiftly took the advice of his commanders, and ordered a strike across the Punjab border. This was in stark contrast to Nehru who in a similar situation in 1962, had refused to call in the air force to relieve the pressure on the ground troops. At the end of the conflict, Shastri flamboyantly posed for a photograph on top of a captured Patton tank.
However, in common with Nehru, Shastri was a secularist who refused to mix religion with politics. In a public meeting held at the Ram Lila grounds in Delhi, a few days after the ceasefire, he complained against a BBC report which claimed that Shastri's identity as a Hindu meant that he was ready for a war with Pakistan. He stated:
"While I am a Hindu, Mir Mushtaq who is presiding over this meeting is a Muslim. Mr. Frank Anthony who has addressed you is a Christian. There are also Sikhs and Parsis here. The unique thing about our country is that we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and people of all other religions. We have temples and mosques, gurdwaras and churches. But we do not bring all this into politics. This is the difference between India and Pakistan. Whereas Pakistan proclaims herself to be an Islamic State and uses religion as a political factor, we Indians have the freedom to follow whatever religion we may choose, and worship in any way we please. So far as politics is concerned, each of us is as much an Indian as the other."
Kuldip Nayar, Shastriji's media advisor from 1960 to 1964, recalls that, during the Quit India Movement, his daughter was ill and he was released on parole from jail. However, he could not save her life because doctors had prescribed costly drugs. Later on in 1963, on the day when he was dropped from the cabinet, he was sitting in his home in the dark, without a light. When asked about the reason, he said as he no longer is a minister, all expenses will have to be paid by himself and that as a MP and minister he didn't earn enough to save for time of need.
Although Shastri had been a cabinet minister for many years in the 1950s, he was poor when he died. All he owned at the end was an old car, which he had bought in instalments from the government and for which he still owed money. He was a member of Servants of India society (which included Gandhiji, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhle) which asked all its members to shun accumulation of private property and remain in public life as servants of people. He was the first railway minister who resigned from office following a major train accident as he felt moral responsibility.
Shastri was known for his honesty and humility throughout his life. He was the first person to be posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, and a memorial "Vijay Ghat" was built for him in Delhi. Several educational institutes, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (Mussorie, Uttarakhand) is after his name these were some examples. The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute was named after Shastri due to his role in promoting scholarly activity between India and Canada. Today Lal Bhadur Shastri Memorial run by Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust, is situated next to 10 Janpath his residence as Prime Minister, at 1, Motilal Nehru Place, New Delhi. In 2011, on Shastri’s 45th death anniversary, Uttar Pradesh Government announced to renovate Shastri’s ancestral house at Ramnagar in Varanasi and declared plans to convert it into a biographical museum.
Varanasi International Airport is named after him.
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Govind Ballabh Pant
|Minister of Home Affairs
|Minister of External Affairs
Sardar Swaran Singh
|Prime Minister of India
|Chairperson of the Planning Commission