Lal Bahadur Shastri (born 1904) succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister of India in 1964. Though eclipsed by such stalwarts of the Congress party as Kamaraj (the Kingmaker) and Morarji Desai, Finance Minister in Nehru’s government, Shastri emerged as the consensus candidate in the midst of party warfare. He had not been in power long before he had to attend to the difficult matter of Pakistani aggression, as represented by India, along the Rann of Kutch; and though a cease-fire under the auspices of the United Nations put a temporary halt to the fighting, the scene of conflict soon shifted to the more troubled spot of Kashmir. While Pakistan claimed that a spontaneous uprising against the Indian occupation of Kashmir had taken place, India charged Pakistan with fomenting sedition inside its territory and sending armed raiders into Jammu and Kashmir from Azad Kashmir. Shastri promised to meet force with force, and by early September the second Indo-Pakistan war had commenced.
Though the Indian army reached the outskirts of Lahore, Shastri agreed to withdraw Indian forces. He had always been identified with the interests of the working class and peasants since the days of his involvement with the freedom struggle, and now his popularity agree. But his triumph was short-lived: invited in January 1966 by the Russian Premier, Aleksei Kosygin, to Tashkent for a summit with General Muhammad Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan and commander of the nation’s armed forces, Shastri suffered a fatal heart attack hours after signing a treaty where India and Pakistan agreed to not meddle in each other’s internal affairs and “not to have recourse to force and to settle their disputes through peaceful means. Shastri’s body was brought back to India, and a memorial, not far from the national memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, was built to honor him. It says, in fitting testimony to Shastri, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” (“Honor the Soldier, Honor the Farmer”). He is, however, a largely forgotten figure, another victim of the engineering of India’s social memory by Indira Gandhi and her clan.