Skip to main content

Gujral, Inder Kumar

GUJRAL, INDER KUMAR

GUJRAL, INDER KUMAR (1919–) prime minister of India (1997–1998). Inder Kumar Gujral, political leader and global diplomat, was born in Punjab's Jhelum on 4 December 1919. Young Inder attended Hailey College in Lahore, was elected president of its Student Union, and served as general secretary of the Punjab Student Federation. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha campaigns, he soon joined India's freedom struggle and was jailed by British police, together with his mother, Pushpa, during Gandhi's "Quit India" movement in August 1942. The tragic partition of India in mid-1947 forced the Gujrals to flee their home in what overnight had become Pakistan, settling down in Delhi. Inder volunteered to help care for many desperately impoverished Hindu and Sikh refugees, forced by fear to flee their homes in the aftermath of Punjab's hastily inept partition.

Modeling himself on India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gujral joined the Indian National Congress Party, devoting himself to vigorous political action and social reform. His refugee camp work in Delhi won him the admiration of those he had helped to find jobs as well as homes, and they elected him to serve as vice-president of New Delhi's municipality, over which he later presided for many years. Nehru remained Inder Gujral's role model both in politics and social activism. Like Nehru, he was inspired by Western humanism and socialist ideals, never losing his passionate faith in democratic India's capacity to create a better future for all its people, regardless of their caste or creed, their ethnicity, or their income. He also has remained a lifelong student of India's history, and, like his poet-wife Shiela, a devotee of poetry, memorizing many of the best works of Persian and Urdu poetry, as well as epic Sanskrit shlokas, and poems written in Punjabi, Bengali, and English. "India is a country of vast diversities," Inder Gujral reminded his troubled nation at one of its darkest hours in the summer of 2002—as both India and Pakistan remained at high alert due to threat of nuclear war—"of language, religion, ethnicity and historic experiences, but we have chosen to stay together as one Nation. Gandhi and our freedom struggle gave us our logo . . . 'Unity in Diversity'—not uniformity." He refused to abandon his faith in Indian secularism to any reactionary "Hindu-first" prejudice or battle cry preached by political opponents.

Inder Gujral was first elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India's Parliament) in 1964, retaining his seat until 1976, when he resigned from Indira Gandhi's Cabinet, where he had served as minister of information and broadcasting and planning. Minister Gujral refused to take orders from Prime Minister Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay, who once tried to dictate which news stories he should approve or reject for publication during the "National Emergency" of 1975–1976. Gujral was again elected to Parliament from 1989 to 1991, and from 1992 to 1998. He then served as minister of external affairs in 1989 and 1990 and in 1996 and 1997, after which he also became India's prime minister, from 21 April 1997 until 19 March 1998, leading a multiparty Janata coalition government in New Delhi. Nehru and Gujral were India's only two prime ministers who served as their own foreign ministers.

Prime Minister Gujral presided over India's festive fiftieth anniversary National Day celebrations in New Delhi's Parliament at midnight on 15 August 1997. Speaking the next morning from the ramparts of Delhi's Red Fort, he reaffirmed India's faith in Gandhian nonviolence and Nehruvian secularism, promising to root out corruption at every level of government, and to resolve "peacefully through bilateral negotiations" differences with India's neighbors, including India's half century of conflict with Pakistan over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though his tenure as prime minister proved all too brief to permit Inder Gujral to negotiate a peaceful end to Kashmir's tragic conflict, he unilaterally launched a number of confidence-building measures with India's other South Asian neighbors, including Nepal and Bangladesh, and his creative policy of "preemptive peace and friendship," known as the Gujral Doctrine, remains his most enduring diplomatic legacy to India's polity and history.

Stanley Wolpert

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gujral, Inder Kumar. A Foreign Policy for India. New Delhi: Government of India, 1998.

Gupte, Pranay. Mother India: A Political Biography of Indira Gandhi. New York: Macmillan, 1992.

Naipaul, V. S. India: A Wounded Civilization. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Prasad, Bimal, ed. India's Foreign Policy: Studies in Continuity and Change. New Delhi: Vikas, 1979.

Singh, Amrik, ed. The Partition in Retrospect. New Delhi: National Institute of Punjab Studies, 2000.

Wolpert, Stanley. Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

——. Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

——. Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gujral, Inder Kumar." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gujral, Inder Kumar." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gujral-inder-kumar

"Gujral, Inder Kumar." Encyclopedia of India. . Retrieved October 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gujral-inder-kumar

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.