Remembering India’s Second PM Lal Bahadur Shastri on his 55th Death Anniversary

Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of India who occupied the office from 1964 to 1966. However, he died before completing his full term in the office. PM Shastri died of heart attack in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent on January 11, 1966. Today marks the 55th death anniversary of the late Congress leader.

A devout follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Shastri was born on October 2, 1904 at Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh. He grew up in poverty and under the British rule. Stories of him walking bare feet for miles to reach school even in sweltering heat have been reported. Shastri had lost his father when he was just one and a half years old. The tough situations that he had to face as a child made Shastri interested in politics and the national freedom struggle that was led by Mahatma Gandhi at the time.

His first participation in a political movement came when he was sixteen. Shastri joined the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920 after Gandhi urged his country’s people to demand freedom from British rule and protest against the Rowlatt Act. Shastri’s interest in politics was not appreciated by his family who had other hopes from him. After being a part of the Non-Cooperation Movement, the leader went on to join Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi. Studying at Kashi made a lasting influence of the greatest intellectuals, and nationalists of the country on Shastri. Another thing that his course at Kashi gave him was the title of ‘Shastri’. This was, in fact,thebachelor’s degree awarded to him by the Vidya Peeth. However, it stuck in the minds of the people as part of his name.

After independence of India from colonial rule, Shastri became an important member of the government. In 1952, he became the union minister for railways and transport. Shastri went on to gain a reputation as a skillful mediator after his appointment to the influential post of minister for home affairs in 1961. After Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s illness, Shastri was appointed as the PM of the country.

Circumstances and events leading up to Shastri’s demise have always given rise to theories of a possible murder. On January 10, 1966, Shastri was in Tashkent to sign a peace agreement with the then-Pakistan president Ayub Khan. It was in the early hours of January 11, 1966, after signing the agreement, that Shastri supposedly died of a heart attack.

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