Lal Bahadur Shastri, (born October 2, 1904, Mughalsarai, India—died January 11, 1966, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R.), Indian statesman, prime minister of India (1964–66) after Jawaharlal Nehru.
A member of Mahatma Gandhi’s noncooperation movement against British government in India, he was imprisoned for a short time (1921). Upon release he studied in the Kashi Vidyapitha, a nationalist university, where he graduated with the title of shastri (“learned in the scriptures”). He then returned to politics as a follower of Gandhi, was imprisoned several more times, and attained influential positions in the Congress Party of the state of the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh state.
Shastri was elected to the legislature of the United Provinces in 1937 and 1946. After Indian independence, Shastri gained experience as minister for home affairs and transport in Uttar Pradesh. He was elected to the central Indian legislature in 1952 and became union minister for railways and transport. He gained a reputation as a skillful mediator after his appointment to the influential post of minister for home affairs in 1961. Three years later, on Jawaharlal Nehru’s illness, Shastri was appointed minister without portfolio, and after Nehru’s death he became prime minister in June 1964. Shastri was criticized for failing to deal effectively with India’s economic problems, but he won great popularity for his firmness on the outbreak of hostilities with neighbouring Pakistan (1965) over the disputed Kashmir region. He died of a heart attack after signing a “no-war” agreement with Pres. Ayub Khan of Pakistan and was succeeded as prime minister by Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter.
Shastri was born to Sharada Prasad Srivastava and Ramdulari Devi in Mughalsarai on 2 October 1904, sharing his birthday with Mahatma Gandhi. He studied in East Central Railway Inter college and Harish Chandra High School, which he left to join the non-cooperation movement. He worked for the betterment of the Harijans at Muzaffarpur and dropped his caste-derived surname of "Srivastava". Shastri's thoughts were influenced by reading about Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi and Annie Besant. Deeply impressed and influenced by Gandhi, he joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. He served as the president of Servants of the People Society (Lok Sevak Mandal), founded by Lala Lajpat Rai and held prominent positions in Indian National Congress. Following independence in 1947, he joined the Indian government and became one of Prime Minister Nehru's key cabinet colleagues, first as Railways Minister (1951–56), and then in numerous other prominent positions, including the Home Minister.
He led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. His slogan "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" ("Hail to the soldier; Hail to the farmer") became very popular during the war. The war formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement on 10 January 1966; he died the following day, still in Tashkent, with the cause of his death in dispute; it was reported to be a cardiac arrest, but his family was not satisfied with the proffered reason. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna.
Early years (1904–1917)
Shastri was born on 2 October 1904 at the home of his maternal grandparents in Mughalsarai in a BhojpuriHinduKayasth family. Shastri’s paternal ancestors had been in the service of the zamindar of Ramnagar, Varanasi and Shastri lived there for the first year of his life. Shastri’s father, Sharada Prasad Srivastava, was a school teacher who later became a clerk in the revenue office at Allahabad, while his mother, Ramdulari Devi, was the daughter of Munshi Hazari Lal, the headmaster and English teacher at a railway school in Mughalsarai. Shastri was the second child and eldest son of his parents; he had an elder sister, Kailashi Devi (b. 1900).
In April 1906, When Shastri was hardly a year and 6 months old, his father, who had only recently been promoted to the post of deputy tahsildar, died in an epidemic of bubonic plague. Smt Ramdulari Devi, then only 23 and pregnant with her third child, took her two children and moved from Ramnagar to her father's house in Mughalsarai and settled there for good. She gave birth to a daughter, Sundari Devi, in July 1906.Thus, Shastri and his sisters grew up in the household of his maternal grandfather, Hazari Lalji. However, Hazari Lalji himself died from a stroke in mid-1908, after which the family was looked after by his brother (Shastri's great-uncle) Darbari Lal, who was the head clerk in the opium regulation department at Ghazipur, and later by his son (Ramdulari Devi's cousin) Bindeshwari Prasad, a school teacher in Mughalsarai.
In Shastri's family, as with many Kayastha families, it was the custom in that era for children to receive an education in the Urdu language and culture. This is because Urdu/Persian had been the language of government for centuries, before being replaced by English, and old traditions persisted into the 20th century.[Therefore, Shastri began his education at the age of four under the tutelage of a maulvi (a Muslim cleric), Budhan Mian, at the East Central Railway Inter college in Mughalsarai. He studied there until the sixth standard. In 1917, Bindeshwari Prasad (who was now head of the household) was transferred to Varanasi, and the entire family moved there, including Ramdulari Devi and her three children. In Varanasi, Shastri joined the seventh standard at Harish Chandra High School. At this time, he decided to drop his caste-derived surname of "Srivastava" (which is a traditional surname for a sub-caste of Kayastha families).