Indira Gandhi Speeches

Martin Luther King Famous Speech by Indira Gandhi
New Delhi, India: January 24, 1969

This is a poignant moment for all of us. We remember vividly your last visit to our country. We had hoped that on this occasion, Dr. King and you would be standing side by side on this platform. That was not to be. He is not with us but we feel his spirit. We admired Dr. King. We felt his loss as our own. The tragedy rekindled memories of the great martyrs of all time who gave their lives so that men might live and grow. We thought of the great men in your own country who fell to the assassin's bullet and of Mahatma Gandhi's martyrdom here in this city, this very month, twenty-one years ago. Such events remain as wounds in the human consciousness, reminding us of battles, yet to be fought and tasks still to be accomplished. We should not mourn for men of high ideals. Rather we should rejoice that we had the privilege of having had them with us, to inspire us by their radiant personalities. So today we are gathered not to offer you grief, but to salute a man who achieved so much in so short a time. It is befitting, Madam, that you whom he called the "courage by my side", you who gave him strength and encouragement in his historic mission, should be with us to receive this award.

You and your husband both had foreseen that death might come to him violently. It was perhaps inherent in the situation. Dr. King chose death for the theme of a sermon, remarking that he would like to be remembered as a drum major for justice, for peace and for righteousness. When you were once asked what you would do if your husband were assassinated, you were courage personified, replying that you might weep but the work would go on. Your face of sorrow, so beautiful in its dignity coupled with infinite compassion, will forever be engraved in our hearts.

Mahatma Gandhi also had foreseen his end and had prepared himself for it. Just as training for violence included learning to kill, the training for non-violence, he said, included learning how to die. The true badge of the satyagrahi is to be unafraid.
As if he too had envisaged the martyrdoms of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Rabindranath Tagore once sang:

In anger we slew him,
With love let us embrace him now,
For in death he lives again amongst us,
The mighty conqueror of death.


This award, Madam, is the highest tribute our nation can bestow on work for understanding and brotherhood among men. It is named after a man who himself was a peace-maker and who all his life laboured passionately for freedom, justice and peace in India and throughout the world. Dr. Martin Luther King's struggle was for these same values. He paid for his ideals with his blood, forging a new bond among the brave and the conscientious of all races and all nations.

Dr. King's dream embraced the poor and the oppressed of all lands. His work ennobled us. He spoke of the right of man to survive and recognized three threats to the survival of man--racial injustice, poverty and war. He realised that even under the lamp of affluence which was held aloft by science, lay the shadow of poverty, compelling two-thirds of the peoples of the world to exist in hunger and want. He proclaimed that mankind could be saved from war only if we cared enough for peace to sacrifice for it.


Dr. Martin Luther King drew his inspiration from Christ, and his method of action from Mahatma Gandhi. Only through truth can untruth be vanquished. Only through love can hatred be quenched. This is the path of the Buddha and of Christ, and in our own times, that of Mahatma Gandhi and of Martin Luther King.

They believed in the equality of all men. No more false doctrine has been spread than that of the superiority of one race over another. It is ironical that there should still be people in this world who judge men not by their moral worth and intellectual merit but by the pigment of their skin or other physical characteristics.


Some governments still rest on the theory of racist superiority--such as the governments of South Africa and the lawless regime in Rhodesia. Unregenerate groups in other countries consider one colour superior to another. Our own battle is not yet over. Caste and other prejudices still survive, but most of us are ashamed of them and recognise them as evils to be combated. We are trying hard to eradicate them.

While there is bondage anywhere, we ourselves cannot be fully free. While there is oppression anywhere, we ourselves cannot soar high. Martin Luther King was convinced that one day the misguided people who believed in racial superiority would realise the error of their ways. His dream was that white and black, brown and yellow would live and grow together as flowers in a garden with their faces turned towards the sun. As you yourself said, "All of us who believe in what Martin Luther King stood for, must see to it that his spirit never dies". That spirit can never die. There may be setbacks in our fight for the equality of all men. There may be moments of gloom. But victory must and will be ours. Let us not rest until the equality of all races and religions becomes a living fact. That is the most effective and lasting tribute that we can pay to Dr. King.


Last speech of Indira Gandhi at Bhubaneswar ))-

“India , in our  long history, has never attacked any country. There have been many invasions against us. People from outside came here any many of them settled here. They proved to be good Indians. Later, they participated with us in the freedom fight. When India was invaded after we achieved our freedom, all of them expressed their solidarity with the people of India. They stood like one wall and faced the challenges. The prime need of the hour is to revive once again the same spirit of solidarity in the hearts and minds of the people. It is not a case of strengthening the hands of  Indira  Gandhi alone. It means that the hands of millions of people, who live in India, should be strengthened.

The hands of men and women, old and young, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, people belonging to backward classes indeed, of everybody who s living in India, should be strengthened. They should have the courage and they should have the strength, which will take this country along the road of development. All of us should work hard. It is not only a question of manual labour, It also concerns the mind. Let new ideas be brought in from different sources, so that in this scientific age India could progress.

Whenever I happen to meet scientists I have only one message for them; “Do something which is of use to the whole of the country.” But if along with  this a scientific temper is not cultivated, if we remain prisoners of superstitions, if we continue to quarrel among ourselves, if we tolerate communalism and do not fight against it, if we let casteism or regionalism develop and grow or if we start quarrelling in the name of language, how will we be able to preserve the unity of India?. If unity is not preserved, how will we protect our independence? Do not think that if we have won freedom once, we will be able to preserve it for all time to come. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. We have to think about it and do something about it every day.  We have to preserve that freedom for our poorer masses, particularly for the people who are backward and are living in backward areas. We should make freedom a reality for them.

Actually, the real work started from that point and the Congress took upon itself two things. First, democracy should be nurtured because until each and everybody’s voice is not heard, freedom would not be complete. Secondly, the congress adopted the path of socialism. Without economic equality, and without equal opportunities for all, freedom could not be considered complete. If there are acute inequalities the society, the gap between the rich and the poor will widen, resulting in increased tension and class struggle.

If there is no peace in the society, freedom cannot be secure and development projects cannot be executed, progress cannot be made.  Therefore, from the very beginning we made strides towards self-reliance. If you travel you will see how the picture of our country is changing in the post independence India. As we go forward, we face new problems. There are chronic problems, like poverty and economic backwardness.  But are also problems which are the result of progress and development.

Several countries are rich. Even then they have failed to root out unemployment, or control rising prices. As a matter of fact, both the problems, have aggravated there in the recent years. Even the, we have to find out a way , so that we are able to avoid these problems. These are not new challenges. These are old problems and we are making efforts to solve them. How will unemployment be removed, and how do we get over price rise? When we increase our production, the people will get employment  opportunities. We have also to see that when production is increased and we achieve success, the fruits of these reach all the people.

We have to take to the masses our programs regarding education and health care, particularly to those areas where people have been victims of social and economic injustice for centuries.  This must be remedied.  This is our object and we are moving towards that direction.  We were doing it before, we are doing it now and we will continue to pursue our path as before whether we are in office or out of office.

So everything is interrelated . We have to co-ordinate everything and move forward. We have to strike a balance in our social structure. We can do this only when there is peace in the society.  If agitations coupled with violence are launched and people hate each other and the opposition parties encourage such agitations without considering the long-term  effects on the social fabric of our country, then we will not be successful.  All of us must think how much pain, agony and hardship it will cause to our countrymen.

Some  agitations have been launched which have harmed the country’s unity.  The slogans which are raised by these agitators were not originated in this country.  These have been coined in foreign countries by  those who live outside India.  Many anti-social and treacherous elements found their way into these agitations.  In the shadow of these agitations they indulge in evil work.  What happened in Punjab is known to all of you


What was happening in Jammu and Kashmir is also known to you. It was not a question of an individual at any place. Neither was it a question of a particular caste or creed or religion or party. The real question was that the things which were happening were not beneficial to the country and were creating difficulties for India. They were likely to create hazards and crises in the country in future.  But no government can support any deed or any action which would weaken the country, whatever be the price.

The citizens of India must think of India first. We may belong to any religion or caste or creed, but nationalism is supreme, the love for our country must get priority over everything.  But today some people think that they should support or back any agitation which may help in getting votes to them during the elections. But the people in Orissa and the people living in different states indeed the people of the whole country, must realize that such agitations will pose a greater danger to our country.

Our policy is to have friendly relations with all countries. But we shall not give up our self-respect or overlook the interest of India.  Many times India has faced invasions and there were five attacks in recent years. We should always be prepared to face such a contingency.  We have already assured our people and the people of the world that we will never attack anybody. We shall continue to pursue our policy of friendship with all people.  The same is our policy at home.
Our progress has been acknowledged by other nations. Be it big universities or big international  economic organizations, everybody acknowledges that India has pursued the path of progress, despite difficulties, without incurring big debts or without being trapped into any crisis.  Since 1980, every year, we have done something or the other which is remarkable and every time it has helped to enhance the reputation of the country in the comity of nations. The young generation of India and the intellectuals of this country have new opportunities to achieve name and fame and expand their scope of knowledge.  That is why we have to see that India continues to move forward on this path.

India does not raise her voice only for her own sake. If we raise our voice it is not on behalf of the Congress.  We are speaking here on behalf of the people of India, on behalf of the weaker sections of India, on behalf of the women of India, on behalf of the intellectuals of India and above all, on behalf of the younger generation of India, for the future belongs to them.  If they move forward on the right path and if they engage themselves in constructive activities and do not indulge in sabotage then a bright future awaits them.


They can also build their states and the country.  So this is our view for India.  This applies to all the under-developed nations of the world.  What we say here is also criticized. Our aid is discontinued. But wherever injustice is perpetrated, India always is the first to raise its voice against it because we know if there is injustice at one place and the people are suppressed, then it will affect the whole world.
My father used to say that freedom cannot be divided.  In the same manner, progress is also indivisible, development is also indivisible.  Many countries of the world have become prosperous through scientific development and they are also collecting wealth very rapidly and using it for raising their standard.  They are very powerful and even then they want to influence other nations.

It is not like the older type of slavery.  In that system, imperialist powers used to dispatch their forces and occupy territory.  But in the new system, they try to influence people by their ideology.  They try to break the morale of the people.  Even if the weaker nations do some good work, the powers try to show that the under-developed countries have done nothing.

I had to resort to emergency for a very brief period.  But even today I am being criticized.  I am being described as authoritarian and dictatorial. But the same people are fully helping the other authoritarian regimes with money, resources and arms. For them that dictatorship is not dictatorship. Therefore, we have to learn from all this and know after all what they want, why they want India should not go forward.  No outsider will take care of our interest or think about us.  We have to look after ourselves.  This is not exclusively my responsibility.

I am here today; I may not be here tomorrow.  But the responsibility to look after national interest is on the shoulder of every citizen of India.  I have often mentioned this earlier.  Nobody knows how many attempts have been made to shoot me; lathis have been used to beat me. In Bhubaneswar itself, a brickbat hit me.  They have attacked me in every possible manner.  I do not care whether I live or die.  I have lived a long life and I am proud that I spend the whole of my life in the service of my people.  I am only proud of this and nothing else.  I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it.

I hope that youth, women and others, all will think together. They should shoulder the responsibilities and it cannot be done by accepting others as leaders. Leaders come and go.

When the struggle for freedom was on, many times we were in jail. But because of our absence, the struggle never ceased. In every state, province and district, new leaders came up.  It is our wish that every section of the people living in Orissa, whether they are from scheduled tribes or happen to belong to any other caste, will think:”This is my country, this is our country”. We must make our nation strong.  We must reinforce its integration and it is our responsibility, it is every citizen’s responsibility.  We cannot make Indira Gandhi or the Congress or any other leader responsible for this work. We want that this spirit should develop and envelop the country.

When we talk about self reliance, it means we want self-reliance in the material sense.  But we also want psychological self reliance. The people must feel confident that they have the strength to do the job and I know that this strength is the in the masses.  I fully believe that the masses of India will never take a wrong path.  The people of the world know about it.  Many cultures and civilizations have disappeared into oblivion.  But as poet Iqbal once said, we have survived, whereas all those ancient civilizations have perished. Our civilization is still there.

It means that there is some inherent strength in us; that is why we are surviving.  That strength is there inside everybody.  But you have to let it develop.  If you do not allow it to develop, if you are frustrated, then the inner strength will not take its shape and it will work negatively.  There are weaknesses and we have to fight those weaknesses. But if we do not have the courage, if we do not have the necessary morale, then we shall not be able to get over those shortcomings and weaknesses.  Without doing this, good work cannot be done.  So, it is in your hands, in the hands of the people of Orissa ad in the hand of the people of this country what they want to do.

We can only formulate policies and programs. We are there to help.  But development work must  go on.  You must see that Orissa progresses.  It is your responsibility.  Everybody should search his heart and ask himself why he would do this job.  I fully believe that this beautiful state, where art and other things have developed so much, will also develop economically. You should not do anything to strike at the roots of your art or traditions.  These should also develop along with economic progress.

You have heard me very patiently.  I shall repeat that you must give top priority to the unity and integrity of the country.  Everything else is secondary.  We have to face today’s challenges in such a manner that we emerge stronger and our strength continues to grow.  If we gain something for the short term  and if it weakens us tomorrow or day after, then it is not a thing worth pursuing.   "Jai Hind.”