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Famous Awardees

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
  • Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (18 August 1900 – 1 December 1990) was an Indian diplomat and politician, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Pandit was sent to London, as India’s most important diplomat, after serving as Nehru’s envoy to the Soviet Union, the USA and the United Nations.
  • Vijaya Lakshmi’s father, Motilal Nehru (1861–1931), a wealthy barrister who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community, served twice as President of the Indian National Congress during the Independence Struggle.
  • Her mother, Swaruprani Thussu (1868–1938), who came from a well-known Kashmiri Brahmin family settled in Lahore,was Motilal’s second wife, the first having died in child birth.
  • She was the second of three children; Jawaharlal was eleven years her senior.In 1921, she was married to Ranjit Pandit (1893-1944).
  • He was arrested for his support of Indian independence and died in Lucknow prison in 1944.
  • Pandit was the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post in pre-independent India. In 1937, she was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and was designated minister of local self-government and public health.
  • She held the latter post until 1938 and again from 1946 to 1947. In 1946, she was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces.
  • Following India’s freedom from British occupation in 1947 she entered the diplomatic service and became India’s ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1949, the United States and Mexico from 1949 to 1951, Ireland from 1955 to 1961 and Spain from 1958 to 1961.
  • Between 1946 and 1968, she headed the Indian delegation to the United Nations. In 1953, she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • In India, she served as Governor of Maharashtra from 1962 to 1964, after which she was elected to the Indian parliament’s lower house, Lok Sabha, from Phulpur.
  • She came out of retirement in 1977 to campaign against Indira Gandhi and helped the Janata Party win the 1977 election.
  • In 1979, she was appointed the Indian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, after which she retired from public life. Her writings include The Evolution of India (1958) and The Scope of Happiness: A Personal Memoir (1979).
  • Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit died in Dehru Dun, India on December 1, 1990.
  • Not only was she the first woman to hold a political position in pre-independent India, but she was also the first woman to be the President of the UN General Assembly. She was the face of the newly independent India, representing the country in 3 different countries. She was a staunch believer in the freedom of India and openly condemned colonialism and imperialism.