Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s Sister, Dies
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the first woman president of the U.N. General Assembly, died today after a long illness, United News of India said. She was 90.
Mrs. Pandit died in Dehra Dun, a town in the Himalayan foothills where she had lived for the last 20 years.
Mrs. Pandit’s political and diplomatic career spanned four decades.
She led India’s first delegations to the United Nations and was elected president of the General Assembly in 1953. She also served as India’s ambassador to Washington, London, Moscow and Madrid. She was a member of Parliament for 14 years.
A member of the aristocratic family that governed India for 37 of its 43 years of independence, Mrs. Pandit, like her brother, did not attend school and was educated at home.
She played an active role in India’s struggle for independence and was imprisoned several times by the British colonial government.
Although close to her brother, she became a staunch critic of his daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when Mrs. Gandhi’s rule became increasingly authoritarian in the 1970s.
In 1977, Mrs. Pandit backed a coalition of opposition parties that ousted Mrs. Gandhi from power for two years.
After Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Mrs. Pandit renewed family ties with her niece’s son, Rajiv Gandhi, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1989.
A lover of nature, literature and a human rights activist, Mrs. Pandit possessed a sharp wit. When she was president of the General Assembly, a reporter once inquired about the color of her sari, the traditional attire of Indian women.
She shot back: ″Did you ask my predecessor the color of his tie?″
She is survived by her daughter, novelist Nayantara Sahgal. Mrs. Pandit’s husband, attorney Ranjit Pandit, died in 1944.