Death Anniversary: Known and rarely known facts about Rajiv Gandhi and his assassination

rajiv_gandhi_20100705Before ascending the throne of the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi shocked the world with his statement,

“When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes.”

He uttered these words during the Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her guard. This wasn’t the only step taken by Gandhi which angered a particular community. His involvement during the Sri-Lankan civil war earned him nothing less than death itself.

The liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant organisation from Sri Lanka were irked by Gandhi’s decision to send Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) to Sri Lanka. Gandhi wasn’t shy from challenging them on TV as well. He claimed whole-heartedly that if he came back to power he wouldn’t step aside from the opportunity to send the IPKF back to Sri Lanka. This turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for Gandhi (figuratively and literally). The assassination was planned for the day when Gandhi visited Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu for a political rally. A little known fact is that the then Governor of Tamil Nadu, broke protocol and warned Gandhi against an attempt on his life. However Gandhi paid no heed. Gandhi had conveniently omitted OP Sagar, his security officer from the group of individuals accompanying him. Thenmozhi Rajaratnam a.k.a. Dhanu killed him during a suicide blast attack. She bent down to touch his feet and in the process detonated an RDX laden belt, which ended up taking the life of Gandhi, her own and 14 people nearby. A cameraman, who died during the debacle, left behind his camera and film which had recorded the whole episode.

Like any good daily soap, the drama did not end here. On 14th June 1991, 26 individuals including Nalini Sriharan (the only surviving member) were sentenced to death by a special court. However Nalini gave birth to a girl during her time person, in lieu of which Sonia Gandhi intervened and asked for clemency for Nalini on the grounds of her being a mother. After all these years Nalini claims that killing the former PM is still the biggest regret of her life. She has also alleged that the actual perpetrators were never caught and are still on the loose. Whether these words hold any truth or not is only for her to know. The Jain commission which was created to investigate the assassination, created further uproar when it accused the then Chief Minister Karunanidhi of playing a role in the assassination. Rajiv Gandhi may have created a lot of storm when he was and wasn’t the PM. His tenure was marked by botches and achievements. Today marks the day of his death anniversary. The nation remembers him as a martyr and it was only fitting that the place where he was cremated was to be called  Veer Bhumi.

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