Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it had occurred. Today, we take you back to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, a day that would live in infamy in Indian history.
May 21, 1991: Former Prime Minister and Congress Leader Shri Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated after a bomb explosion ripped through a campaign rally in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai. Although final figures are yet to be confirmed, investigative and hospital sources in the area suggest the death of at least a dozen other people, as well as several more injured.
Campaigning for the Congress candidates in the upcoming elections, Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s campaign stop in Sriperumbudur came after addressing similar rallies in the cities of Vishakapatnam and Madras.
Exact details of the blast remain fuzzy. However, there seems to be a consensus that the blast happened when Shri Rajiv Gandhi was making his way to the dais and was greeting well-wishers and supporters on the way.
“For a second, I thought there were fireworks. Then, when I saw bodies flying, everyone ran around in confusion, running and stumbling over people who had fallen over as people tried to make their way away from the chaos,” said Congress worker Ashok, as he was treated at the district hospital with second degree burns on his limbs and a broken shoulder.
“All officers just ran away. I looked at the bodies, hoping not to find him. Pradip Gupta lay on his back. His eyes open, he was still breathing and looked at me. ‘Are you alright?’ I asked. He died within seconds. Then I saw a head lying on his knee. And I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, this looks like Rajiv,’ said Congress Leader Jayanthi Natarajan, as he addressed the media after.
The body of Rajiv Gandhi was so badly burnt and injured, sources suggest it took Gandhi’s distinct hairline and his white Lotto sneakers to identify him.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, government sources suggest the investigation is set to be passed on to the Central Bureau of Investigation by the ruling Chandrasekhar government.
This investigation shall not only work towards finding and bringing justice to the perpetrators of this unfortunate assassination but, will also address the security lapses at the event.
Post-Scriptum: Rajiv Gandhi was one of the 14 people killed on the 21st of May, 1991 in Sriperumbudur. An extensive investigation by the CBI found that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was carried out by a Tamil suicide bomber named Dhanno, orchestrated by Prabhakaran and his militant organization, LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).
Dhanno, also known as Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, was found to have assassinated Rajiv Gandhi after she had garlanded him and bent to touch his feet, during which she detonated her suicide vest. Her role as the suicide bomber was identified by the forensic remains of explosive material found on her decapitated corpse.
The Special Investigative Team of the CBI also found that the LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s personal animosity towards Gandhi and the latter’s failed peacekeeping policy in Sri Lanka and his reverse coup in the Maldives were factors that contributed to this dastardly assassination plot.
It was also suggested that the assassination plot could have been foiled if security and safety warnings had been heeded by the Congress leader and his delegation and if local sympathies for the Tamil cause, especially by the DMK, hadn’t made the assassination easier.
Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination once and for all, ended India’s flirtation with the civil war in Sri Lanka and sympathies for the Tamil’s cause in India soon evaporated in smoke. The assassination paved the way forward for the designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization.
Image Sources: Google Images