Tale of Two Assassinations

Editorial: September 2013
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur by a human bomb in 1991 raised many uncomfortable questions. Although it was clear that he was killed by Tamil extremists, questions were raised about the real motive behind the gruesome murder. Conventional assassination treatises were categorical that leaders of prime ministerial status do not get killed unless the perpetrators have logistical and intelligence support as big as that of a nation since it involves breaching many layers of security. Ordinary people who want to execute their evil designs against a popular leader would usually find it difficult to cross the first level before they get nabbed. It is from this standpoint that the assassination of leaders, beginning from John F Kennedy right down to Indira Gandhi and, later, her son, has always evoked understandable curiosity. 

In the case of Kennedy, the Justice Warren Commission was appointed to investigate the murder that shook the US and the world. In India, the Jain Commission was appointed to look into the wider conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi’s murder. The Jain Commission’s findings were explosive and, hence, challenged by everyone. To satisfy those who wanted the conspirators to be put under a scanner, the government had appointed a multi-disciplinary monitoring agency (MDMA) to follow up on the Jain Commission’s findings. The MDMA made little headway. The larger issue that came out of the commission’s report was that Rajiv Gandhi was killed by foreign agencies. Interestingly, this is the subject matter of a recent, much acclaimed, film from Bollywood, Madras Café; directed by a brilliant Shoojit Sircar, the film valiantly tries to peel off layers from this complex conspiracy.

Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination probe did not have a closure despite the death of many people allegedly linked with it. LTTE boss V Pirabhakaran died. So did the ‘one-eyed jack, Sivarasan’ who managed to indoctrinate human bomb Dhanu and place her in close proximity to Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, a few of those arrested by the controversial Special Investigating Team (SIT) for their role in the gruesome incident were found dead in mysterious circumstances — in custody. It was clear that these killings were meant to erase a trail that would have taken the probe in a different direction. There were a number of important pieces of this mind-boggling jigsaw puzzle that did not really fit.

One major angle that eluded investigators was the link of Rajiv Gandhi’s death to the Bofors gun deal with Sweden. On the face of it, this may seem outlandish, but two people who signed the deal, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, were both killed. Hardnews thought it appropriate to revisit the murder in Stockholm of Olof Palme and try to see whether there was an ‘India angle’ to it. The story of Palme presents a different perspective to the murky world of arms deals and how politics in democracies is controlled by shadowy figures from the arms world. It shows how seemingly pacifist societies are sustained by internal violence implicit in the arms trade. The Bofors scandal makes rivetting reading and it will help readers to decide whether they have truly got the answers about who really killed Rajiv Gandhi and Olof Palme.

Indeed, we are again visited by the atavism of the 1990s whereby communal forces are trying to recreate the vicious madness so reminiscent of the BabriMasjid demolition/riots. The alleged ‘kosiyatra’ is a shoddy attempt by a fanatic VHP to polarize the voters on communal lines and hate politics. Neither UP, trapped in caste and communal politics, nor India as a nation-state, can afford such naked attempts to inflame sectarian violence and xenophobia. Surely, the ‘fixed match’ should be exposed, and the fascists should be stopped, at any cost.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2013