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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

remembering that gruesome assassination of 1991


On this day in 1939,  the National War Memorial (titled The Response)  a tall, granite memorial arch with accreted bronze sculptures in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, designed by Vernon March and first dedicated by King George VI in 1939 was opened. Originally built to commemorate the Canadians who died in the First World War, it was in 1982 rededicated to also include those killed in the Second World War and Korean War and again in 2014 to add the dead from the Second Boer War and War in Afghanistan, as well as all Canadians killed in all conflicts past and future. It now serves as the pre-eminent war memorial     ~ 21st May is remembered by Indians for different reasons though !

August 15, 1991. It was a pleasant morning in Konanakunte, people did not know that the day would change their lives .. .. can you connect it with this day 28 years ago !  Just as we await results of Lok Sabha elections, 1991 too was an election year – held in 2 phases – each had a different impact.  Maragatham Chandrasekar was to win by a margin of 180572 and the man lost his life campaigning for her this day.   

Visitors to Chennai would not miss the landmark as they come out Central Railway station – the imposing  Government General Hospital, visited by more than 12000 outpatients everyday.   This premier institution dates back to 1664, started  as a small Hospital to treat the sick soldiers of the East India Company. It was the untiring inspired efforts of Sir Edward Winter who was the agent of the company that materialised in the first British Hospital at Madras. In its early days the Hospital was housed at the Fort St. George and in the next 25 years grew into a formal medical facility. Governor Sir. Elihy Yale was instrumental in the development of the Hospital and gave it a new premises with in the Fort in 1690.  In 1842 the Hospital opened its doors to Indians.     In the 19th century, medical college got annexed to it and in 2011, the hospital was renamed after Rajiv Gandhi, sadly because his body was brought here after his assassination in May 1991.

This place (Sriperumpudur) is famous for being the birthplace of our greatest Acharyar – Sri Ramanujar ~ life has changed a lot in the past couple of decades after that fatefulday…..  one may not ardently believe in ‘fate or destiny’…….in the prelude to General elections, there were far too varied predictions …… the National Front was still nursing some hopes, there was a wave predicting return of Rajiv Gandhi.  In that melee, was this person, who had retired from active politics  – not any ordinary person for sure~ a man who had been the CM too…. in 1984 in the aftermath of assassination of Indira Gandhi saw routing of all political parties.  Bharatiya Janata Party could win only 2 seats. One in Mehsana and the other was in South ~ the Hanamkonda constituency where M. Chandupatla Janga Reddy of BJP defeated his nearest Congress rival by 54198 votes.  The man who lost so at a time when Congress swept to power was 70 by the 1991 elections, could not get a ticket and had chosen to retire to peace…….. destiny thought otherwise….. he became the PM in 1991 – Sri PV Narasimha Rao.

The night of 21st  May 1991 changed it all ~ on a campaign trail, he arrived from Vizag, garlanded Nehru at Kathipara, even the Press chose not to travel along for that meeting at Sriperumpudur – and rest is bloody history – the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.  About two hours after arriving in Madras), Rajiv Gandhi was driven by motorcade in a white Ambassador car to Sriperumbudur, stopping along the way at a few other election campaigning venues. When he reached a campaign rally in Sriperumbudur, he got out of his car and began to walk towards the dais where he would deliver a speech. Along the way, he was garlanded by many well-wishers, Congress party workers and school children. The assassin, Dhanu, approached and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated an RDX explosive-laden belt tucked below her dress at exactly 10:10 PM.  Rajiv, his assassin and 14 others were killed in the explosion that followed, along with 43 others who were grievously injured. .. .. a very sad day as the Nation lost its ex-Prime Minister assassinated in his own land and a host of innocent Tamilians who had gathered too died in that blast.

Beeroota, a tiny village near picturesque Muthathi on the banks of the Cauvery,  came to news as it was here  LTTE cadres including Sivarasan hid themselves  after the killing of Rajiv Gandhi. The village also played a prominent role in the gunning down of Sivarasan (the ‘one-eyed-jack’ mastermind behind the assassination); Dhanu alias Anbu; and others, in Bengaluru’s Konanakunte in Aug 15,  1991. With just three houses and some huts, nearly three decades ago, Beeroota was one of the most backward villages in the State when the LTTE arrived.

Nation sadly remembers and pays tribute to Rajiv Gandhi

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
21st May 2019.

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