Friday, May 21, 2021

the assassination that shook the Nation ! ~ this day 30 years ago !!

the assassination that shook the Nation ! ~ this day 30 years ago !!

Literally the heart of Uttar Pradesh, Amethi had been the citadel of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The constituency has voted for the Congress most times  since its formation in 1967,  Amethi’s first tryst with the Nehru-Gandhi family happened in 1980 when Sanjay Gandhi won the seat. In the next three decades, the constituency changed hands across three other members of the family, with Rahul Gandhi representing the seat since 2004. This time though, Smriti Irani of  BJP won the seat with a margin of 35,000 votes. While she received 49.02 per cent of vote share, Gandhi trailed behind with 44.44 per cent.  Though Sanjay Gandhi won, sadly he died in an accident and in the by-elections, (a reluctant) Rajiv Gandhi stood and won the elections.



In the 1981 by-election:  Rajiv Gandhi secured 258884 votes (84.18%) while his nearest rival Sharad Yadav got 21188 (6.89%) – margin was 237696 !  

Brutal killings have been part of History -    ever read about the Battle of Samugarh,  a decisive battle in the struggle for the throne during the Mughal war of succession (1658–1659) between the sons of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan after the emperor's serious illness in  1657.  It was fought between his sons Dara Shikoh (the eldest son and heir apparent) and his two younger brothers Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh (third and fourth sons of Shah Jahan).

There have been political assassinations too – and you may not have read about : - James Garfield and Charles J. Guiteau.  What we failed to read and what should have been part of History in schools was the killing by Madanlal Dhingra of Curzon Wylie in 1909 in London.  William Hutt Curzon Wyllie KCIE CVO,  was a British Indian army officer, and later an official of the British Indian Government. Over a career spanning three decades, Curzon Wyllie rose to be Lieutenant Colonel in the British Indian Army and occupied a number of administrative and diplomatic posts.

On 6 Feb 1965, he was on his way from Delhi to Chandigarh when he was waylaid near Rasoi village, Sonipat district, and shot dead along with his personal assistant — ex Chief Minister and a man who participated in Indian freedom struggle.  Partap Singh Kairon (1901 – 1965)  was the Chief Minister of the Punjab province (then comprising Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh), and is widely acknowledged as the architect of post-Independence Punjab Province.  He was jailed twice by the British Empire, once for five years for organizing protests against British rule. His political influence and views are still considered to dominate politics in Punjab.

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 ! 

One may not concur with his political views and ideologies, may not support dynasty, may not support his party, may not like Bofors !  but for sure would be outraged by the way he was eliminated.

He was born in  1944, sent to London, joined engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, but did not obtain a degree. He returned to India in 1966,  became a member of the Flying Club, where he was trained as a pilot. In 1970, he was employed as a pilot by Air India.   On 23 June 1980, Rajiv's younger brother Sanjay Gandhi died unexpectedly in an aeroplane crash. At that time, Rajiv Gandhi was in London as part of his foreign tour. Hearing the news, he returned to Delhi and cremated Sanjay's body.   Rajiv entered politics on 16 February 1981, when he addressed a national farmers' rally in Delhi.    70 members of the Congress party signed a proposal and went to Indira, urging Rajiv to enter politics and he plunged into politics inevitably after the sad assassination in 31.10.1984 of Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi.

Politics continues over the convicts in former PM  Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case. Perhaps his own party too – which once stated that they had forgiven the killers and are silent on the death of League Munusamy and 18 others on that fateful day.  His rule was marred by the politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors pay-off case.  The Bofors deal, signed in 1986, was believed to be one of primary reasons for the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress' defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections.

August 15, 1991. It was a pleasant morning in Konanakunte, people did not know that the day would change their lives .. ..!  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.

The trial was conducted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act. On 28 January 1998, the designated TADA court in Chennai gave death sentences to all the 26 accused. Ms A. Athirai, an accused, was 17 years old when she was arrested. Under the TADA an accused can appeal only to the Supreme Court.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, only four of the accused were sentenced to death and the others to various jail terms.  

Nation sadly remembers and pays tribute to Rajiv Gandhi this day !! 

1.     Wijemuni Vijitha Rohana de Silva was a Sri Lankan sailor and an astrologer. On 30 July 1987 at President's House, Colombo, he assaulted Rajiv Gandhi while he was taking the guard of honour. .  Years  later, he  contested a general election under the Sihala Urumaya party in 2000.   Vijitha Rohana faced a court martial headed by K.R.L. Perera, Group Captain Buddhi Siriwardhen and Colonel Vijaya Wimalaratne. He was charged with attempted murder and acting contrary to navy discipline and insulting a state leader.  The defence implied that Rohana was not aiming to kill since he could have stabbed the premier with the bayonet affixed to his Lee–Enfield rifle at the time. The court martial found him guilty of attempted culpable homicide not amounting to murder and insulting the Indian Prime Minister. He was sentenced to six years in prison, however President Premadasa gave him a presidential pardon after two and a half years.  He later became an astrologer and claimed that President Maithripala Sirisena would die by 26 January 2017. This was seen as a part of a conspiracy to assassinate the president and he was arrested again.

2.     Charles Julius Guiteau (1841 – 1882)  was an American writer and lawyer who assassinated United States President James A. Garfield on July 2, 1881. Guiteau falsely believed he had played a major role in Garfield's victory, for which he should be rewarded with a consulship. He was so offended by the Garfield administration's rejections of his applications to serve in Vienna or Paris that he decided to kill Garfield, and shot him at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. Garfield died two months later from infections related to the wounds. In January 1882, Guiteau was sentenced to death for the crime, and was hanged five months later.  Guiteau's trial was one of the first high-profile cases in the United States where a defense based on a claim of temporary insanity was considered. Guiteau vehemently insisted that while he had been legally insane at the time of the shooting (because God had taken away his free will), he was not really medically insane, which was one of the major causes of the rift between him and his defense lawyers.

3.   The Bofors scandal was a major weapons-contract political scandal that occurred between India and Sweden during the 1980s and 1990s, initiated by Indian National Congress politicians and implicating the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and several other members of the Indian and Swedish governments who were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB, an arms manufacturer principally financed by the Wallenberg family's Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken for winning a bid to supply to India their 155 mm field howitzer.  It was the biggest arms deal ever in Sweden, and money marked for development projects was diverted to secure this contract at any cost.   

4. in 1984 Lok Sabha elections when Rajiv swept to power at Hanamkonda in Andhra Pradesh, Chandupatla Janga Reddy of BJP secured 263762 beating Mr PV Narasimha Rao of Congress who got 209564.   At Mehesana, Amritlal Kalidas Patel  won the other seat that returned BJP to Lok sabha

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

21st May 2021

  

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