What is the complete story of assassination of Rajiv Gandhi?
The plot was first hatched in October 1990 as the political tremors started in Delhi due to the constant fear of the V.P. Singh government falling and the return of the Rajiv Gandhi led Congress government.
Image Above: LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran.
Determined to prevent Rajiv Gandhi from returning to power fearing the reinduction of the IPKF (India Peace Keeping Force) that would break the network of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) established in Tamil Nadu, the LTTE supremo Prabhakaran ordered the killing of Rajiv at a meeting held in Jaffna in October 1990.
- Events Leading to the Incident.
November 1990: As the V.P. Singh got voted out and Rajiv Gandhi was virtually back in power, the LTTE started getting desperate as Rajiv Gandhi as a PM would be an impossible target, so they decided to carry out their plan when Rajiv was still a leader of the opposition and had a low level of security with him, His election campaigns where he would meet people and interact with them was a proper environment for the LTTE to implement their plan.
December 1990: the elusive LTTE supremo Prabhakaran, having decided on the physical elimination of Rajiv Gandhi, summoned four trusted lieutenants – Baby Subramaniyam, Murugan, Muthuraja and Shivarasan – to finalize the contours of an assassination plot. Subramaniyam and Muthuraj were summoned from Madras where they were staying at the time.
In the first week of December, Prabhakaran made his decision known to the four members of the team he had summoned. The actual details of the operation were left to them but each was assigned a specific task.
- Baby Subramaniyam, a prominent ideologue of the LTTE, His task was to prepare a back-up team that would arrange shelter for the assassins before and after the killing.
- Muthuraja was asked to prepare a base in Madras to ensure proper communication facilities, couriers for messages, and the smooth distribution of money for the assassins.
- Murugan, a key instructor and an explosive expert of the LTTE, was asked to take over the assignments from Subramaniyam and Muthuraja after their departure for Jaffna.
- Sivaraman, the much-wanted man today, who has been labeled “one-eyed-Jack” was given the most important task – the actual assassination.
The actual assassination plan gained impetus after the dismissal of Karunanidhi as Tamil Nadu CM on the ground of encouraging LTTE in the state, It wasn’t completely false as in some previous speeches he portrayed the struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka as just and Noble.
The year 1991
January 1991: The four lieutenants of Prabhakaran had already set the plan in motion. Baby Subramaniyam and Muthuraja were back in Madras. Both were engaged in the crucial first stage of the plot – identifying and recruiting local people who would eventually harbor the assassination squad.
- The Perfect Family
Bhagynathan – a young DK activist from Shubha’s place. Bhagynathan’s family was heavily steeped in debt and had meager means of support. He himself managed to earn a living by supplying stationery items to a firm where his sister, Nalini, was employed as a secretary. His mother, a nurse, was working in Kalyani Nursing Home.
The crunch came when his mother was asked to vacate the quarter provided by the nursing home authorities. The family was desperate, lack of money meant they could not afford to rent a place to live in Madras. The first recruit for the assassination plot had fallen into the LTTE’s lap.
Baby Subramaniyam casually mentioned to Bhagynathan that he was looking for a customer for his printing press as he was thinking of switching to another business. Bhagynathan offered to take over the press provided the price was paid in installments. Seeing Bhagynathan falling into the trap, Baby readily agreed. He sold the press to Bhagynathan at a ridiculously low price of Rs 5,000, payable in small installments.
Image Above: Nalini Sriharan, the lone surviving member of the five-member squad behind the Rajiv Gandhi assassination serving a life term in Vellore Central Jail.
Baby now had also gained access to Bhagynathan’s entire family which had shifted to the area where the press was located. He advised Nalini to help Bhagynathan in his new venture after her normal office hours. The press premises, in any event, offered the perfect cover for a suitable hide-out. The second stage of the operation – recruiting the entire family – had begun. Baby’s strategy of convincing Nalini to help Bhagynathan run the press was starting to pay off. Nalini was exposed to the LTTE literature which was then being churned out and conveyed one key message: Rajiv Gandhi was solely responsible for the “crimes” perpetrated by the IPKF in Sri Lanka.
February 1991: The second LTTE recruiter, Muthuraja, cultivates two freelance photographers, Haribabu and Ravi Shankaran who will film the actual assassination. Also, an explosive expert of the LTTE, Murugan discusses the design of the bomb required for the assassination.
Image Above: The probable structure of the bomb used reconstructed graphically using the remnants found at the site.
March 1991: Shivarasan returns to Jaffna to brief Prabhakaran who orders dry-runs before the actual execution and the exercise to be photographed for his viewing.
April 1991: Shivarasan returns to Tamil Nadu with human bombs Dhanu and Shubha, women Tigers of the shadow squad. Now, Shivarasan, himself an explosives expert, examines the design of how the bomb will work before pronouncing it suitable. The dry-run of the plan was sone at Rajiv’s Marina Beach rally. In which Dhanu gets closer to Rajiv Gandhi and touches his feet.
May 1991 (Month of Assassination): The second dry-run at the V.P. Singh rally in Thiruvallur. Dhanu is able to touch Singh’s feet in much the same manner as she would with Rajiv Gandhi. At Nalini’s house, Shubha helps Dhanu (Human Bomb) try on the denim jacket with the bomb. The bomb would be undetectable under her salwar-kameez.
Moment of Assasination
The Plan is well-coordinated and begins to unfold, Dhanu mixed in the crowd tries to get close to Rajiv Gandhi. Ansuya, a sub-inspector, tries to prevent Dhanu from getting too close to Rajiv but is prevented by Rajiv himself who says: “Let everybody get a chance.”
Dhanu garlands Rajiv and then bends down to touch his feet. As he in turn bends to raise her up, she triggers the bomb. The Bomb blast takes place and Rajiv Gandhi got killed instantly. This incident took place on 21st May 1991.