In an obvious attempt to cash in on the support from hardcore sympathisers of the Tamil Tigers, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has once again raked up the issue regarding the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers during the run up to the state Assembly polls slated for 16 May. The state government has written to the Centre seeking its permission in ordering the release of the convicts under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Although the Centre has not responded to the official communication, yet the matter has ignited a war of words between rival groups, with both the Congress and the DMK accusing the Chief Minister of trying to reap dividends by exploiting the sentiments of the people. In addition, the action itself can be construed as a violation of the electoral conduct.
The ghastly Rajiv assassination mystery continues to remain in focus in every poll in the state, even though there are many in the police and political circles who believe that the full conspiracy to eliminate the former Prime Minister was never cracked, leaving many crevices agape. A recent book by Mark Salter, To End a Civil War, quotes the late Anton Balasingham, the ideologue of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that Rajiv Gandhi’s killing was their biggest mistake. Bala goes on to say that though V. Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief Pottu Amman initially denied their involvement, they finally conceded that the former Prime Minister’s assassination was an LTTE hit job. The question that comes to the fore is: Did Prabhakaran take credit for something his outfit never did since it created an aura of power around him? People have the right to know the truth, since the LTTE has officially never claimed that Rajiv’s killing was the handiwork of its operatives.
However, one pertinent question no one has ever been able to satisfactorily answer is that if the LTTE indeed was involved in the killing as has been claimed by the Indian investigators, then why did the main suspect and alleged mastermind, Sivarasan, alias one eyed Jack, alias Raja Arumainayagam, and his associates not return to Jaffna after the successful completion of their mission, but went into hiding at various places in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It was exactly three months after Rajiv was done away with that Sivarasan, Subba and some others were traced to a house in Bangalore and cordoned by security forces. However, by the time the NSG commandos finally broke into the building following an inordinate delay, the seven inmates allegedly committed suicide. Sivarasan shot himself with a 9 mm pistol, while others consumed cyanide capsules. Curiously, the bodies of the dead militants were discovered while they were in an embrace of death holding on to each other.
A hunt to track down Sivarasan and Subba was launched after the police, which had been clueless, initially found ten photographs from the Chinon camera of S. Haribabu, a freelance photographer and LTTE sympathiser who had been supposedly engaged by the assassins to record the incident on film. While taking the pictures, Haribabu was also killed in the blast that resulted after the human bomb was detonated by Dhanu, the alleged killer. The Special Investigation Team assumed that Haribabu’s photographs were authentically pointing towards the real killers and followed that line of probe, simultaneously believing that the lead was not a red herring planted as part of a massive deceptive concealment.
Political assassinations the world over have established that the cover-up was a key component of any conspiracy. It is because of this aspect that till today, the mystery behind the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King. Robert F. Kennedy and many significant others continue to haunt detectives. Was Rajiv Gandhi’s killing too a part of a larger plot involving big players rather than the one-eyed Jack and his accomplices? At that point of time, was Sivarasan, who implemented the execution plan, an LTTE activist or a rogue LTTE operative who had fallen out with his controllers?
The late Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat had, in 1991, cautioned Rajiv Gandhi about a plot to end his life. Was this warning based on international intelligence inputs received by Arafat and conveyed subsequently to the Gandhis? Rajiv Gandhi was initially not scheduled to go to Sriperumbudur to campaign for Lata Priyakumar, the Congress nominee and daughter of former AICC general secretary Margatham Chandrasekran. He had gone to Odisha and was to return to Delhi on 21 May 1991, but his programme was rescheduled to include a visit to Tamil Nadu. Who all were responsible for this change of plans and were they investigated at any stage during the probe by the SIT?
At the time of the assassination, the names of several prominent politicians and a godman also figured in the political gossip surrounding the case. There were question marks over the ability of some senior police officers associated with the probe to deliver, citing their inexperience in investigating criminal cases. Was someone in the political establishment or a foreign power involved in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi? Was there a link between the unnatural deaths of Indira Gandhi and her two sons? The nation wants to know the truth. Between us.