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Sunday, 24 May 2009





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Rajiv's killer pays the price

Rajiv Gandhi had been a pilot and once he told a friend of his jokingly that whenever he made his announcements for his passengers from his cockpit he avoided saying Captain Gandhi, because he felt that it would be an insult to Mahatma Gandhi.

Congress Party president and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Sonia Gandhi (C) prays during a memorial ceremony for slain former Indian Prime Minister and husband Rajiv Gandhi on his 18th death anniversary in New Delhi, 21 May 2009. Rajiv Gandhi was assasinated during electoral campaigning, allegedly by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel separatists, in the town of Siriperumpathur in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991. AFP

The fun loving and adventurous Rajiv Gandhi never thought of succeeding his mother Indira Gandhi and becoming a heir to the political dynasty created by his grandpa Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.

Rajiv was more a family man and spent most of his leisure hours with his wife Sonia and children Rahul and Priyanka. His favourite hobby was photography and even took time for designing jeans.

Sanjay Gandhi, the younger brother of Rajiv Gandhi was more involved with his mother in politics and it was very much expected that one day Sanjay would become the successor to his mother Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India. However the dream of millions of Indians seeing Sanjay as the Premier of India was shattered when the two-seater aircraft which Sanjay flew for pleasure crashed on the ground and killed him instantly in 1981.

This tragedy shook not only the family of Indira Gandhi but also sent shock waves throughout the sub-continent.

It was again another big blow that struck the Nehru dynasty with the brutal assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.Therefore it was the pressure from the Congress big wigs that compelled Rajiv Gandhi to succeed his mother as the leader of Indira Congress.

Sonia Gandhi once said in an interview that the Congressmen were all out to see Rajiv accepting the Congress leadership even before the removal of Indira's body from the New Delhi hospital.

Sonia also added that she even pleaded with Rajiv not to accept the Congress leadership and keep away from entering politics.But Rajiv was helpless and he had to listen to the Congress membership with accepting the party's leadership.

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated the people across the Palk Straits in Jaffna also condoled the death with Indians and several Tamil militant outfits including LTTE which were at their early stages at that time and sympathised with Rajiv Gandhi over the demise of his mother.

Soon after Rajiv became the Premier of India he gave priority for settling the burning issue of Punjab which led to the assassination of his mother.He had succeeded in his endeavour in settling the Punjab issue.

Finding a solution to the Punjab problem by Rajiv Gandhi highlighted his efficiency in dealing with the issue and handling the matter without any vengeance.

In 1987 Rajiv Gandhi began to focus on the Sri Lankan crisis and was determined to find a political settlement for Tamils in the island nation.

Rajiv had met not only the Lankan Tamil moderate leaders but he also met all Tamil militant leaders on settling the island's ethnic strife without allowing the continuous bloodshed.

The LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was flown in a special Indian Air Force helicopter to New Delhi from Jaffna to have talks with Rajiv Gandhi.Along with Prabhakaran his theoretician Anton Balasingham also met Rajiv Gandhi.During the discussion the Indian leader while tabling the peace initiatives prepared by his government, advised the LTTE leader to accept his peace plan for the betterment of the Tamils of the North and East in Sri Lanka.

However the arrogance of the LTTE leader continued with completely rejecting the Indian peace initiatives and going for war against the Indian Peace Keeping Force which arrived in the island for the successful implementation of the Indo-Lanka Accord which was meant for the settlement of the North and East crisis.

Prabha's enmity against the Indian leadership even went to the extent of assassinating India's youngest Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and it was eighteen years ago on May 21 in 1991 at a sleepy village called Sri Perampathur in Tamil Nadu when Rajiv came for his campaign for the second term as Prime Minister, a LTTE woman suicide cadre killed him ruthlessly by blowing herself up.

Rajiv was considered to India's leader of the millennium with the country spearheading various socio-economic development plans to catch up with other developing countries.

The remote Tamil Nadu region Siriperumpathur where Rajiv was assassinated has now bloomed into an industrial region with the establishment of several multinational companies highlighting the late leader's vision for 21st century India.

It's nearly two decades after the death of Rajiv Gandhi, his assassin Prabhakaran has been killed along with the `masterminds' who had planned the assassination of the Indian leader.

Last Thursday on May 21, when the Italian widow of Rajiv and the Congress leader Sonia Gandhi along with her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka paid their last respects to Rajiv's tomb in New Delhi with rose petals, it was evident that the family stood tall with the recent landslide General Election victory for Congress in India.

The calmness that reflected in the appearances of the family members of Rajiv Gandhi at the tomb site also reflected the sigh of relief they gained with the end of Rajiv's assassin-Velupillai Prabhakaran.


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