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