Book review: Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: An Inside Job?

This is as incredulous an account of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination as it can get. If journalist-author Faraz Ahmad is to believed, a lot of people knew that Gandhi was going to get killed on the night of May 21, 1991; the LTTE hand in the killing is bogus, the Sri Lankan government perhaps was the real killer… If the surmises in the book are true, then it must be equally true that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran never died in May 2009.

The author says he had always been sceptical about the official version of Gandhi's assassination at an election rally near Chennai by a woman suicide bomber and that "the LTTE thesis is too full of holes to believe". As for the CBI that probed the killing, it was "more keen on a cover-up than unravelling the mystery".

According to the book, then Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan "may have also been privy to the conspiracy to kill Rajiv Gandhi". Ahmad feels it is possible that Sivarasan, the LTTE man who masterminded the killing, could have been "a LTTE renegade working at the behest of the Sinhalese Sri Lankan government". And that Maragatham Chandrasekar, the Congress candidate for whom Gandhi went to campaign in Sriperumbudur only to die, "played a vital contributory and accessory role in the assassination". 

The author goes on: "There were other accessories to this crime like the central government of then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and the union home ministry." There is more: "It is now proven that in their own way both Chandra Shekhar and (P.V.) Narasimha Rao appeared privy to the conspiracy (to kill Gandhi)."

Some questions Ahmad raises to "disprove" the LTTE hand in the killing display a poor understanding of the Tamil Tigers and the way the group functioned over the years in Sri Lanka and abroad including India. He wants to know for example why the camera used by the young photographer who clicked Gandhi's final moments were not removed by the LTTE. The fact is the camera would have certainly disappeared if only the man who hired the photographer had not been prevented from reaching the murder site by mobs that took over the streets following the killing. 

There are certain factual inaccuracies in the book. I will mention two. The late Radha Vinod Raju of the CBI never headed the Jammu and Kashmir Police. And Sriperumbudur is not on the seashore. So there is no way the killer gang could have got away in a speedboat after Gandhi was blown up when he was leading the Congress to a possible win in general elections.

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