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Rajiv Gandhi, the last knight of the Gandhi family, was knocked off by the bishop

Six years after his mother Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Rajiv Gandhi met a similar fate when he visited Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991. But the parallel ends there. The ex-Prime Minister was blown by LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu, who died in the blast, along with 14 other people who were surrounding Rajiv. The Supreme Court declared that the killing was carried out due to personal animosity of the LTTE chief Prabhakaran towards Rajiv Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi on his 45th birthday. He is flanked by his wife Sonia, mother Indira Gandhi, daughter Priyanka and son Rahul

As a fresh PM, Rajiv first tried to start a discourse with the Tamil Tigers in 1985. Security analysts and Indian intelligence had relayed the input of LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s apparent tilt to some European and Western intelligence agencies.  But, much like his mother, Rajiv decided to ignore the information, and went ahead with his decision to mediate with the militant group of Sri Lanka.

The geopolitical scenario in India was changing, and Rajiv, who had a global appeal, relied heavily on a set of foreign analysts, who would advise him on international matters. The threats to his life multiplied too. It could be anybody: Sikh separatists, Islamic militant groups that were slowly raising its head in Kashmir, or Chinese assassins. In all probability, the Indian intelligence started sitting ducks, because there were so many inputs that it only bungled up the whole process of concluding a final perception about the threat to Rajiv.

Rajiv Gandhi
Huge masses gather at the final journey of Rajiv Gandhi

India, for the first time, was experiencing internal terror threats at its north and south. In north, expanding Islamist militant group in Kashmir started creating havoc. The LTTE had started turning up the heat in Sri Lanka, and it was felt in Tamil Nadu too. For its own benefit, the American CIA lent logistics support to the Kashmiri terror outfits in the initial years. Besides its plan to control Islamic extremist organisations all over the world, it wanted to counter any Soviet influence in the region.

Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi, just a few seconds before he was killed by suicide bomber Dhanu in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.

The various Western intelligence agencies had two options of killing the Prime Minister; the strike could either be engineered through any Kashmiri Islamic terror outfits or the LTTE. The Tamil Tigers must have been voted for the task because Prabhakaran, a converted Catholic, owed a favour to the Vatican. The Church had helped LTTE in the initial years with an aim to influence the Sinhalese community, who are Buddhist in majority. It was payback time for the LTTE boss, and he could not say no! More about it in my next article.

About the author


Whether it’s women issues, politics or the paranormal, Rubi has an opinion on everything. Art and entertainment interest her, too. Hindu College alumni, she has written for The Hindustan Times and The Financial Express. Every now and then, she loves picking up her camera to capture life and its various shades.


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