ajiv Gandhi the 6th Prime Minister of India took office after the 1984 assassination of his mother, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to become the youngest Indian Prime Minister at the age of 40. He had been associated with the Indian National Congress party. For much of his childhood, his maternal grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister. In 1970s, his mother Indira Gandhi was prime minister and his brother Sanjay Gandhi an MP; despite this, Rajiv Gandhi remained apolitical. After Sanjay’s death in a plane crash in 1980, Gandhi unwillingly entered politics at the behest of Indira. The following year he won his brother’s Parliamentary seat of Amethi and became a member of the Lok Sabha—the lower house of India’s Parliament. As part of his political grooming, Rajiv was made general secretary of the Congress party and given significant responsibility in organizing the 1982 Asian Games.
On the morning of 31 October 1984, his mother was assassinated by one of her bodyguards; later that day, Gandhi was appointed Prime Minister. His leadership was tested over the next few days as organized mobs rioted against the Sikh community, resulting in anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. That December, Congress party won the largest Lok Sabha majority to date, 411 seats out of 542. Rajiv Gandhi’s period in office was mired in controversies; perhaps the greatest crises were the Bhopal disaster, Bofors scandal and Mohd Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum. In 1988, he reversed the coup in Maldives, riling militant Tamil groups such as PLOTE, intervening and then sending peacekeeping troops to Sri Lanka in 1987, leading to open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In mid-1987, the Bofors scandal damaged his corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 election. Rajiv Gandhi remained Congress President until the elections in 1991.
The Sri Lankan Civil War broke out with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was demanding an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka. Gandhi discussed the matter with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa at the SAARC meeting in 1986. In that year, the Sri Lankan army blockaded the Tamil majority district of Jaffna; Gandhi ordered relief supplies to be dropped into the area by parachute because the Sri Lankan navy did not allow the Indian Navy to enter. Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987. The accord “envisaged devolution of power to the Tamil-majority areas”, dissolved the LTTE, and designated Tamil as an official language of Sri Lanka.
On 30 July 1987, a day after Gandhi went to Sri Lanka and signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, an honour guard named Vijitha Rohana hit him on his shoulder with his rifle; Gandhi’s quick reflexes saved him from injury. The guard was then dragged off by his security personnel. The guard said his intention was to kill Gandhi because of “the damage he had caused” to Sri Lanka. The hate for Gandhi was growing in some counter parts with in Sri Lanka. Rajiv Gandhi’s last public meeting was on 21 May 1991, at Sriperumbudur, a village approximately 40 km (25 mi) from Madras (present-day Chennai), where he was assassinated while campaigning for the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha Congress candidate. At 10:10 pm, a woman later identified as Thenmozhi Rajaratnam approached Gandhi in public and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated a belt laden with 700 g (1.5 lb) of RDX explosives tucked under her dress. The explosion killed Gandhi, Rajaratnam, and at least 14 other people. The assassination was captured by a 21-year-old local photographer, whose camera and film were found at the site. The cameraman, named Haribabu, died in the blast but the camera remained intact. The Supreme Court judgment, by Justice K. T. Thomas, confirmed that Gandhi was killed because of personal animosity by the LTTE chief Prabhakaran arising from his sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the alleged IPKF atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils.] The Gandhi administration had already antagonized other Tamil militant organizations like PLOTE for reversing the 1988 military coup in Maldives. In the Jain Commission report, various people and agencies were named as suspects in the killing. Among them, the cleric Chandraswami was suspected of involvement, including financing the assassination. Nalini Sriharan, the only surviving member of the five-member squad behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, was serving life imprisonment. Arrested on 14 June 1991, she and 25 others were sentenced to death by a special court on 28 January 1998. The court confirmed the death sentences of four of the convicts, including Nalini, on 11 May 1999. Nalini was a close friend of an LTTE operative known as Sriharan alias Murugan, another convict in the case who has been sentenced to death. Nalini later gave birth to a girl, Harithra, in prison. Nalini’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in April 2000. Rajiv’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, intervened and asked for clemency for Nalini on the grounds of the latter being a mother. Later, it was reported that Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had met Nalini at Vellore Central Prison in March 2008. Nalini regrets the killing of Gandhi and said the real conspirators have not been caught yet.
In August 2011, the President of India rejected the clemency pleas of Murugan and two others on death row—Suthendraraja, alias Santhan, and Perarivalan, alias Arivu. The execution of the three convicts was scheduled for 9 September 2011. However, the Madras High Court intervened and stayed their executions for eight weeks based on their petitions. In 2010, Nalini had petitioned the Madras High Court seeking release because she had served more than 20 years in prison. She argued that even life convicts were released after 14 years. The state government rejected her request. On 19 February 2014 Tamil Nadu government decided to release all seven convicts in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case, including A. G. Perarivalan and Nalini. The Government of India challenged this decision before the Supreme Court, which referred the case to a Constitution Bench. The report of the Jain Commission created controversy when it accused the Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi of a role in the assassination, leading to Congress withdrawing its support for the I. K. Gujral government and fresh elections in 1998. It’s been 29 long years, and since then, there were many twists and turns and finally not by law but by self-attempt Nalini eliminated herself by committing suicide in the jail.
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