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Rajiv Gandhi

For other uses, see Rajiv Gandhi (disambiguation).

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Indira Gandhi

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Rajiv Ratna Gandhi (Listeni/ˈrɑːv ˈɡɑːnd/; 20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991) was the seventh Prime Minister of India, serving from 1984 to 1989. He took office after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, his mother, to become the youngest Indian prime minister.

A scion of the politically powerful Nehru–Gandhi family associated with the Indian National Congress party, for much of Rajiv's childhood his Maternal grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister. For his college education, he went to Britain where he met and began dating Antonia Maino, an Italian waitress. Rajiv returned to India in 1966 and became a professional pilot for the state-owned Indian Airlines. In 1968, he married Maino—who changed her name to Sonia Gandhi—and the couple settled down in Delhi to a domestic life with their children Rahul and Priyanka. Although for much of the 1970s his mother was prime minister, and his brother Sanjay wielded significant unofficial power, Rajiv remained apolitical. After Sanjay's death in a plane crash in 1980, Rajiv reluctantly entered politics at the behest of Indira. The following year he won his brother's Amethi seat and became a member of the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament). As part of his political grooming, Rajiv was made a general secretary of the Congress and given significant responsibility in organising the 1982 Asian Games.

On the morning of 31 October 1984, his mother was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards to avenge Operation Blue Star; later that day, Rajiv Gandhi was appointed Prime Minister even though Pranab Mukherjee and P V Narasimha Rao were more politically experienced and senior members of the party . His leadership was put to the test over the next few days as organised mobs rioted against the Sikh community, resulting in the death of thousands in Delhi alone. Nevertheless, that December, a nationwide sympathy vote for Rajiv's Congress party helped it win the greatest Lok Sabha majority (411 seats out of 542) in history.

Rajiv Gandhi was also mired in many controversies: the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Bhopal disaster and Shah Bano case. In 1988, Gandhi reversed the coup in Maldives antagonising militant Tamil groups such as PLOTE. He was also responsible for first intervening and then sending Indian Peace Keeping Force troops for peace efforts in Sri Lanka in 1987, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In mid-1987, the Bofors scandal damaged his honest, corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 elections.

Rajiv Gandhi remained Congress President until the elections in 1991. While campaigning for the elections, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the LTTE. His widow Sonia became the president of Congress party in 1998, and led the party to victory in the 2004 and 2009 parliament elections. His son Rahul is a Member of Parliament and Vice President of the Congress. In 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, by the government of India.

Early life and career

Gandhi was born in Mumbai on 20 August 1944 to Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi. His name was kept "Rajiv" after his maternal grandmother Kamala Nehru's name. Though because "Kamala" refers to Lakshmi and "Rajiv" means lotus, the name was kept so because lotus is used to worship the goddess.[1] His mother took him from Mumbai to Prayag, where the car in which his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was sent to prison was expected to pass. When the car passed by them, she put him in her hands and "thrust her forward" so that Nehru could see them. On 14 August 1946, Rajiv's younger brother Sanjay Gandhi was born in Delhi.[2]

On 15 August 1947, India gained independence, and his grandfather Nehru was sworn in as India's first prime minister. Subsequently Indira Gandhi went to Delhi to look after him. Also at that time, Mahatma Gandhi was also residing in the city. Rajiv Gandhi used to go and play with Mahatma Gandhi, like the way his mother played with him when she was four years old.[2] On 29 January 1948, he put some flowers at Mahatma Gandhi's feet at which he said that flowers were kept at the feet of a dead person only. On the next day, 30 January, Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.[2]

While residing in the Teen Murti Bhavan, Gandhi used to play with his brother Sanjay in the lawns. Besides they spent their time climbing trees and plucking flowers.[2] In 1951, he along with his brother was admitted to Shiv Niketan school. Contemporary teachers said that Gandhi was shy and introvert "who greatly enjoyed painting and drawing".[3] At the age of six, he was operated for tonsil.[4] He was admitted to the Doon School in 1954 where his brother took admission two years later.[5] He was sent to London in 1961 to study his A-levels. In 1962, he was offered a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, to study engineering. Rajiv stayed at Cambridge until 1965, but did not finish his degree.[6]

Gandhi returned to India in 1966, the year when his mother became India's prime minister. He came to Delhi and became a member of the Flying Club, where he was trained to be a pilot. In 1970, he was employed as a pilot in Air India. Unlike his brother, he did not exhibit any interest of joining politics.[7]

After three years of courtship, Gandhi married Italian Sonia Gandhi (known then as Edvige Antonia Albina Màino) in 1968. Their first child, a son, Rahul Gandhi was born in 1970. In 1972, he fathered a daughter Priyanka Gandhi who is married to Robert Vadra.[8] Rahul was the prime ministerial candidate in Indian general elections, 2014 where Congress party suffered their worst defeat, managing to win only 44 seats.[9]

Entry into politics

Death of Sanjay

Gandhi's younger brother Sanjay Gandhi died in a plane crash on 23 June 1980.[10] At that time, he was in London which was a part of his foreign tour. Hearing the news, he came to their residence of 1 Akbar Road at Delhi where Sanjay's mutilated body was kept. On the next day, on 24th he creamated Sanjay's body.[11]

The following week of his death, Shankaracharya Swami Shri Swaroopanand, a saint from Badrinath came to their house to offer his condolensce at his death.[12] He advised Indira Gandhi for him not to fly planes and instead he "should dedicate himself to the service of the nation".[13] 70 members of the Congress party signed a proposal and went to her urging Gandhi to enter politics. But she told them that it was absolutely his decision whether to enter politics or not. When he was questioned about it, he replied "If my mother gets help from it, then I will enter politics".[13]

Gandhi's first involvement in politics with the party came on 16 February in 1981, when he addressed a Kisan Rally (Farmer's rally) in Delhi, which was called by his mother as a "national rally". During this time, he was still an employee of Air India.[14] According to the party sources, 50 lakh farmers participated in the rally.[15]

Participation in active politics

On 4rth May, Mrs Gandhi presided a meeting of the All India Congress Committee. Here when the question of the Amethi constituency arose, Vasantdada Patil suggested Gandhi's name which was accepted by all members who were participating in the meeting. Exactly a week later, the party officially announced his name as its candidate in the parliamentary constituency of Amethi. He then paid Re 1 as the membership fees of the party and then flew to Sultanpur to file his nomination papers and complete other formalities.[16] He successfully became a member of parliament as he defeated Lok Dal candidate Sharad Yadav[17] by a margin of 237 thousand votes. He took his oath on 17 August.[14]

Gandhi's first political tour was in England as he attended the wedding ceremony of Prince Charles and Diana on 29 July as he was personally invited by the prince himself.[18] In December of the same year, he was elected as the president of Indian Youth Congress.[18] He also "showed his organisational ability" by "working round the clock" to make 1982 Asian Games a success.[19] He was one of the 33 members of the Indian parliament who were part of the organising committee of the game, but sports historian Boria Majumdar writes that being "son of the prime minister he had a moral and unofficial authority" over the others.[20] The report submitted by the Asian Games committee mentions his "drive, zeal and initiative" for the "outstanding success" of the games.[20]

Prime Minister of India

Rajiv Gandhi was in West Bengal when his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, to avenge the military attack on the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star. Sardar Buta Singh, as well as President Zail Singh pressed Rajiv to become India's prime minister, within hours of his mother's assassination. Commenting on the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi said, "When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes";[21] a statement for which he was widely criticized. Many Congress politicians were accused of orchestrating the violence.[22] Soon after assuming office, Rajiv asked President Zail Singh to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections, as the Lok Sabha completed its five-year term. Rajiv Gandhi also officially became the President of the Congress party. The Congress party won a "landslide victory" with the largest majority in history of Indian Parliament —giving Gandhi absolute control of government. He also benefited from his youth and a general perception of being free of a background in corrupt politics.[23] He took his oath on 31 December 1984, and at forty years, he was the youngest prime minister of India.[24] Historian Meena Agarwal writes that even after Gandhi had taken oath as the prime minister, he was relaitvely an unknown figure, "novice in politics" as he assumed the post by just being a member of parliament for 3 years.[25]

Cabinet ministers

Main article: Rajiv Gandhi ministry

After sworn in as the prime minister, Gandhi appointed his fourteen member cabinet ministers. He said that he would "monitor" their performance and "fire ministers who do not come to the mark". From the Third Indira Gandhi ministry, he dropped two "powerful figures" - finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and railway minister A. B. A. Ghani Khan Choudhury. Mohsina Kidwai who became the minister of railways was the only female figure in the cabinet. Former home minister PV Narasimha Rao was given the charge of defence.[24] V.P. Singh who was initially appointed as the fiance minister was given the defence ministry in 1987.[26] During his tenure as the prime minister, Gandhi frequently shuffled his cabinet ministers which drew criticism from newspaper India Today calling it as "wheel of confusion". The then West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu commented that "The Cabinet change reflects the instability of the Congress(I) Government at the Centre."[27]

Anti Defection law

Gandhi's first work as the prime minister of India was passing the Anti Defection Law in January 1985. According to this law, an elected member of parliament or legislative assembly could not join an opposition party till the next election. Historian Manish Telikicherla Chary sees it as a measure of curbing corruption and bribery of ministers by switching parties so that they could gain majority.[28] Previously many such defections were seen in the 1980s as many elected leaders of the Congress party joined opposition parties.[29]

Shah Bano case

Main article: Shah Bano case

In 1985, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of Muslim divorcee Shah Bano, declaring that her husband should give her alimony. A section of Muslims in India treated it as an encroachment in Muslim Personal Law and protested against it. Gandhi agreed to their demands.[30] In 1986, the Parliament of India passed an act titled The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 that nullified the Supreme Court's judgment in the Shah Bano judgment. Diluting the Supreme Court judgment, the act allowed maintenance to a divorced woman only during the period of iddat, or till 90 days after the divorce, according to the provisions of Islamic law. This was in stark contrast to Section 125 of the Code.[31] The 'liability' of husband to pay the maintenance was thus restricted to the period of the iddat only.[32]

Indian magazine Business and economics called it a minority appeasement by Gandhi.[33] Lawyer and former law minister of India, Ram Jethmalani has termed the act as "retrogressive obscurantism for short-term minority populism".[34] Gandhi's colleague Arif Mohammad Khan who was then a member of parliament resigned in protest.[35]

Economic policy

Gandhi increased government support for science and technology and associated industries, and reduced import quotas, taxes and tariffs on technology-based industries, especially computers, airlines, defence and telecommunications. In 1986, he announced a National Policy on Education to modernise and expand higher education programs across India. He founded the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya System in 1986 which is a Central government based institution that concentrates on the upliftment of the rural section of the society providing them free residential education from 6th till 12 grade.[36] His efforts created MTNL in 1986, and his public call offices, better known as PCOs, helped spread telephones in rural areas.[37] He introduced measures significantly reducing the Licence Raj, in post-1990 period, allowing businesses and individuals to purchase capital, consumer goods and import without bureaucratic restrictions.[38]

Though in his election manifesto of 1984 elections, he did not mention any economic reforms, but after assuming office he tried to liberize the economy of the country.[39] He did so by providing incentives to make private production profitable. Subsidies were given to corporate companies to increase industial production especially of goods which were durable. It was hoped that it would increase economic growth and improve the quality of investment.[40] But according to Professor Kohli of Cambridge University he faced stiff opposition from Congress leadership who thought that "it would open the economy to external economic infleunces".[39] Rural and tribal people agitated as they saw them as "pro-rich" and "pro-city" reforms.[39]

Foreign policy

In 1986 Gandhi sent the country's navy to Seychelles to fight a coup against the then president France-Albert René. The intervention of India under the Seychelle president's request averted the coup. This mission was codenamed as Operation Flowers are Blooming.[41] In 1987, India reocuupied the Quaid Post in the disputed Siachen region from Pakistan after winning what was termed as Operation Rajiv.[42] In the 1988 Maldives coup d'état, the then Maldives president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom asked for help from Gandhi. He dispatches 1,500 soldiers and the coup was supressed.[43]

Pakistan

In February 1987, the then Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq came to Delhi and met Gandhi to discuss "routine military exercises of the Indian army" on the borders of Rajasthan and Punjab. Two months later, he reciprocated by visiting Islamabad and met Benazir Bhutto, who was his then Pakistani counterpart to reffarm the 1972 Shimla agreement.[44]

Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Civil War broke out with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) demanding an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka. Gandhi discussed this matter with the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa in the SAARC meeting of 1986. In that year only, the Sri Lankan army "blockaded" the Tamil majority district of Jaffna. Due to this Gandhi ordered relief supplies to be paradropped in the area as the navy did not allow Indian Navy to enter.[45]

Ultimately, Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in July 1987. The accord "envisaged a devolution of power to the Tamil-majority areas", dissolved the LTTE, and also designed Tamil as an official language of Sri Lanka.[46] Gandhi said
The Government of India believe that, despite some problems and delays, many of which were foreseen but unavoidable in the resolution of an issue of this magnitude and complexity, this Agreement represents the only way of safeguarding legitimate Tamil interests and ensuring a durable peace in Sri Lanka. Some have chosen to criticise the Agreement. None has shown a better way of meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, restoring peace in that country and of meeting our own security concern in the region. We have accepted a role which is difficult, but which is in our national interests to discharge. We shall not shrink our obligations and commitments. This is a national endeavour.[46]

However the LTTE refused to give up violence "and started a propaganda against India, threatening Tamils who disagreed with its stance". So Gandhi sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1987 "to protect the civilians and to apprehend anyone carrying arms". But the IPKF was attacked by LTTE which led to the former disarming the latter. Gandhi withdrew the IPKF in 1989.[47]

Assault by Sri Lankan guard

On 30 July 1987, a day after Gandhi went to Sri Lanka and signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, a honour guard named Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni[46] hit him on his shoulder with his rifle but it was due to his "quick reflexes" that saved him from injury. The guard was then dragged by his secuirity personnel.[48] The guard said that his "intention" was to kill him because according to him of "the damage he had caused" to Sri Lanka. He was prisoned for two and a half years for the assault[46]

Gandhi later said about the incident:
When I was inspecting the guard of honor and as I walked past one person, I saw through the corner of my eye some movement.I ducked down a little bit in a reflex action. By my ducking, he missed my head and the brunt of the blow came on my shoulder below the left ear.[48]

Regional Issues

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Rajiv Gandhi (left) congratulates Indian Army explorers for reaching the South Pole.

Punjab

Immediately after assuming office, Gandhi released the leaders of the Akali Dal who were imprisoned since the Operation Blue Star during Indira Gandhi's reign. Besides lifting the ban on All India Sikh Students Federation he also filed an inquiry of the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots. He also held a closed door meeting with senior Akali leaders "to find a settlement to the Punjab problem". Even though there were Akali opposition, in January 1985, Gandhi signed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord with Akali leader HS Longowal. The state assembly elections were scheduled in September 1985. But Longowal died and he was replaced by Surjit Singh Barnala who formed the government. But after two years, on 1987, he had to quit office due to "breakdown of law and order" leading to the implementation of President's rule in the state.[49]

In May 1988, Gandhi launched the Operation Black Thunder "to clear the Golden Temple in Amritsar of arms and gunmen". Two groups called "National Security Guard" and "Special Action Group" were created which surrounded the temple in a 10 day siege where the extremists' weapons were confiscated. Congress leader Anand Sharma wrote that "Operation Black Thunder effectively demonstrated the will of Rajiv Gandhi’s government to take firm action to bring peace to Punjab."[50]

Northeast India

Gandhi's reign marked an increase of insurgency in northeast India. Mizo National Front of Mizoram demanded for an independent Mizoram. In 1987, he addressed this problem and Mizoram as well as Arunachal Pradesh were given status of states whcih were earlier union territories.[51]

Gandhi also ended the Assam Movement which was launched by Assamese people to protest against the alleged illegal migration of Bangladeshi Muslims and immigration of other Bengalis to their state which had reduced Assamese people to minority in their own state. He signed the Assam Accord in 15 August 1985. According to it foreigners who came to the state between 1951 and 1961 were given full citizenship but those between 1961 and 1971 did not get right to vote for the next ten years.[52]

Technology

Gandhi brought a former Rockwell International executive Sam Pitroda as his adviser on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations. During his reign public sector telecom companies MTNL and VSNL was developed.[53] One India wrote that

Architect of India's telecom revolution Sam Pitroda says Rajiv Gandhi's ability to resist the pressure of Multinational Companies for giving up his plans of spread of telecom services has been a crucial factor in the country's development. ....About 20 years ago telephones were considered to be a thing for the use of the rich, but credit goes to Rajiv Gandhi for taking them to the rural masses.[1]

Pitroda also said that their plan of increasing the network of telephones in India worked out due to the "political support" provided by Gandhi. According to him , they were "adding six million phones every month".[1] The government also allowed fully assembled motherboard to import into India which "led to a reduction in the prices of computers".[54] Forbes India says that "the seed for the information technology (IT) revolution was also planted during Rajiv Gandhi’s time".[54]

Bofors scandal and 1989 elections defeat

Main article: Bofors scandal

Gandhi's finance minister, V. P. Singh, uncovered compromising details about government and political corruption, to the consternation of Congress leaders. Transferred to the Defence ministry, Singh uncovered what became known as the Bofors scandal, involving tens of millions of dollars – concerned alleged payoffs by the Swedish Bofors arms company through Italian businessman and Gandhi family associate Ottavio Quattrocchi, in return for Indian contracts. Upon the uncovering of the scandal, Singh was dismissed from office, and later resigned from Congress membership. Rajiv Gandhi himself was later personally implicated in the scandal when the investigation was continued by Narasimhan Ram and Chitra Subramaniam of The Hindu newspaper. This shattered his image as an honest politician; he was posthumously cleared over this allegation in 2004.[55]

In his book, Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu and Indrajit Gupta, released in November 2013, former CBI director Dr A P Mukherjee wrote that Rajiv Gandhi wanted commission paid by defence suppliers to be used exclusively for the purpose of meeting expenses of running the Congress party.[56] Mukherjee said Gandhi explained his position in a meeting on 19 June 1989, during a meeting between the two at the Prime Minister's residence.[57] In May 2015, Indian president Pranab Mukherjee said that the scandal was a "media trial" as "no Indian court has as yet established it as a scandal".[58]

Opposition parties Lok Dal, Indian National Congress (Socialist) and Jan Morcha united under Singh to form the Janata Dal.[59] Singh led the National Front coalition to victory in 1989 elections and he was sworn in as the prime minister. Though the coalition won 143 seats compared to Congress's 197, it gained 59 more seats through CPM and Communist Party of India support.[60] Congress leader Ram Jethmalani said that Gandhi as a prime minister was "lacklustre and mediocre".[34]

Controversies

Anti-Sikh riots

Main article: 1984 anti-Sikh riots

On 31st October 1984, the then prime minister, and Gandhi's mother Indira Gandhi was assasinated by her Sikh bodyguard which let to violent riots against Sikhs.[61] In the next day, Gandhi asked people to "remain calm" as the "occurence of violence" would "hurt" her soul". He was also found admonishing Congress workers who were rioting.[62] At a Boat Club rally 19 days after the assassination Gandhi said: "Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little".[63]

According to Verinder Grover, the statement made by Gandhi was a "virtual justification" of the riots.[61] Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar wrote that "Did it constitute an incitement to mass murder?" He also criticized Gandhi for his reluctance to bring the army from Meerut to handle the mob.[64]

Allegations of black money

In November 1991, the Schweizer Illustrierte magazine published an article on black money held in secret accounts by Imelda Marcos and 14 other rulers of Third World countries. Citing McKinsey as a source, the article stated that Rajiv Gandhi held 2.5 billion Swiss francs in secret Indian accounts in Switzerland.[65][66] Several leaders of opposition parties in India have raised the issue citing the Schweizer Illustrierte article. In December 1991, Amal Datta raised the issue in the Indian Parliament – the then speaker of the Lok Sabha, Shivraj Patil, expunged Rajiv Gandhi's name from the proceedings.[67] In December 2011, Subramanian Swamy wrote a letter to the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation which cited the article, asking him to take action on black money accounts of the Nehru-Gandhi family.[68] On 29 December 2011, Ram Jethmalani made an indirect reference to the issue in the Rajya Sabha, calling it a shame that one of India's former Prime Ministers was named by a Swiss magazine. This was met by uproar and a demand for withdrawal of the remark by the ruling Congress party members.[69]

Funding from KGB

In 1992, two Indian newspapers, the Times of India and The Hindu, published reports alleging that Rajiv Gandhi had received funds from the KGB.[67] The Russian government confirmed this disclosure and defended the payments as necessary for the Soviet ideological interest.[70] In their 1994 book The State Within a State, the journalists Yevgenia Albats and Catherine Fitzpatrick quoted a letter signed by Viktor Chebrikov, the head of the KGB, in the 1980s. The letter says that the KGB maintained contact with Rajiv Gandhi, who expressed his gratitude to the KGB for benefits accruing to his family from commercial dealings of a controlled firm, and a considerable portion of funds obtained from this channel were used to support his party.[71] Albats later revealed that in December 1985, Chebrikov had asked for authorisation from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to make payments to family members of Rajiv Gandhi including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.[67][70] The payments were authorised by a resolution and endorsed by the USSR Council of Ministers, and had been coming since 1971.[70] In December 2001, Subramanian Swamy filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, which the court ordered CBI to ascertain the truth of the allegations in May 2002. After two years, the CBI told the Court that Russia would not entertain such queries without a registered FIR.[70]

Assassination

Gandhi's last public meeting was at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991, in a village approximately 40 km (30 miles) from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, 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 Rajiv Gandhi in public and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated a belt laden with 700 grams of RDX explosives tucked under her dress.[72] The explosion killed Gandhi, his assassin, and at least 25 other people. The assassination was caught on film through the lens of a local photographer, whose camera and film were found at the site. The cameraman died in the blast but the camera remained intact. Gandhi's mutilated body was airlifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for post-mortem, reconstruction and embalming.[73]

A state funeral was held for Gandhi on 24 May 1991. His funeral was telecast live and was attended by dignitaries from over 60 countries.[74] He was cremated on the banks of the river Yamuna, near the samadhis of his mother, brother, grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi. Today, the site where he was cremated is known as Vir Bhumi.

Aftermath

File:Rajiv Gandhi Memorial-Delhi.jpg
Vir Bhumi, the place where Rajiv Gandhi was cremated, at Delhi

The Supreme Court judgement, by Judge Thomas, confirmed that the killing was carried out due to personal animosity of the LTTE chief Prabhakaran towards Gandhi arising out of his sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the alleged IPKF atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils.[75] The Rajiv Gandhi administration had already antagonised other Tamil militant organisations like PLOTE for reversing the military coup in Maldives back in 1988. The judgement further cites the death of Thileepan in a hunger strike and the suicide by 12 LTTE cadres in a vessel in Oct 1987.

In the Jain Commission report, various people and agencies are named as suspected of having been involved in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. Among them, the cleric Chandraswami was suspected of involvement, including financing the assassination.[76][77][78] Nalini Sriharan is the lone surviving member of the five-member squad behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and is serving life imprisonment. Arrested on 14 June 1991, she was sentenced to death, along with 25 others, by a special court on 28 January 1998. The SC confirmed death only for four of the convicts, including Nalini, on 11 May 1999.[79] Nalini, who was a close friend of an LTTE operative known as Sriharan alias Murugan, another convict in the case who has been sentenced to death, later gave birth to a girl, Harithra in prison. Nalini, who was earlier given the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in April 2000.[80] Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi, intervened and asked for clemency for Nalini on the grounds of the latter being a mother.[81] Later, it was reported that his daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was nineteen at the time of her fathers' assassination, met Nalini at Vellore Central prison in March 2008[82] Nalini regrets the killing of the former Prime Minister and claims that the real conspirators have not been caught yet.[83][84] President of India had rejected the clemency pleas of Murugan and two others on death row, Suthendraraja alias Santhan and Perarivalan alias Arivu in August 2011.[85] The execution of the three convicts was scheduled on 9 September 2011. However, the Madras High Court intervened and stayed their execution for eight weeks based on their petitions. In 2010, Nalini had moved the Madras High Court seeking release as she served more than 20 years in prison. She argued that even life convicts were released after 14 years of prison term. The state government rejected her request.[86][87][88] Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, the three convicts condemned to death sentence have claimed that they are not ordinary criminals but political prisoners.[89][90][91] On 18 February 2014, the Supreme Court of India commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan to life imprisonment, holding that the 11-year-long delay in deciding their mercy petition had a dehumanising effect on them.[92][93] On 19 February 2014 Tamil Nadu government decided to release all seven convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, including A G Perarivalan and Nalini.[94] The Union of India challenged this decision before the Supreme Court, which referred the case to a Constitution Bench.[95]

The report of the Jain Commission created a storm when it accused then 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. LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham told the Indian television channel NDTV that the killing was a "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy which we deeply regret."[96][97] A memorial christened Veer Bhumi was constructed at his cremation spot in Delhi. In 1992, the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award was instituted by the Indian National Congress Party.

Institutions named after Gandhi

An RTI filed in August 2009 found out that "more 450 government projects and schemes are named after the Gandhi-Nehru family."[98] In May 2012, Zee News reported that there were sixteen government schemes which were named after Gandhi which included Rajiv Awas Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana.[99] In March 2015, Haryana sports minister Anil Vij said that at that time "there are" 232 rural stadia in India, 226 of them are named after him. He said that the government was "planning to rename" all the stadia in the stade which were named after him. He drew criticism from Congress leader Kuldeep Sharma who held that it was an "insult to their national leaders".[100]

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Notes

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Indira Gandhi
Prime Minister of India
1984–89
Succeeded by
V. P. Singh
Minister of External Affairs
1984–85
Succeeded by
Bali Ram Bhagat
Preceded by
P. V. Narasimha Rao
Minister of Defence
1985–87
Succeeded by
V. P. Singh
Preceded by
V. P. Singh
Minister of Finance
1987
Succeeded by
N. D. Tiwari
Preceded by
N. D. Tiwari
Minister of External Affairs
1987–88
Succeeded by
P. V. Narasimha Rao

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