Former PM Rajiv Gandhi at Palam airport on December 17, 1985.(HT File Photo)
Former PM Rajiv Gandhi at Palam airport on December 17, 1985.(HT File Photo)

Evidence ignored to appease vote bank, claims new book

In the book, Kanth said that a year before Gandhi’s assassination, another similar murder of a political leader held many crucial clues.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Chetan Chauhan
UPDATED ON DEC 10, 2020 08:00 AM IST

A trail of evidence available months before the May 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was not seriously investigated by the local administration to mollify a section of the Tamil vote bank that sympathised with the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a book by the lead investigator in the case has claimed.

The book, Khaki In Dust Storm, is written by former Indian Police Services (IPS) officer Amod Kanth. He served as the then deputy inspector general of police of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which investigated the assassination of 46-year-old Gandhi in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur town in May 21, 1991 by LTTE extremists. Four of Gandhi’s assassins are on death row.

In the book, Kanth said that a year before Gandhi’s assassination, another similar murder of a political leader held many crucial clues. Kandasami Padmanabha, a Sri Lankan Tamil leader who was a rival of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran, were murdered, along with 12 associates, on June 15, 1990.

The type of explosives used and modus operandi was almost the same in the two killings, the book claimed. An eyewitness who saw the killer -- a man known as one-eyed Sivarasan -- informed the police but nothing happened.

“It was believed at that time that the party in power did not pursue the Padmanabha case and other terror attacks in right earnest to protect Tamil vote bank before 1991 Lok Sabha elections,” Kanth said. At the time of Padmanabha’s killing, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was in power in Tamil Nadu but the government was dismissed in January 1991 and President’s Rule was imposed in the state.

DMK MP and spokesperson TKS Elangovan rejected the claims in Kanth’s book. “We put pressure on the Rajiv Gandhi government to implement the 13th Amendment. When (Indian) peacekeeping forces were sent to Sri Lanka and they killed Tamils, our leader (Karunanidhi) did not receive them when they came back because of the atrocities against Tamils,” he said.

The 13th Amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka is an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987 between Rajiv Gandhi and then Lankan president JR Jayawardene during the civil war. The legislation provides for devolution of powers to the Tamil community by creating provincial councils in the island nation.

For decades, the Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka has been an emotive and electorally important issue in Tamil Nadu, which goes to the polls early next year.

In 1987, the Indian government sent peacekeeping forces to Sri Lanka, which was in the middle of a civil war between the Tamil-controlled northern provinces, headquartered at Jaffna, and the Sri Lankan government. They were withdrawn in 1989-1990.

After murdering Padmanabha, Sivarasan escaped to Sri Lanka on a fishing boat and returned in April 1991 with nine accomplices -- including Gandhi’s assassin Dhanu -- the book said.

Kanth said the eyewitness Thomas immediately identified Sivarasan when he was shown pictures taken by Haribabu, hired by Sivarasan to capture Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, thereby linking the two killings, 11 months apart. “Surprisingly, even a series of terrorist crimes that seriously disturbed the peace and law and order of Tamil Nadu failed to awaken the investigators of the state police from their stupor and make them take up the openly known cases like Padmanabha’s assassination. And, sadly enough, between the investigative wings of Tamil Nadu police and Intelligence agencies, everyone knew that the series of bomb blasts were orchestrated by LTTE. They also knew about the identities and movement of certain perpetrators, who got exposed as being closely concerned to Rajiv Gandhi assassination,” the book read.

“The LTTE feared that Rajiv Gandhi will become the prime minister again and he may back the Sinhalese Sri Lankan government, and therefore, decided to kill him. All was on basis of presumption,” added Kanth in the book.

Sivarasan, who allegedly planned Gandhi’s assassination, died by suicide on August 19, 1991 near Bengaluru before the CBI’s investigating team could catch him. The book also talks about the Delhi Police’s handling of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after killing of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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