May 21, 1991: The Day Rajiv Gandhi Was Assassinated

| May 21 , 2015 , 08:09 IST
It was summer of 1991 and the election campaigning was as heated as the day. The red carpet was ready; thousands of people were waiting with flowers in their hands to get a glimpse of Rajiv Gandhi, the man that had been nation's youngest prime minister. He was personally greeting people. The rally was jam packed. Many tried to reach him but Dhanu was the one of the few who managed to reach Rajiv Gandhi. Sriperunbudur, located 50 Km of SouthWest of Chennai (then Madras), was perhaps the last leg of election campaign for Rajiv Gandhi. It was to became the last few moments of his life. Rajiv was among the people accepting their greetings. As security people fussed about his safety, he asked a lady officer to relax- these were his own people. Many people were offering garlands to him and he was gladly accepting them. Dhanu made her way to him, offered him the garland and bowed down to touch his feet. The blast that followed killed Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others. The Lotto shoes that he was wearing became last sign of his identification and pictures taken by Hari Babu’s camera became last stills of Rajiv Gandhi. Hari Babu died in the blast with Rajiv Gandhi but his camera was recovered later on the blast site. Where After Congress' loss in the 1989 general election, Rajiv Gandhi did not want to miss any opportunity in 1991. Due to the political situation Tamil Nadu was crucial for 1991 elections, against the backdrop of 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord and Gandhi’s decision to send Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka had created division in the state. Rajiv Gandhi, who was then criticised for his aloof and isolated behaviour, decided to hit road journeys, stopping at major constituencies to ask for votes. Considering the Sri Lanka genocide and rising Tamilian sentiment against India, Rajiv Gandhi was warned several times not to address public rallies. Bhim Narayan Singh, then Tamil Nadu governor even broke protocol to suggest him not to campaign in the state. But, Rajiv was keen on meeting and connecting with common people. While many suspected threat to his life, nobody expected that eventually it will happen to him. Why Rajiv Gandhi, in an interview to Sunday Magazine, defending Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord, had said that he would send Indian Peace Keeping Force back to the island to disarm Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam members. This has infuriated LTTE and they decided to kill him before he was voted back to power. LTTE knew that Indian Peace Keeping Force’s return to the island will be destructive for them. LTTE aimed at killing Rajiv when he was still an opposition leader with low security. They laid the blue-print of his assassination, trained suicide bombers and used high technology to accomplish the mission successfully. How It took them almost six months of planning and training and several dry runs in another couple of months to carry the assassination without any failure. Dhanu and Shubha, cousins of one of the masterminds of Gandhi’s assignation were readied to act as suicide bombers. Allegedly, a local engineer from Madras was assigned the task of designing a bomb which cannot be traced by metal detectors. The non-detectable plastic RDX explosive bomb was designed and two dry runs were successfully executed. On May 21 1991, Dhanu took her position from where she could easily reach Rajiv Gandhi. She waited for Rajiv Gandhi, as did many others but for a completely different purpose. At 10.10 PM, Rajiv Gandhi walked out of his bullet proof car and a tide of people came flowing towards him. Dhanu was one of them fighting for her turn. Security guards tried to keep him in the security loop, but Gandhi asked one of the lady security guards to relax. Dhanu made her way to him, offered him the garland and bowed down to touch his feet. The deafening blast that followed exploded Rajiv Gandhi and 14 others into pieces. Rajiv-Gandhi Here are some rare pictures of Rajiv Gandhi: -