Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi

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Rajiv Ratna Gandhi ' was the sixth Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister of India , as addressed to in the Constitution of India — Prime Minister for the Union, is the chief of government, head of the Council of Ministers and the leader of the majority party in parliament...

 (1984–1989). He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.

Rajiv Gandhi was the elder son of Indira
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

 and Feroze Gandhi
Feroze Gandhi
Feroze Jehangir Gandhi was an Indian politician and journalist, and publisher of the The National Herald and The Navjivan newspapers from Lucknow....

. He was educated at Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, where he met Italian-born Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi...

, whom he later married. After Cambridge, he became a professional pilot for Indian Airlines. He remained aloof from politics despite his family's political prominence. It was only following the death of his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi
Sanjay Gandhi
Sanjay Gandhi was an Indian politician. The younger son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi, he was a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family...

 in 1980 that Rajiv entered politics. Following the assassination of his mother in 1984 after Operation Blue Star
Operation Blue Star
Operation Blue Star ) 3– 6 June 1984 was an Indian military operation, ordered by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, to remove Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar...

, Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 party leaders nominated him to be Prime Minister.

Rajiv Gandhi led the Congress to a major election victory in 1984 soon after, amassing the largest majority ever in Indian Parliament. The Congress party won 411 seats out of 542. He began dismantling the License Raj - government quotas, tariffs and permit regulations on economic activity - modernized the telecommunications industry, the education system, expanded science and technology initiatives and improved relations with the United States.

In 1988, Rajiv reversed the coup in Maldives antagonising the militant Tamil outfits such as PLOTE
People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam
The People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam is a former Tamil militant group. It is currently a pro-government paramilitary group and political party. PLOTE's political wing is known as the Democratic People's Liberation Front.-Origins:...

. He was also responsible for first intervening and then sending Indian troops (Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF) for peace efforts in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 in 1987, which soon ended in open conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

 (LTTE) group. In mid-1987, his alleged Bofors scandal
Bofors scandal
The Bofors scandal was a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s; the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India's 155 mm field howitzer...

 broke his honest, corruption-free image and resulted in a major defeat for his party in the 1989 elections.

Rajiv Gandhi remained Congress President
Congress President
The President of the All India Congress Committee, and therefore of the Indian National Congress Party as a whole, is known as the Congress President.-History:...

 until the elections in 1991
Indian general election, 1991
General elections were held in India in 1991 to elect the members of the 10th Lok Sabha. The result of the election was that no party could get a majority, so a minority government was formed, resulting in a stable government for the next 5 years, under the new Prime Minister P.V...

. While campaigning, he was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

 (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) group. His widow Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi...

 became the leader of the Congress party in 1998, and led the party to victory in the 2004 elections. His son Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi is an Indian politician and member of the parliament of India, representing the Amethi constituency. His political party is the Indian National Congress.-Early life and career:...

 is a Member of Parliament and the General Secretary of All India Congress Committee.

Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously awarded the Highest National Award of India, Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna is the Republic of India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna...

 (1991), joining a list of 40 luminaries, including Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

.

Rajiv Gandhi was an active amateur radio operator
Amateur radio in India
Amateur radio or ham radio is practised by more than 16,000 licensed users in India. The first amateur radio operator was licensed in 1921, and by the mid-1930s, there were around 20 amateur radio operators in India. Amateur radio operators played an important part in the Indian independence...

, and used the callsign VU2RG.

Early life and career


Rajiv Gandhi was born into India's most famous political family. His grandfather was the Indian independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru , often referred to with the epithet of Panditji, was an Indian statesman who became the first Prime Minister of independent India and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. He was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the...

, who was India's first Prime Minister after independence.

Rajiv is not related to Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

, although they share the same surname. Rajiv's father, Feroze, was one of the younger members of the Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 party, and had befriended the young Indira, and also her mother Kamala Nehru
Kamala Nehru
Kamala Kaul Nehru was the wife of Jawaharlal Nehru - leader of the Indian National Congress and first Prime Minister of India. Kamala married Nehru on 7 February 1916.-Contribution to the Indian Freedom Movement:...

, while working on party affairs at Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

. Subsequently, Indira and Feroze grew closer to each other while in England, and they married, despite initial objections from Jawaharlal due to his religion (Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

).

Rajiv was born in 1944 in Mumbai
Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

, during a time when both his parents were in and out of British prisons. In August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru became the prime minister of independent India, and the family settled in Allahabad
Allahabad
Allahabad , or Settled by God in Persian, is a major city of India and is one of the main holy cities of Hinduism. It was renamed by the Mughals from the ancient name of Prayaga , and is by some accounts the second-oldest city in India. It is located in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh,...

, and then at Lucknow
Lucknow
Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh in India. Lucknow is the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division....

, where Feroze became the editor of The National Herald newspaper (founded by Motilal Nehru
Motilal Nehru
Motilal Nehru was an early Indian independence activist and leader of the Indian National Congress, who remained Congress President twice, and...

). However, the marriage was faltering and, in 1949, Indira and the two sons moved to Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

 to live with Jawaharlal, ostensibly so that Indira could assist her father in his duties, acting as official hostess, and helping run the huge residence.
Meanwhile, Feroze continued alone in Lucknow
Lucknow
Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh in India. Lucknow is the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division....

. Nonetheless, in 1952, Indira helped Feroze manage his campaign for elections to the first Parliament of India
Parliament of India
The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in India. Founded in 1919, the Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all political bodies in India. The Parliament of India comprises the President and the two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha...

 from Rae Bareli.

After becoming an MP, Feroze Gandhi also moved to Delhi, but "Indira continued to stay with her father, thus putting the final seal on the separation." Relations were strained further when Feroze challenged corruption within the Congress leadership over the Haridas Mundhra
Haridas Mundhra
Haridas Mundhra was a Calcutta-based industrialist and stock speculator who was found guilty and imprisoned in the first big financial scandal of free India in the 1950s. The Mundhra scandal exposed the rifts between the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his son-in-law Feroze Gandhi, and...

 scandal. Jawaharlal suggested that the matter be resolved in private, but Feroze insisted on taking the case directly to parliament:
"The Parliament must exercise vigilance and control over the biggest and most powerful financial institution it has created, the Life Insurance Corporation of India, whose misapplication of public funds we shall scrutinise today." Feroze Gandhi, Speech in Parliament, 16 December 1957.

The scandal, and its investigation by justice M C Chagla
M C Chagla
M. C. Chagla , full name Mahommedali Currim Chagla, was a renowned Indian jurist, diplomat, and Cabinet Minister who served as Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court from 1948 to 1958.- Active life and career :...

, lead to the resignation of one of Nehru's key allies, finance minister T.T. Krishnamachari, further alienating Feroze from Jawaharlal.

After Feroze Gandhi had a heart attack in 1958, the family was reconciled briefly when they vacationed in Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

. However, Feroze died soon afterwards from a second heart attack in 1960.

Education


At the time of his father's death, Rajiv was away at a private boarding school for boys: initially at the Welham Boys' School
Welham Boys' School
Welham Boys School is a boarding school in India. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas over an area of , the school lies amidst the hills and rivers of the Dehra Dun. Students from many parts of the sub-continent and beyond attend the school...

 and later The Doon School
The Doon School
The Doon School is an independent school located in Dehradun in the state of Uttarakhand in India. Established in 1935, it was founded by Satish Ranjan Das. Its first Headmaster was Arthur E...

, both located at Dehradun
Dehradun
- Geography :The Dehradun district has various types of physical geography from Himalayan mountains to Plains. Raiwala is the lowest point at 315 meters above sea level, and the highest points are within the Tiuni hills, rising to 3700 m above sea level...

, Uttarakhand. He was sent to London in 1961 to study his A-levels. In 1962, he was offered a place at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 to study engineering. Rajiv stayed at Cambridge until 1965 and left the university without a degree mainly because he did not appear in the final Tripos examinations. In 1966, he was offered a place at the Imperial College London
Imperial College London
Imperial College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom, specialising in science, engineering, business and medicine...

. He again left Imperial College after a year without a degree.

In the January of 1965, he met Italian Antonia (Sonia) Maino
Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi is an Italian-born Indian politician and the President of the Indian National Congress, one of the major political parties of India. She is the widow of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi...

 in Varsity restaurant in Cambridge. Antonia was studying English at Lennox School of Languages (which was not associated with the University of Cambridge). Rajiv and Sonia were married in 1968 in India.

Rajiv began working for Indian Airlines as a professional pilot while his mother became Prime Minister in 1966. He exhibited no interest in politics and did not live regularly with his mother in Delhi at the Prime Minister's residence. In 1970, his wife gave birth to their first child Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi is an Indian politician and member of the parliament of India, representing the Amethi constituency. His political party is the Indian National Congress.-Early life and career:...

, and in 1972, to Priyanka Gandhi
Priyanka Gandhi
Priyanka Vadra , is an Indian politician. She is the granddaughter of Feroze Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, and belongs tothe Nehru-Gandhi family.-Early life:...

, their second. Even as Rajiv remained aloof in politics, his younger brother Sanjay became a close advisor to their mother.

Entry into politics


Following his younger brother's death in 1980, Gandhi was pressured by Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 party politicians and his mother to enter politics. He and his wife were both opposed to the idea, and he even publicly stated that he would not contest for his brother's seat. Nevertheless, he eventually announced his candidacy for Parliament. His entry was criticized by many in the press, public and opposition political parties.
He fought his first election from Amethi
Amethi
Amethi is a city and a municipal board in Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is the headquarters of the district. Amethi district officially named after Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj, is a newest and 72nd district in the state of Uttar Pradesh in...

 Loksabha seat. In this by-election, he defeated Lokdal leader Sharad Yadav
Sharad Yadav
Sharad Yadav, a politician from the Janata Dal party, is currently a Member of the Parliament of India representing the Madhepura constituency of Bihar in the Lok Sabha...

 by more than 200,000 votes.

Elected to Sanjay's Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha or House of the People is the lower house of the Parliament of India. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by direct election under universal adult suffrage. As of 2009, there have been fifteen Lok Sabhas elected by the people of India...

 (parliamentary) constituency of Amethi
Amethi
Amethi is a city and a municipal board in Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is the headquarters of the district. Amethi district officially named after Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj, is a newest and 72nd district in the state of Uttar Pradesh in...

 in Uttar Pradesh state in February 1981, Gandhi became an important political advisor to his mother. It was widely perceived that Indira Gandhi was grooming Rajiv for the prime minister's job, and he soon became the president of the Youth Congress - the Congress party's youth wing.

Premiership



Gandhi was in West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 when his mother, Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh
Satwant Singh
Satwant Singh was a Sikh bodyguard to the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, who on October 31, 1984 assassinated Indira Gandhi at her residence along with another bodyguard, Beant Singh....

 and Beant Singh
Beant Singh (assassin)
Beant Singh , born in Jaitu in the Faridkot district of Punjab , was one of Indira Gandhi's assassins...

, to avenge the military attack on the Harmandir Sahib (Sikhism's holiest shrine, also called "The Golden Temple") during Operation Blue Star. Top Congress leaders, as well as President Zail Singh
Zail Singh
Giani Zail Singh was an Indian politician and member of the Congress Party. He served as the seventh President of India.His term was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He died of injuries in 1994 after a car accident.-Early Life:He...

 pressed Rajiv to become India's Prime Minister, within hours of his mother's assassination by two of her Sikh
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 bodyguards. Commenting on the anti-Sikh riots in the national capital Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, Rajiv Gandhi said, "When a giant tree falls
When Big Tree Falls
When Big Tree Falls is a short story by acclaimed Malayalam author N. S. Madhavan, adapted into an award winning feature film Kaya Taran by director Sashi Kumar....

, the earth below shakes"; a statement for which he was widely criticised. Many Congress politicians were accused of orchestrating the violence. Soon after assuming office, Rajiv asked President Zail Singh
Zail Singh
Giani Zail Singh was an Indian politician and member of the Congress Party. He served as the seventh President of India.His term was marked by Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He died of injuries in 1994 after a car accident.-Early Life:He...

 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 Mr. Clean, or free of a background in corrupt politics. Rajiv thus revived hopes and enthusiasm amongst the Indian public for the Congress.

Economic policy


He increased government support for science and technology and associated industries, and reduced import quota
Import quota
An import quota is a type of protectionist trade restriction that sets a physical limit on the quantity of a good that can be imported into a country in a given period of time....

s, taxes and tariff
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s on technology-based industries, especially computers, airlines, defence and telecommunications. He introduced measures significantly reducing the License Raj, allowing businesses and individuals to purchase capital, consumer goods and import without bureaucratic
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 restrictions. In 1986, he announced a National Policy on Education
National Policy on Education
The National Policy on Education is a policy formulated by the Government of India to promote education amongst India's people. The policy covers elementary education to colleges in both rural and urban India...

 to modernize 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. His efforts created MTNL in 1986, and his public call offices, better known as PCOs, helped spread telephones in rural areas.

Foreign policy


Gandhi began leading in a direction significantly different from his mother's socialism. He improved bilateral relations with the United States — long strained owing to Indira's socialism and close friendship with the USSR — and expanded economic and scientific cooperation. During his state visit
State visit
A state visit is a formal visit by a foreign head of state to another nation, at the invitation of that nation's head of state. State visits are the highest form of diplomatic contact between two nations, and are marked by ceremonial pomp and diplomatic protocol. In parliamentary democracies, heads...

 to the Soviet Union he met with Premier Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Tikhonov
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Tikhonov was a Soviet Russian-Ukrainian statesman during the Cold War. He served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1980 to 1985, and as a First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, literally First Vice Premier, from 1976 to 1980...

, Andrey Gromyko of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

.

Security policy



Rajiv authorized an extensive police and Army campaign to contain terrorism in Punjab. A state of martial law existed in the Punjab
Punjab (India)
Punjab ) is a state in the northwest of the Republic of India, forming part of the larger Punjab region. The state is bordered by the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh to the east, Haryana to the south and southeast and Rajasthan to the southwest as well as the Pakistani province of Punjab to the...

 state, and civil liberties, commerce and tourism were greatly disrupted. There are many accusations of human rights violations by police officials as well as by the militants during this period. It is alleged that even as the situation in Punjab came under control, the Indian government was offering arms and training to the LTTE rebels fighting the government of Sri Lanka. The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed by Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lankan President J.R.Jayewardene, in Colombo on 29 July 1987. The very next day, on 30 July 1987, Rajiv Gandhi was assaulted on the head with a rifle butt by a young Sinhalese naval cadet named Vijayamunige Rohana de Silva, while receiving the honour guard. The intended assault on the back of Rajiv Gandhi's head however glanced off his shoulder. Though the embarrassed Sri Lankan President Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene , famously abbreviated in Sri Lanka as JR, was the first executive President of Sri Lanka, serving from 1978 till 1989. He was a leader of the nationalist movement in Ceylon who served in a variety of cabinet positions in the decades following independence...

 initially attempted to pass off the bizarre assault as "Rajiv tripped a little and slightly lost his balance", Rajiv Gandhi while en route to New Delhi asserted to J.N. Dixit "Of course, I was hit." Rajiv's government also suffered a major setback when its efforts to arbitrate between the government of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and the LTTE rebels backfired .

With his speech while addressing the Joint Session of the US Congress and India, he famously said,
"India is an old country, but a young nation; and like the young everywhere, we are impatient. I am young and I too have a dream. I dream of an India, strong, independent, self reliant and in the forefront of the front ranks of the nations of the world in the service of mankind."

Anti Sikh riots



This refers to the statement of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister at a Boat Club rally 19-days after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, which read as “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.”

This statement sent a wrong signal to the authorities, who adopted a callous approach of not allowing the truth to come out despite the government setting up probe panels one after the other, including two full fledged judicial commissions, the first headed by retired Chief Justice of India Ranganath Misra and the second by a former apex court judge G.T. Nanavati. According to the authors of the book titled - “When a Tree Shook Delhi” written by senior advocate H.S. Phoolka and co-author, journalist Manoj Mitta (who have based the details of the book mainly on evidence produced before the nine panels and trial courts and high courts in the form of sworn affidavits by hundreds of witnesses). Based on eyewitness accounts the book said that instead of targeting the aggressors the police cracked down on the Sikh victims, who had been defending their properties when they were attacked by hooligans led by local Congress leaders.

Bofors scandal



Gandhi's finance minister, V. P. Singh
V. P. Singh
Vishwanath Pratap Singh was the seventh Prime Minister of India and the 41st Raja Bahadur of Manda.-Early life:...

, 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
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 Bofors
Bofors
The name Bofors has been associated with the iron industry for more than 350 years.Located in Karlskoga, Sweden, the company originates from the hammer mill "Boofors" founded 1646. The modern corporate structure was created in 1873 with the foundation of Aktiebolaget Bofors-Gullspång...

 arms company through Italian businessman and Gandhi family associate Ottavio Quattrocchi
Ottavio Quattrocchi
Ottavio Quattrocchi is an Italian businessman who was being sought until early 2009 in India for criminal charges for acting as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal....

, in return for Indian contracts. Upon the uncovering of the scandal, Singh was dismissed from office, and later 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
The Hindu
The Hindu is an Indian English-language daily newspaper founded and continuously published in Chennai since 1878. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.46 million copies as of December 2009. The enterprise employed over 1,600 workers and gross income reached $40...

newspaper. This shattered his image as an honest politician; he was posthumously cleared over this allegation in 2004, however.

Singh's image as an exposer of government corruption made him very popular with the public , and opposition parties united under his name to form the Janata Dal
Janata Dal
Janata Dal is an Indian political party which was formed through the merger of Janata Party factions, the Lok Dal, Congress, and the Jan Morcha led by V. P...

 coalition. In the 1989 elections, the Congress suffered a major setback. With the support of Indian communists and the Bharatiya Janata Party
Bharatiya Janata Party
The Bharatiya Janata Party ,; translation: Indian People's Party) is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Indian National Congress. Established in 1980, it is India's second largest political party in terms of representation in the parliament...

, Singh and his Janata Dal formed a government. Gandhi became the Leader of the Opposition, while remaining Congress president. While some believe that Rajiv and Congress leaders influenced the collapse of V. P. Singh's government in October 1990 by promising support to Chandra Shekhar
Chandra Shekhar
Chandra Shekhar Singh was the eighth Prime Minister of India.-Early years:He was born on 1 July 1927 to a Rajput farming family in Ibrahimpatti - Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Chandra Shekhar Singh did his Master of Arts at Allahabad University. He was known as a firebrand in student politics...

, a high-ranking leader in the Janata Dal, sufficient internal contradictions existed, within the ruling coalition, especially over the controversial reservation issue, to cause a fall of government. Rajiv's Congress offered outside support briefly to Chandra Sekhar, who became Prime Minister. They withdrew their support in 1991, however, and fresh elections were announced.

Sri Lanka policy


Then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa
Ranasinghe Premadasa was the 3rd President of Sri Lanka from January 2, 1989 to May 1, 1993. Before that, he served as the Prime Minister in the government headed by J. R. Jayewardene from February 6, 1978 to January 1, 1989...

 opposed the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord, but accepted it due to pressure from then President Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene
Junius Richard Jayewardene , famously abbreviated in Sri Lanka as JR, was the first executive President of Sri Lanka, serving from 1978 till 1989. He was a leader of the nationalist movement in Ceylon who served in a variety of cabinet positions in the decades following independence...

. In January 1989 Premadasa was elected President and on a platform that promised that the Indian Peace Keeping Force
Indian Peace Keeping Force
Indian Peace Keeping Force was the Indian military contingent performing a peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990...

 (IPKF) leave within three months. In the 1989 elections, both the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
Sri Lanka Freedom Party
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party is one of the major political parties in Sri Lanka. It was founded by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike in 1951 and, since then, has been one of the two largest parties in the Sri Lankan political arena. It first came to power in 1956 and since then has been the predominant party in...

 and United National Party
United National Party
The United National Party, often referred to as the UNP ), , is a political party in Sri Lanka. It currently is the main opposition party in Sri Lanka and is headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe...

 wanted the IPKF to withdraw, and they got 95 percent of the vote.

The police action
Police action
Police action in military/security studies and international relations is a euphemism for a military action undertaken without a formal declaration of war.Since World War II, formal declarations of war have been rare...

 was unpopular in India as well, especially in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

, as India was fighting the Tamil separatists.

Gandhi refused to withdraw the IPKF, believing that the only way to end the civil war was to politically force Premadasa and militarily force the LTTE to accept the accord. In December 1989, Singh was elected Prime Minister and completed the pullout. The IPKF operation killed over 1100 Indian soldiers, 5000 Tamil
Tamil people
Tamil people , also called Tamils or Tamilians, are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. Historic and post 15th century emigrant communities are also found across the world, notably Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, Australia, Canada,...

 civilians and cost over 10000 crore
Crore
A crore is a unit in the Indian number system equal to ten million , or 100 lakhs. It is widely used in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan....

s.

Shah Bano case



In 1985, the Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 ruled in favour of Muslim divorcee Shah Bano, declaring that her husband should give her alimony
Alimony
Alimony is a U.S. term denoting a legal obligation to provide financial support to one's spouse from the other spouse after marital separation or from the ex-spouse upon divorce...

. Muslim fundamentalists
Islamic fundamentalism
Islamic fundamentalism is a term used to describe religious ideologies seen as advocating a return to the "fundamentals" of Islam: the Quran and the Sunnah. Definitions of the term vary. According to Christine L...

 in India treated it as an encroachment in Muslim Personal Law and protested against it. Gandhi agreed to their demands.
In 1986, the Congress (I) party, which had an absolute majority in Parliament at the time, passed an act that nullified the Supreme Court's judgement in the Shah Bano case.
This was viewed by many in India, including the Bharatiya Janata Party
Bharatiya Janata Party
The Bharatiya Janata Party ,; translation: Indian People's Party) is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Indian National Congress. Established in 1980, it is India's second largest political party in terms of representation in the parliament...

 as appeasement of Muslims. Some Congress members believed the same and they influenced Rajiv, to either revoke the act or to pacify Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 Sentiments too. The opening up of the gates of the Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid Gates for worship of the Ram Lala Idols at Ayodhya was an event which would go on to haunt India for several years.

Allegations of black money


Opposition parties in India, including Janata Party, claim that Rajiv Gandhi has black money in Swiss Bank accounts to the tune of billions of dollars. This was first raised by the Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrated in 1991.

Assassination




Rajiv Gandhi's last public meeting was at Sriperumbudur
Sriperumbudur
Sriperumbudur is an industrial city in Kanchipuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located in proximity to Chennai. It is famous for being the birth place of Sri Ramanuja, one of the most prominent Hindu Vaishnava saints as well as the town where former Indian Prime Minister...

 on 21 May 1991, in a village approximately 30 miles from Chennai
Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

, Tamil Nadu, where he was assassinated while campaigning for the Sriperumbudur
Sriperumbudur
Sriperumbudur is an industrial city in Kanchipuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located in proximity to Chennai. It is famous for being the birth place of Sri Ramanuja, one of the most prominent Hindu Vaishnava saints as well as the town where former Indian Prime Minister...

 Lok Sabha
Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha or House of the People is the lower house of the Parliament of India. Members of the Lok Sabha are elected by direct election under universal adult suffrage. As of 2009, there have been fifteen Lok Sabhas elected by the people of India...

 Congress candidate. The assassination was carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

.

At 10:10 p.m.,a woman (later identified as being named Thenmuli Rajaratnam
Thenmuli Rajaratnam
Thenmozhi "Gayatri" Rajaratnam was the assassin who killed Rajiv Gandhi, herself, and 14 others in a suicide bombing on May 21, 1991, in the Indian town of Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, near Chennai. A member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam , Rajaratnam was also known as Gayatri and Dhanu...

) approached Rajiv Gandhi in a public meeting and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet (an expression of respect among India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

ns) and detonated a belt laden with 700 grams of RDX
RDX
RDX, an initialism for Research Department Explosive, is an explosive nitroamine widely used in military and industrial applications. It was developed as an explosive which was more powerful than TNT, and it saw wide use in WWII. RDX is also known as cyclonite, hexogen , and T4...

 explosives tucked under her dress. The explosion killed Rajiv Gandhi and many others. The assassination was caught on film through the lens of a local photographer, whose camera and film were found at the site. The cameraman himself died in the blast but the camera remained intact.

The Rajiv Gandhi Memorial
Rajiv Gandhi Memorial
The Rajiv Gandhi Memorial is a memorial to the late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at the site where he was assassinated at Sriperumbudur, India.-How to reach Rajiv Gandhi Memorial:...

 was built at the site recently and is one of the major tourist attractions of the small industrial town.
The Supreme Court
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 judgement, by Judge Thomas, confirmed that the killing was carried out due to personal animosity of the LTTE
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was a separatist militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil...

 chief Prabhakaran towards Mr Rajiv Gandhi arising out of his sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force
Indian Peace Keeping Force
Indian Peace Keeping Force was the Indian military contingent performing a peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990...

 (IPKF) to Sri Lanka and the alleged IPKF atrocities against Srilankan Tamils. However, it should be noted that the Rajiv Gandhi administration had already antagonised other Tamil militant organisations like PLOTE
People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam
The People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam is a former Tamil militant group. It is currently a pro-government paramilitary group and political party. PLOTE's political wing is known as the Democratic People's Liberation Front.-Origins:...

 for reversing the military coup in Maldives back in 1988.

The judgment 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
Chandraswami
Chandraswami is a controversial Indian tantrik . He is called a Godman by some people. His father came from Bahrod in Rajasthan and worked as a money lender. He moved to Hyderabad when Chandraswami was a child. Chandraswami was attracted to the study of Tantra from an early age...

 was suspected of involvement, including financing the assassination.
The interim report of the Jain Commission created a storm when it accused 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
Anton Balasingham
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham was the chief political strategist and chief negotiator of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam a militant organization...

 told the Indian television channel NDTV
NDTV
NDTV is an Indian commercial broadcasting television network founded in 1988. It was founded by Prannoy Roy, an eminent journalist and current chairman and director of NDTV Group. NDTV currently has more than 1,000 employees producing news from over twenty locations in India...

 that the killing was a "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy which we deeply regret."
A memorial christened Veer Bhumi was constructed at his cremation spot in Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

. In 1992, the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award
Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award
Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award is an Indian award given for outstanding contribution towards promotion of communal harmony, national integration and peace...

 was instituted by All India Congress Committee
All India Congress Committee
The All India Congress Committee is the Presidium or central decision-making assembly of the Indian National Congress Party. It is composed of members elected from State-level Pradesh Congress Committees and can have as many as a thousand members...

 (AICC) of the Indian National Congress Party (INC).

The International Airport constructed at Hyderabad has been named after Rajiv Gandhi and was inaugurated by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Further reading

  • Sachi Sri Kantha; Pirabhakaran Phenomenon, Lively Comet Imprint,2005;641 pp (chapters 24 to 35, pp. 207–352, cover in detail the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi)
  • "Working with Rajiv Gandhi" by R.D. Pradhan
  • Mani Shankar Aiyar "Remembering Rajiv", Rupa, New Delhi, 1992

External links



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