The fatal poisoning of a prime minister, a cover-up at the highest levels, stoic silence when questions were asked, conspiracy theories involving international players and national figures, mysterious accidents that claimed the lives of witnesses who could have shed more light on the matter, parliamentary inquiries that have vanished from the library.
After the book extract was published, Outlook was contacted by members of the family. As we pieced together the strange circumstances of Shastri’s death through family accounts and on the basis of RTI applications, we can only conclude that the mystery deepens and some answers must be found. What is also significant is that in spite of RTI applications, the PMO has refused to declassify information about the former PM’s death in Tashkent 46 years ago. Anuj Dhar, moderator of a transparency website, had filed an RTI application in 2009 seeking the correspondence between the Indian embassy in Moscow and the external affairs ministry and between the two countries after the premier’s death. Shastri had gone to Tashkent for a summit with then Pakistan president Ayub Khan after the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. He died hours after signing the joint declaration. His family has always maintained that he was poisoned and his death hushed up.
There are certainly unanswered questions. For instance, press reports of the incident show that the authorities in Tashkent immediately arrested a Russian cook. He was released after five hours of questioning. However, in spite of the initial suspicion of poisoning, no post-mortem was done, either in Russia or in India. His late wife kept trying to raise questions about his death, but nothing was ever investigated. The couple had six children, of whom only two, Anil and Sunil Shastri, survive. Both are members of the Congress, although the latter had joined the BJP briefly. Grandson Siddhartha Nath Singh (son of Shastri’s late daughter Suman) is in the BJP. But regardless of political affiliations, there is a unanimity within the family that Shastri was poisoned and the case was never investigated.
Adding grist to the rumour mill is the extraordinary secrecy over the case. For instance, various RTI applications over the years have sought information both on what documentation is available on the matter and if the government could kindly declassify it. In 2009, the PMO had replied that it had only one document relating to Shastri’s death but refused to declassify it under a clause that would “prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence”.
There is a fascinating story he recounts, something that was an obsession with his late mother who was the last family member to speak to Shastri. She was on the phone with her father, as her husband, V.N. Singh, an employee of the State Trading Corporation, was travelling to Cairo on work where Shastri too was headed. Shastri therefore told his daughter to ensure that her husband carried Indian newspapers to Cairo. His last words to her were—“I’m going to have a glass of milk and sleep.” The line got disconnected and Suman tried again. However, when she got through 15 minutes later, she was told her father was dead.
One can imagine the questions that have remained with the family since. Particularly as the first inquiry was conducted only after the Emergency when the Janata government was in power. Called the Raj Narain Inquiry, it never came up with any conclusions but began the process. However, no record of this can be found in the Parliament library—by itself not a sinister event as lots of vital documents have disappeared often due to carelessness.
But there is an even more curious series of events linked to the inquiry. Two witnesses were scheduled to depose before this parliamentary body in 1977. One was R.N. Chugh, Shastri’s doctor who accompanied him to Tashkent. The second was Ram Nath, his personal servant, who was also present on the day of his death. Chugh was travelling to Delhi by road to testify before the committee and was hit by a truck and died. Ram Nath came to Delhi and visited Shastri’s widow before the deposition. According to family members, he told her, “Bahut din ka bojh tha, amma. Aaj sab bata denge (I have been carrying this burden too long. I will shed it today).” Ram Nath left the 1, Motilal Nehru, residence to make his way to Parliament. He was hit by a moving vehicle, his legs crushed (eventually amputated) and he lost his memory.
One can only be left gasping at the strange twists and turns. It suggests a real historical whodunit, the answers to which may turn out to be as unbelievable and bizarre as the death of the prime minister itself.
Apropos Tashkent Whodunit (Jul 16), how come neither Shastri’s wife nor any of his family members enquired exactly what Ram Nath, his servant, was to say before the probe committee? Or is it that the writer did not mention it here to emphasise how a witness was maimed or tamed?
P. Paul, Kartarpur
Shastri’s death may really have been a result of foul play, as his wife and family feared. The KGB, masters of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy, may will have played a role at the behest of a certain family that considers India as its personal fiefdom, and the right to rule its birthright.
Ranjini R., Secunderabad
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Whatsinaname aka Shakespear
There is everything in a name called Anwar.
"SC Bose did not die after WW2, but was jailed by Soviets. And J. Nehru alone was aware of same but he did nothing since he feared that SC Bose returning could be a threat to his leadership."
I respect Netaji a lot. He may be in soviet. It was more likely for him to be in Soviet Union because America and UK was after him and he was surely a war criminal a la hitler FOR THEM. Just imagine what would have happened had netaji been caught.
>> Your lies about failing to acknowledge the contributions of Veer Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya noted.
Here is some more info about Saffron freedom fighters that jehadis shall fail to acknowledge
"Hedgewar was imprisoned for sedition by the British government in 1921 for a year and again in 1930 for nine months."
His arrest and acquittal for printing seditious material in Bande Mataram consolidated his position as the leader of aggressive nationalists.
Dr. Moonje was a prominent freedom fighter and a strong supporter/follower of Lokmanya B.G. Tilak.
Narasimha Chintaman Kelkar
He was closely associated with Bal Gangadhar Tilak in the Indian independence movement
I could go on, but won't make any difference. The jehadis shall fail to answer it, and shall slime away like the pigs that they are. They shall repeat these lies again in another thread a few weeks from now, and play the same game again.
Lies by repeated assertion. Gobbelesian tactics they were taught at their Madrassa.
>> Your excuses for saffron no-shows in the Independence struggle noted.
Your lies about failing to acknowledge the contributions of Veer Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya noted.
>> "SC Bose did not die after WW2, but was jailed by Soviets. And J. Nehru alone was aware of same but he did nothing since he feared that SC Bose returning could be a threat to his leadership."
Have you seen a doctor lately?
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT