"Some Files Weren't Shown To Me"

S.B. Chavan, Union home minister in the Narasimha Rao years, talks to Outlook about the government's role in the alleged cover-up.
INTERVIEWS S.B. Chavan

The IB had intercepted messages between LTTE operatives in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, before and after the assassination. Comment.

This was the report alleged to have been intercepted a week before the assassination and I have deposed before the commission about the IB reports also. Certain information was only given to Chidambaram or the PM. Initially I was given to understand that they were deciphering the whole thing. (But) I never got the information—whether at the instance of the PM or Chidambaram, I don't know. Or IB might have done this for reasons best known to it.

As the Union home minister it should have been shown to you.

It should have been shown to me because IB was under me. But later I came to know that certain information was only given to the PM.

Justice Jain seems disturbed by the noncooperation of the Rao government.

I don't know...because Chidambaram came into the picture. What part he or the then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao played, I am not aware.

A file from the Justice Verma Commission, relating to Rajiv Gandhi's security, was missing after it was sent from your ministry to the PMO.

There was a file which was sent to the PM and the information given to me was that this file was missing. Chidambaram seems to have said that at his instance the file was kept with the special secretary in the home ministry. And instructions were given to him that this file should not be shown even to the home minister.

But the file was from your ministry.

Yes, from the home ministry. And the PM had given instructions to Chidambaram that "you are dealing with this problem so you can take whatever decision you want". This was the instruction given, it is said, I don't know.

Apparently the file surfaced. But Vinod Pande, cabinet secretary in V.P. Singh's time, claimed his notings were missing. The file was allegedly put together by your ministry?

I can't say. It may be a question to put to Chidambaram who'll be able to say...

In the restructuring, sensitive information about Rao and Chandraswami was left out.

After having taken away all those materials from me, I did not pursue it. I lost interest in it.

Would you say that all this was part of an attempt to hide sensitive material from the commission?

I don't know. I was not aware. It was Chidambaram who was dealing with it. He will be in a better position to say.

The findings of the Justice Verma Commission were accepted by you only under pressure, even though you instituted the inquiry. Why?

No, there is some discrepancy there. We wanted to give the first action taken report (ATR) to Parliament, but it happened to be the last day. And if we had not given it people would have made all kinds of allegations. And that is why not much of a scrutiny of the ATR was done—it was suggested by the bureaucracy, we just passed it. Later on some people said "no, it is wrong, you don't seem have applied your mind". Thereafter I went through it. The attempt was to see that the entire bureaucracy went scotfree.

Subsequently there was no action.

A number of things were with the state government. Even at the Centre, no action was taken against either Pande, Narayanan (the then IBchief) or others indicted by the Verma commission.

Would you say there has been an attempt to delay disclosing the findings or to bury the whole thing?

We got an impression that they were not very keen to take action against officers who were responsible for diluting the security of Rajiv Gandhi.

Who do you mean by 'they'?

We had a suspicion that Pande was very much there. There were IB officers, officers from the Tamil Nadu government.

There were a lot of questions about Rao's role. That he was not keen on pressing further. And only under pressure.

It is very difficult for me to say at this stage. No, I would not like to say anything....

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