Thursday, Sep 29, 2022
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Bits, Ends, Questions

New material on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination poses new questions, including that of motives

Bits, Ends, Questions Photograph by Indian Express Archive

The intrigue never ends in what’s probably India’s most sensational crime, tho­ugh 25 years have gone by. Reams of paper, from inquiry commissions to books by investiga­tors, journalists and politicians and movie scripts have discussed various facets of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination—conspiracy the­ories, loose ends, botched operations and all. And, now, a narrative by Nalini Sriharan (Murugan) from her prison cell about her life, the interrogation, her daughter, the meeting with Priyanka Gandhi and also, in passing, the one question that has been debated endlessly: couldn’t Sivarasan, the ‘one-eyed Jack’, have been captured alive?

Like all sensational assassinations, questions still abound with every new commentary on that tumultuous period in 1991, and there have been quite a few in these intervening years. To recap, in 1998, seven years after the assassination, all the 26 accused persons apprehended by the Central Bureau of Investigation were sentenced to death. Subsequently, in appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of four of them, including Nalini and her husband Mur­ugan (as he’s known in case records), while commuting the sentences of three others. In the long chain of events in the years since, the sentences of those on death row were commuted. In recent years, there have been several legal petitions by the conv­icts, who have now spent 25 years in prison, seeking remission of their sentences. And it goes without saying that the convicts’ cause has been intertwined with Tamil Nadu politics, though, as some observers would argue, it has not been significant electorally.

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