Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Remembering Rajiv Gandhi

Today, May 21 is the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, a young and vibrant Prime Minister of India. He was assassinated by terrorists at an election meeting in 1991. I am writing this as homage to the memory of the great son of India.

Rajiv Gandhi visited Colombo on July 29-30, 1987 and signed Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement to Establish Peace and Normalcy in Sri Lanka with his Sri Lankan counterpart J.R. Jayewardene. I was posted in Kandy, a scenic hill station and famous for the Dalida Maligawa (tooth relic of Lord Buddha), at the Assistant High Commission and was called to Colombo for the PM’s visit. I was attached to the Media Centre at Hotel Taj Samundra. I saw Rajiv Gandhi, prince charming, from a close angle on July 29 when their helicopter landed in front of Taj Samundra. The visit was to conclude the next morning on July 30 with the Guard of Honour to bid send off to the visiting PM Rajiv Gandhi. I positioned myself with the media entourage at the end of the Guard of Honour line up. The Agreement signed by the two leaders had generated considerable heat in the diplomatic and political circles. During the Guard of Honour there was a lot commotion. I could see clearly PM Rajiv Gandhi being hit by a soldier in line with the butt of his rifle. I was standing just a couple of meters from the spot of the butt attack. PM Rajiv Gandhi’s own presence of mind and agility saved him from major injury. The rest is history. It was my first hand experience to be around the great leader Rajiv Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a human bomb by terrorists on May 21 in 1991. It is now observed as Anti-Terrorism Day by taking a pledge against terrorism. I had been administering the pledge as Head of Mission at various Indian diplomatic missions for many years. In May, 1991, I was the Under Secretary (Eastern Europe) at the Ministry of External Affairs. The Deputy PM of the Czech Republic came for the funeral of PM Rajiv Gandhi. I was deputed as the Chief Protocol Liaison Officer with the Czech VVIP. The dead body of Rajiv Gandhi was kept in State at the Teen Murti House for paying final tributes by the public and the visiting leaders from various countries. I accompanied the Czech Deputy PM to the Teen Murti House. There were many other leaders from foreign countries. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, though not in power, also came for the final rites of the departed leader. She was talking to PM Chander Shekhar at Teen Murti House. We were standing nearby. She said that he (Chander Shekhar) was a leader but did not enjoy support of the people and he (Rajiv Gandhi) who was lying in State was not a leader but enjoyed popular support. It was the second occasion when I happened to be near Rajiv Gandhi in the course of my duties. It was destiny that both Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto met the tragic end by the designs of terrorists.


No comments:

Post a Comment