Recently a query to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) availing the Right to Information (RTI) Act by Mr Anuj Dhar about a secret document related to the unexplained death of the late Lal Bahadur Shastri drew a blank. Mr Dhar, an author, along with a group, runs the
endtosecrecy.com website. The PMO did not deny the existence of the secret document. It refused to release it on the plea that it could harm foreign relations, provoke disruption in the country and cause breach of parliamentary privilege. In other words it could expose the
government's lies spoken in parliament relating to Shastri's death. The Soviet Union has ceased to exist. Which foreign relations could be harmed?
The circumstances surrounding Shastri's death in Tashkent created national controversy. Shastri was a heart patient. His widow, Lalita Shastri, had alleged that he was poisoned. After sipping some water at midnight brought by a staffer he became unconscious and died. There already was a flask of water kept by his table. The Soviet government arrested the Russian butler attending him on suspicion of poisoning but later absolved him. Shastri's meals were prepared by Indian Ambassador TN Kaul's personal cook. No post-mortem of the death was conducted in the Soviet Union. Questions were raised in parliament by several opposition leaders including Ram Manohar Lohia, but the government continued to stonewall. After Shastri's death there was widespread expectation that Defence Minister YB Chavan would succeed him. Surprisingly, Indira Gandhi, a fledgling Information and Broadcasting Minister, became the PM.
During Indira Gandhi's 15 years of turbulent rule, the Bangladesh war occurred, the sell-out in the Simla Summit was enacted, the LTTE was created, the fraudulent Emergency was imposed and Operation Blue Star against the Golden Temple was launched. Near the end of her tenure, her younger son Sanjay acquired a dominant role. He too died in a mysterious plane crash. The mandatory judicial inquiry into the crash by the Commission led by Justice ML Jain was aborted under orders of Indira Gandhi. The crash was not allowed to be investigated. Her elder son, Rajiv, entered politics and took Sanjay's place.
Later, Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh guard. Her assassin was shot dead in cold blood around forty minutes after he had laid down his weapon and surrendered. No inquiry was lodged about who gave the order to murder him. No action was taken against the killing which silenced the assassin. Justice Thakkar who probed the event concluded that a separate Commission of Inquiry be appointed to investigate the conspiracy behind the assassination. He wrote that "the needle of suspicion" pointed against RK Dhawan who was Indira Gandhi's aide and who stood closest to her when she died.
To achieve closure of the case, an inquiry into the conspiracy was conducted. Kehar Singh was found guilty of conspiring to kill the PM although there was not a shred of evidence against him. Ram Jethmalani who defended Kehar Singh requested me to write an article exposing the scandalous judgment. I did write an article on the subject in The Indian Express. Later, in an unprecedented move the Supreme Court, tortured by pangs of guilty conscience perhaps, wrote to the President advising him to virtually ignore its judgment and exercise his prerogative to pardon Kehar Singh. That was not done. Kehar Singh, an innocent man, was allowed to hang in order to achieve closure of the case.
Immediately after Indira's assassination the general election was due. During the poll Doordarshan repeatedly telecast the scene of Indira's dead body surrounded by her party supporters chanting "Blood in reply to blood! [Khoon kaa badlaa Khoon]" The mass hysteria helped novice Rajiv Gandhi win the largest parliamentary majority in the history of India, far exceeding what his mother or grandfather ever obtained.
Later, Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated. His death too had unexplained mysteries. It has yet not been explained by which conduits the LTTE suicide bomber succeeded in penetrating Congress circles to commit the murder. The suicide bomber was the tenant in a house owned by a Congress leader and was accompanied to the scene of the crime by the Congress leader's daughter.
The death of Subhash Bose therefore was only the first among a series of mysterious deaths of national leaders that created dramatic change in politics. Inconvenient questions raised about the deaths are rubbished as conspiracy theories. In truth, there is only one monstrous conspiracy in which the politicians, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the media -- in fact members of the entire corrupt and contemptible ruling class -- are involved. And that is the conspiracy of silence. It has allowed the full truth to be buried without relevant questions being satisfactorily explained.
The full truth about a host of scandals -- including Bofors case, Jain Hawala case, HDW Submarines case, Babri Masjid demolition case, Volker case -- has never come out. The full truth about the damaging allegation, made by a member of the Soviet Commission that probed the KGB, against Sonia Gandhi's family, naming her mother and son, of receiving KGB funds has never been contested either by the government or by the Congress party. The payments were allegedly made since 1971 when Rahul would have been just one year old. An official spokesman of the Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure and defended it as necessary for "Soviet ideological interest". The Hindu of July 4, 1992 published this report. But the Indian government remains silent. So we will never know the whole truth. To change this state of affairs should not the government for a start declassify every archival document after 30 years have elapsed? Otherwise nothing will change. We will always co-exist with half-truth.