The episode starts with the infamous pictures of the final moments of Rajiv’s life, showing his entry into the rally and assassin Dhanu approaching him. We are then taken into a flashback, explaining the events which led to Rajiv Gandhi losing his life.
The Story Unfolds
Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, attained freedom one year after India in 1948. In 1960, a new Constitution was enforced in Sri Lanka. In the Constitution, the name Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka, Buddhism was made the official religion and Sinhalese made the official language. This was regarded as a major discriminating move against the Tamils, who were divided into two groups: the Sri Lankan Tamils, who were the original Tamil natives of Sri Lanka, and the Indian Tamils, who were Indians taken from Tamil Nadu as laborers in Sri Lanka, and had stayed there. The enforcement of the new constitution led to major protest all over Sri Lanka, especially in the North and East, where the Tamil population was strong. The Tamils faced major problems in communication and admission. The then President Bhandarnayike also introduced a quota for Sinhalese, which gave them an edge over Tamils in terms of jobs and admissions to institutions.
As a result of this protest, many violent groups were formed, having the belief that violence and repression was the only way that the Government would heed to their demands of a separate Tamil Elam (country). The Indian Army secretly intruded and provided training in arms and ammunition to groups like Tamil Elam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).
As a part of its efforts to prevent the separation of Sri Lanka and political negotiations, a special unit of the Indian Army called the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed in Sri Lanka. Its aim was not to enter directly into the civil war, but to help prevent it. In July 1983, 13 India Soldiers were killed by LTTE rebels by ‘necklacing’. This resulted in mass anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka, which led to the death of thousands of Tamils. LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran was invited to a conference to be attended by the Sri Lankan Army, IPKF and the Government’s representatives for negotiations. An interview of the IPKF Chief is shown, in which he claims that the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka had ordered him to either arrest Prabhakaran, or to kill him, an order that he subsequently denied. The conference was a success, and the Indian Army was ordered to move out to Sri Lanka.
Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka
By 1987, the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President JR Jayawardane reach a peace treaty, which is opposed by Prabhakaran, who would settle for nothing less than a separate Elam, but on being persuaded by Rajiv, agrees to it. The treaty is made, but news of major civil rights violations continues. In 1991, the election in India is around the corner and the LTTE is afraid that if Rajiv Gandhi is elected back to power, it will lead to a major crackdown upon them. They plan to assassinate him in a rally in Sriperumbudur. They send in a team of four people, including a photographer and Dhanu, the main assassin. As Dhanu bends as if to take blessing of Rajiv, she presses a button on her belt, and a huge bomb goes off killing Rajiv Gandhi and 20 others.
This is the worst part of the episode, since it is shown as a dramatic narration by the news anchors of the channel. The rest of the episode is excellent, very documentary-like, but still dramatic enough and decent enough for it not to pass as one. Shekhar Kapur is excellent as usual, and this episode too reveals the unknown about one of the most told political stories of India.
By Vishesh Kashyap
Image Source: Rahul Gandhi for PM@Facebook