Photographer's Note

The Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, located in New Delhi at 1 Safdarjung houses the remains of the dress worn by Rajiv Gandhi,the seventh Prime Minister of India, during his assassination.

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi took place in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, India on 21 May 1991. It was one of the first uses of suicide bombing for the purposes of political terror.[citation needed] At least 14 others were also killed.

Rajiv Gandhi's assassination was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, a female member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At the time India was embroiled, through the Indian Peace Keeping Force, in the Sri Lankan Civil War.

Subsequent accusations of conspiracy have been addressed by two commissions of inquiry, and have brought down at least one national government. The LTTE has denied responsibility.

Rajiv Gandhi's last public meeting was on 21 May, 1991, in Sriperumbudur, a town approximately 30 miles from Chennai, where he was assassinated while campaigning for the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha Congress candidate Mrs Maragatham Chandrasekhar in Tamil Nadu. [2] The assassination was carried out by the LTTE suicide bomber Thenmozhi Rajaratnam also known as Dhanu. Later, the real name of the suicide bomber came to be known as Gayatri.

Rajiv Gandhi had arrived at Chennai about two hours earlier and then was driven by motorcade in a white Ambassador car to Sriperumbudur, stopping along the way at a few other election campaigning venues. During the drive to Sriperumbudur, he was accompanied by a foreign journalist who interviewed him in the car. When he reached the venue at Sriperumbudur, he got out of his car and began to walk inside towards the dais where he would deliver his speech. Along the way, he was garlanded by many well wishers, Congress party workers and school children. At 10:10 p.m., the assassin Dhanu approached him and greeted the former Prime Minister. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated an RDX explosive laden belt tucked below her dress. The former Prime Minister along with many others were killed in the explosion that followed. The assassination was caught on film through the lens of a local photographer, whose camera and film was found from the site. The cameraman himself also died in the blast.

Seven pillars, each featuring a human value surrounds the site of the blast, at the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial in Sriperumbudur.

The Rajiv Gandhi Memorial was built at the site and is one of the major tourist attractions to the small industrial town.

As per the Supreme Court of India judgment, by Judge Thomas, the killing was carried out due to personal animosity of the LTTE chief Prabhakaran towards Rajiv Gandhi. However, it should be noted that the Rajiv Gandhi administration had already antagonised other Tamil militant organisations like PLOTE for reversing the military coup in Maldives back in 1988.

The judgement further cites the death of Thileepan in a hunger strike and the suicide by 12 LTTE cadres in a vessel in October 1987. The judgment while convicting the accused, four of them to death and others to various jail terms, states that absolutely no evidence existed that any one of the conspirators ever desired the death of any Indian other than Rajiv Gandhi, though several people were killed. Judge Wadhwa further states there is nothing on record to show that the intention to kill Rajiv Gandhi was to overawe the Government. Hence it was held that it was not a terrorist act under TADA (Act).Judge Thomas further states that conspiracy was hatched in stages commencing from 1987 and that it spanned several years. The Special Investigation team of India's premier special investigation agency CBI was not able to pinpoint when the decision to kill Rajiv Gandhi was taken.

The trial was conducted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). The designated TADA court in Chennai gave death sentences to all the 26 accused. This created a storm in India. Legal experts were stunned.Human rights groups protested as the trial did not meet standards of a free trial. The trial was held behind closed doors, in camera courts, and the non-disclosure of identity of witnesses was maintained. Ms A. Athirai, an accused, was only 17 years when she was arrested. Under TADA an accused can appeal only to the Supreme Court. Appeal to the High Court is not allowed as in normal law. Confessions given by the accused to the Superintendent of Police are taken as evidence against the accused under TADA. Under TADA the accused could be convicted on the basis of evidence that would have been insufficient for conviction by an ordinary court under normal Indian law. In the Rajiv Gandhi case confessions by accused formed a major part of the evidence in the judgement against them which they later claimed was taken under duress.On appeal to the Supreme Court, only four of the accused were sentenced to death and the others to various jail terms.

In the Jain report, various people and agencies are named as suspected of having been involved in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. Among them, the cleric Chandraswami was suspected of involvement, including financing the assassination. One of the accused, Ranganath, said Chandraswami was the godfather who financed the killing. Sikh Militants were also suspected.The interim report of the Jain Commission created a storm when it accused Karunanidhi and the Tamils of a role in the assassination, leading to Congress withdrawing its support for the I. K. Gujral government and fresh elections in 1998. It is a notable mention that the current Congress government led by Sonia Gandhi, wife of Rajiv Gandhi has Karunanidhi as one of its allies. In 2006, LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham told the Indian television channel NDTV that the killing was a "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy which we deeply regret.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Poulami Bhattacharya (Poulami) Silver Note Writer [C: 4 W: 0 N: 22] (242)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2008-10-19
  • Categories: Ruins
  • Exposure: f/2.8, 1/30 seconds
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  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2009-04-20 7:48
Viewed: 31411
Points: 2
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Additional Photos by Poulami Bhattacharya (Poulami) Silver Note Writer [C: 4 W: 0 N: 22] (242)
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