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Political game around demand to release Rajiv Gandhi killers: Govt of India in dilemma

By NS Venkataraman*

In 1991, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was murdered at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, while he was there to address a public meeting. He was killed by a woman suicide bomber, who belonged to the terrorist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and she was also killed. Along with Rajiv Gandhi, another fourteen innocent persons were killed in the explosion and more than 40 people were injured.
The investigation of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi revealed that it was done by LTTE terrorists, who tried to escape. However, police identified them and caught them and took them into custody. After prolonged court hearing, the judiciary convicted seven terrorists including a woman and her husband and ordered that they should undergo life imprisonment.
In any other country, when such an important functionary such as a former Prime Minister would be murdered and the murderers would be caught, they would have been hanged. In the case of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, her security guards who were murderers were subjected to death sentence and were hanged. However, this has not happened in the case of Rajiv Gandhi murderers. All the convicted persons have been in jail since then.
The daughter of Rajiv Gandhi met the convicted lady prisoner in jail in Vellore in Tamil Nadu and later on pleaded that the convicted person should be released from the jail. Many wondered, the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi appeared to have forgotten that Rajiv Gandhi was not only her father but also was former Prime Minister of India. Therefore, her plea for the release of the convict was not accepted by the government.
In Tamil Nadu, from the day of murder of Rajiv Gandhi, some political parties and activists have been viewing the convicted persons as heroes and not as murderers. They have been described as heroes, since they were fighting for an independent Tamil country in Sri Lanka. 
They further seem to think that murder of Rajiv Gandhi was because Rajiv Gandhi sent Indian troops to fight against the LTTE militants. According to these politicians and activists, the murder of Rajiv Gandhi was for the cause of Tamils.
Rajiv Gandhi murderers in prison have been receiving undeserving publicity in media in Tamil Nadu and campaign has been continuously carried out that they should be released from prison, in spite of their being involved in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi.
As a matter of fact, these convicted persons in prison have been in and out of jail several times on parole due to one reason or the other. The husband and wife in prison have also come out on parole many times and the lady has delivered a girl child, who is now married and said to be living abroad.
While clamour for release of the prisoners is becoming an election issue, Tamil Nadu govt is trying to wriggle out of controversy
While some politicians and activists are demanding the release of the convicts, the fact is that family members of number of innocent persons, including policemen and public who died along with Rajiv Gandhi in explosion, have been repeatedly stating that those involved in the murder should not be released. But their voice is not much heard and not publicized in Tamil media, which is now largely run by political parties and business houses.
There is also a view that release of these convicts who were charged with very serious offense of deliberately associating themselves with the murder of the former Prime Minister of India, would set a bad signal that anyone can get away in this country even after indulging in very grave act , if they would enjoy political patronage due to one reason or other.
While the clamour for release of the prisoners is now becoming an election issue in Tamil Nadu, the state government is trying to wriggle away stating that the ball is in the court of the Central government. While the issue has been taken to the judiciary, the Supreme Court has said that the Governor of the state should take a decision within a stipulated time.
The Tamil Nadu governor is facing a dilemma. If he would decide that the prisoners should not be released, then he would become the target of criticism by some political parties and activists and even violent demonstrations may happen against him.
In this explosive situation, the reason has gone for a toss in Tamil Nadu now and the whole issue has become a subject of vote bank politics.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived

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