Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination turned the tide of history, impacted lives and continues to engage politicians, bureaucrats and investigators. Former Rajiv aide R D Pradhan’s revelation in his book ‘My years with Rajiv and Sonia’ that a ‘mole’ from the LTTE had found refuge in 10 Janpath, the official residence of the Gandhi family, is the latest in a long series of sensational claims on the assassination. “Pradhan’s disclosure is no surprise. The LTTE had a high level of penetration in India, among leaders in Tamil Nadu and perhaps Delhi,” points out retired Col R Hariharan, former military intelligence officer involved in the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka.
In his book ‘Conspiracy to kill Rajiv Gandhi’, CBI’s chief investigator in the case K Ragothaman says then RAW chief Gauri Shankar Bajpai had admitted that Colonel Kittu (Sathasivam Krishnakumar), the LTTE commander, was India’s mole in the militant outfit.
Ragothaman alleges that soon after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) convened by then Prime Minister Chandrasekhar, Bajpai had vehemently denied the possibility of the LTTE’s role in the killing. “On the early morning of May 22, Prime Minister Chandrasekhar convened a meeting of CCPA, in which RAW chief G S Bajpai and IB director M K Narayanan were also present … It is reported that Subramaniam Swamy had said it could be LTTE … the chief of RAW vehemently pleaded that it was not LTTE.”
Ragothman says in his book that Bajpai told Chandrasekhar that ‘Kittu of LTTE was their mole’. But Ragothaman feels the arrangement may have even worked to LTTE’s advantage. “Kittu could never be a mole as he was the right-hand man of Prabhakaran. I only admire how Kittu was clever enough to keep the RAW chief as his mole,” says Ragothaman in his book, suggesting that Indian intelligence may have been deceived in the bargain.
According to him, few knew about Rajiv’s Sriperumbudur halt as the original itinerary prepared on May 13, 1991, by Congress leader Margaret Alva, his tour manager, did not include the town. The change in Rajiv’s poll itinerary to include Sriperumbudur was made at the last minute after Maragatham Chandrasekar, who was the party candidate there, urged him to campaign for her. Rajiv had jotted down in his own writing on the change in itinerary, ‘Include Aunty’s (as Maragatham was called by the Gandhis) constituency also, but only for a day’, Ragothaman told TOI.
Experts point out that in the shadowy world of espionage, while spymasters develop ‘assets’ or ‘moles’ for tactical gains, it often works as a symbiotic relationship involving trading of information or resources. A senior officer, closely associated with the Rajiv case, said that ‘quid pro quo’ arrangements and exchange of information was not unheard of in intelligence circles to keep abreast on policy directions and internal security issues. But how LTTE managed to catch India’s security establishment completely off-guard remains the unanswered mystery.
The indictment of governments, politicians and police by two commissions — Justice J S Verma constituted a week after Rajiv’s assassination to probe security lapses and Justice Milap Chand Jain to look into circumstances of and the conspiracy angle — remain on paper.
While the Jain Commission held M Karunanidhi and his DMK responsible for facilitating an atmosphere conducive to Rajiv’s murderers, it also blamed former PMs V P Singh and Chandrasekhar for failing to assess the threat perception. The Verma commission hauled up the Centre, Tamil Nadu police and the Congress for lapses that facilitated the assassination. (TOI)