Rajiv’s death – a revisit

Updated - May 19, 2016 10:24 am IST

Published - March 21, 2014 02:24 pm IST - Chennai

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on February 18 commuted(reduction of legal penalties ) the death sentences of three convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case - Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan - to life, citing inordinate delay (11 years) in deciding on their mercy petition. The court left it open for the Tamil Nadu government to grant remission to the convicts under provisions given in Criminal Procedure Code.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced that the seven convicts who had a role in the assassination, would be released. She gave the Centre three days time to give its views. Her decision was widely criticised and the Supreme Court on February 20 restrained the release.

What happened on May 21, 1991?

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on election campaign on the fateful day at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

Before the start of the meeting at 10 p.m., a woman approached Rajiv Gandhi and bent down to touch his feet and detonated an RDX explosives tucked under her dress. The explosion killed Rajiv Gandhi, his assassin and at least 25 other people. The woman was later found to be Thanu, a member of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

Who are the seven convicts?

Santhanwas a member of the intelligence wing of the LTTE.

Naliniis the wife of Murugan, another convict in the case. Nalini hosted two women (Thanu and Suba) who were brought from Sri Lanka to carry out the attack. She accompanied the team to the Sriperumpudur rally. Nalini, later, delivered off a baby girl while in prison.

Murugan, a member of the LTTE, was part of the 'suicide squad'.

AG Perarivalanwas allegedly involved in getting the equipment for the bomb.

Robert Piousis one of the key planners in the assassination.

Jayakumar,brother-in-law of Pious, arranged for a house in Tamil Nadu where the other accused prepared the plan for the assassination.

Ravichandran, a Sri Lankan national, set up a travel agency and bought a vehicle that was used by LTTE cadre.

Why was Rajiv Gandhi killed?

Investigations revealed that Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE members. They apparently sought revenge against him for sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka in 1987.

Sri Lankan Tamils allegedly suffered atrocities at the hands of IPKF personnel.

What’s IPKF?

Sri Lanka had been in civil war (between LTTE and Sri Lankan military) since the early 1980s. Native Tamil minority in Sri Lanka felt discriminated in the Sinhalese majority government after independence in 1948.

LTTE, a separatist militant organisation, was founded by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, which started agitating for a separate Tamil homeland, Tamil Eelam.

In an endeavour to help the neighbouring government, Rajiv Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord with the then PresidentJ. R. Jayewardene, in 1987 to end the Sri Lankan Civil War.

Under the accord, Indian Peace Keeping Force, anIndian military contingent, was sent forpeacekeeping operation inSri Lanka between 1987 and 1990. The main task of the IPKF was to disarm the different militant groups. But it got involved in conflict with the LTTE to enforce peace. The IPKF launched a number of combat operations aimed at destroying the LTTE-led insurgency.

How has Rajiv assassination case developed?

A Special Investigation Team under the CBI confirmed the role of LTTE in 1992. Trial, conducted by TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) Court in 1998, awarded death sentences to26 accused in the case. The Supreme Court confirmed capital punishment to Murugan, Santhan, AG Perarivalan and Nalini. It commuted death of three to life and freed 19. The convicts on death row appealed for clemency. After Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, Nalini’s sentence was commuted to life in 2000. In 2011, the President rejected clemency petitions of the trio. The Madras High Court stayed the execution. Petitions were transferred to the Supreme Court. On February 18, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence on grounds of delay in disposing off their mercy pleas.

Which Tamil political party has been accused of supporting LTTE in the assassination?

A report by Justice Milap Chand Jain indicted Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for providing sanctuary to the LTTE, which it said has helped militants plot the crime.

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