The Truth Behind The ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri Death’ Episode

by Giz TimesJuly 12, 2015

What’s The Truth Behind The ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri Death’ Episode ?Lal Bahadur Shastri. The name itself is enough to bring a myriad of images into any Indian’s mind. The second prime minister of republic India, he was as honest and candid in the world of politics, as no other leader has been. In the two years of his reign, the people loved him just as much as they were shocked by his sudden mysterious death in the foreign land of Tashkent, then a city under the Soviet Union. A report by the doctors appointed said he died of a cardiac arrest. But was it really a cardiac arrest that killed him or were some external forces at work?


After the war of 1965 between India and Pakistan, the prime minister was forced to visit Tashkent, USSR, by the Congress high command. This visit was aimed at bringing about peace between the two nations by signing a pact with the Pakistani president, Muhammad Ayub Khan. Taking the trip against his wishes, Lal Bahadur Shastri was able sign the Tashkent pact with Pakistan on 11th January, 1966. But this turned out to be his last trip and indeed the last pact he signed since he died that very night. While both the governments confirmed the cause of death a heart attack, all the circumstances pointed to a well planned murder.


While no one knows what really happened that night, speculations have been in the air since. Residing in an isolated place, lacking even the bare necessities like a telephone, a ring bell, and medical facilities; Shastri was completely isolated on the night of his death. Some even claim that this isolation was all part of a design, to isolate him and then kill him with no witnesses around. The Russian butler put to his care that night, reported after his death that Shastri ate his dinner and went straight to bed after that. The butler was taken into custody, but was cleared of all charges after a while. His body was brought back to India for funeral rites, but no post mortem was conducted. What caused the Indian government to so neglect the prime minister, is still a matter of great debate.


While, some reports of the home ministry say that the ministry of external affairs claimed that no post mortem was performed even in the USSR, there are no records with the Delhi police either. This is death was the first time in the history of the modern world that the head of the government of a country had died in another. Yet no evidences answering any of the questions raised by the untimely death were ever provided, although allegations have been made against another former prime minister, Indira Gandhi. It is said that she may have been the one who conspired against Shastri, since she was a direct beneficiary of the death. With him out of the picture, she could direct free reign over the country without any opposition or resistance from within the party.

Lal Bahadur Shastri Death

Lal Bahadur Shastri Death

Kuldip Nayar, Shastri’s media adviser from the year 1960 to 1964, filed an RTI after his death demanding the government to investigate the real cause of death. While no revelations were made by the government, Nayar laid bare another evidence hinting at foul play. He told the media that one look at the body and purplish blue scars it bore, made Shastri’s mother exclaim in despair and say that her son had been poisoned. Even his son, Sunil Shastri, presently a BJP leader has recently said, that he had seen cut marks on his father’s abdomen. This statement raises a new string of questions, all leading us back to the post-mortem on the body. If the reports by a joint team of doctors from both India and USSR are to be believed, no post-mortem was ever performed. But if no post-mortem was performed, how did these cut marks appear on the prime minister’s body? Had he really been poisoned through his dinner, that was served to him by his Russian butler? Was a post-mortem performed in the USSR, but the reports that might have revealed the truth, kept hidden?


Was it really Indira Gandhi, who for her own personal benefit had eliminated Shastri? Or was it someone else who had killed the simplest politician that the world ever saw? In 2013, a new report from Russia and India said, “proponents see the hand of Moscow in the incident”. The report also claimed that the USSR was unhappy with Nehru’s policy of non- alignment which Shastri religiously adhered to. He had even intended to bring more loyal forces to power in India. This allegedly went against the USSR’s policies and hence they had planned the murder.


The UPA government till date has avoided all discussions on the topic. But now with BJP in power, the topic is being brought up again for investigation. Sunil Shastri, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son,has now appealed to the prime minister Narendra Modi to declassify all the files related to the death. He has been quoted saying, “wherever I go, everyone asks me what happened to Shastriji” he had earlier made three similar attempts to the Manmohan Singh government but no attempts were made for investigation. Whoever approached the government on the matter was shut down with a reply almost by rote. The government always said, “PMO has cited exemption from disclosure on the plea that it could harm foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and cause a breach of parliamentary privilege.” Why the matter is being dealt with such secrecy, is a question everyone has been seeking an answer to.


All these speculations will just remain theories unless confirmed reports of the death come out. Will the new government be able to uncover these truths? Or will the guesswork continue? Who is really at fault, the Russian butler on the provocation of Mrs InDira Gandhi or the disgruntled Moscow? Or was it just ill heath taking a toll on his life at the wrong, unpredictable time?

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