I am not a film reviewer; nor is this piece a review of the film ‘Madras Café’ that I watched recently.
But it would be well worth the time and attention of the Firstpost readers to know my thoughts as this film focuses on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the ethnic conflict of Sri Lanka that ravaged the island nation for over a quarter century till Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was militarily decimated by the Sri Lankan troops in May 2009.
I first need to briefly explain my credentials. Though I hate to blow my own trumpet, it is essential first to establish my locus standi for writing this.
As a correspondent of the United News of India (UNI), I had the privilege of covering the entire gamut of events right from around 11 pm of 21 May, 1991 when I was called by my office to immediately report for duty when the news of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination broke out. From then on, for years I covered the Rajiv Gandhi assassination – in parliament, outside parliament, investigations by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and every single hearing of first the Verma Commission of Inquiry (that probed the security lapses leading to the assassination) and then the Jain Commission of Inquiry (that probed the conspiracy aspects of the assassination and held hearings for almost five years).
I have the privilege of reporting for UNI the proceedings of every single hearing of the Verma Commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge and now late JS Verma, and the Jain Commission, headed by Justice Milap Chand Jain, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court.
Simultaneously, I also did lot of investigative stories on the SIT investigations into the case. For over five years, my sole occupation, nay obsession, was reporting on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and interacted with investigators, intelligence officials, lawyers, judges and politicians virtually on a daily basis.
As a result, I acquired a treasure trove of classified information, data and documents which I used in the form of a book. I wrote an investigative book called “Beyond the Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination” in 1996. Though the manuscript was ready in about six months in 1996, I could not get it published until 1998 till the trial court’s verdict came out. Kaveri Books, Daryaganj, New Delhi, published the book in 1998.
Lawyers, judges, police officials, bureaucrats and investigators who have been associated with the Rajiv assassination case have maintained that this was, and still is, the only investigative, credible book on the subject.
It is against this backdrop that my humble comments on ‘Madras Café’ should be seen and adjudged.
First of all, John Abraham must be saluted for co-producing ‘Madras Café’. He has broken new grounds in taking up a bold subject and charted a territory in mainline cinema where several other producers tried several times but failed to come up with a film on the subject. With ‘Madras Café’ Abraham has immortalized himself in Bollywood and his name will remain alive for the posterity for serious students and practitioners of Indian cinema.
But I am afraid my praise for John Abraham and ‘Madras Café’ stops here only. Here is why.
‘Madras Café’ is a big letdown; not because of Abraham but because of Shoojit Sircar, the director. Sircar emerges as a headless chicken of a director who is out of depth in dealing with the subject. It is the work of a confused director who has tried to chew too much. Sircar packed his directorial plate with too many things without doing full justice to any.
Sircar has not been able to make up his mind whether his focus is Sri Lankan ethnic conflict or Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination itself. The film meanders on like a documentary, with fictional interpolations here and there, as it focuses on the ethnic conflict.
This is despite the fact that the second scene of John Abraham, which comes within the first few minutes of the film, conveys a feeling that the film’s sharp focus will be on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. And yet, the assassination itself takes up barely 15-20 minutes of the film.
The choice of Sircar in starting the film in a flashback format in Kasauli with an alcoholic Abraham is inexplicable. More so, when the viewer prepares himself/herself to be plunged into the mysteries and intricacies of the murder of a former Prime Minister, but is instead treated to a convoluted, confused, meandering plot revolving around the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict and fictional scenes showing how the station head of RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), drunk literally as well as with power, is making things difficult for the hero.
The USP of ‘Madras Café’, according to the rave reviews it has received from respectable media houses, is that it is impeccably researched. Well, my judgment goes to the other end of the spectrum. The film’s researchers did not do their job well considering the fact that they were in an once-in-a-lifetime situation to do a ‘Mother India’ or ‘Sholay’ of a different genre.
I can quote many examples where the film displays ignorance of rudimentary facts, even though the producers have done well by coming up with a caveat at the start of the film that this film is fictional. But even if it is fictional – while the filmmakers have left nothing in doubt what the whole film is about – it should stick to facts when real-life organizations and events are being portrayed.
For example, in the first few scenes of a high-level official meeting – actually very well done and choreographed – the nameplate before one of the speakers shows as “Director, RAW”. There is no such designation in RAW. IB and CBI have their heads designated as directors. The RAW chief’s designation is ‘Secretary’. If the director was under instructions not to use the correct designation of the RAW chief, then he should have shown half the nameplate or shown him as being addressed as "RAW Chief".
But to be fair to Sircar and the acumen he has demonstrated through his earlier films, it is highly unlikely that he did not understand which one was the more important theme: Rajiv assassination or Sri Lankan conflict. Probably he was told by the producers (John Abraham is one of many) that delving too much into the Rajiv Gandhi case would neither be politically correct nor desirable.
If this is indeed the scenario, then I would take back all my criticism against Shoojit Sircar. This is because at least three Bollywood producers established contact with me in past four years for making a film on Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination but later chickened out as they found the political turf to be blazing hot.
There are vested interests, within the Congress and outside, which do not want a syllable to be uttered about Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. It is amazing that a nation of 1.2 billion people does not have interest in knowing who killed its former Prime Minister.
Hollywood flick “JFK”, directed by Oliver Stone and screened in 1991, the year of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, produced a miracle. It forced a re-investigation into the assassination of John F Kennedy, the then President of the US.
John Abraham and Shoojit Sircar had a whale of a chance to do a “JFK” in the Indian context in their venture called ‘Madras Café’. Their film will just remain a film, a commercial project, and not a national revolution.
What a pity! The filmmakers were so close to it and yet missed this milestone.
While I end here, please allow me to give you a peep into the Prologue of my book “Beyond the Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination” (Kaveri Books, 1998). Everybody, from ordinary readers to filmmakers, will do well to read this.
Several “fishing” speedboats surrounded an anchored ship in the high seas in Bay of Bengal in March 1990. Jaffna was not very far. The ship’s more important cargo was transferred to the speedboats, after which the “fishermen” sped towards Jaffna .
The cargo pickers had to come back for the next round of mid-sea transfer. The Sunbird had sailed again, only to stop a few nautical miles away after the “fishermen” on the speedboats flashed coded signals.
Even in the high seas, the Tamil-speaking “fishermen” could not take any risk. The clandestine offloading of cargo from the 100-tonne, 80-feet-long ship could be noticed and the vessel seized under international maritime laws.
That was what happened. Malaysian authorities intercepted Sunbird on suspicion and found it carrying wireless sets and other communication equipment instead of the declared cargo, timber. The vessel was seized, brought to Penang and the six-member crew interrogated.
Sunbird was one of the half a dozen-odd commercial vessels of the LTTE, considered the world’s deadliest and most sophisticated guerilla outfit. The ship normally transported timber, foodgrains and fertilisers, with packs of narcotics stashed in between. But this time, it had been carrying lethal explosive RDX , AK series of assault rifles, grenades, ammunition and communication equipment for the LTTE. It was the first major shipment of arms to the LTTE, which remained bogged down for over three years in armed confrontation - first with the Sri Lankan government which launched full-scale military offensive, “Operation Liberation,” in January 1987 to drive out the guerilla army; then with the IPKF which moved in the Tamil-dominated areas of the island nation in August 1987, and pulled out completely in March 1990.
Kumaran Padmanathan, LTTE’s most important man after Prabhakaran, had sent Sunbird on its clandestine mission. Padmanathan, better known as “KP” is the LTTE’s lifeline, its chief arms procurer, supplier and fund-raiser. Sunbird had originated from Cyprus and sailed via Singapore and Malaysia . Sunbird was kept docked at Penang harbour for six months. Following sustained grilling, the crew confessed that Sea Tigersthe LTTE’s naval arm- had emptied the ship of the deadlier component of its cargo. Before they could stow away the RDX, the grenades and the arms and ammunition, and return for the wireless sets, the ship had been intercepted.
The Malaysians had informed Colombo about the Sunbird. The Sri Lankans had not shown much interest. They did not send any extradition request for the detained crew. As there were no adverse implications of Sunbird for Malaysian national security, the vessel was released and the crew freed. Within no time, in keeping with the LTTE’s practice, Sunbird was rechristened, its registration number changed and its appearance altered beyond recognition. It still traverses international waters under a new identity.
Nobody wondered why the LTTE needed such a huge arsenal, brought by Sunbird. The newly installed government of president R Premadasa was negotiating peace with the LTTE and had invited it for talks. To demonstrate his good intentions, he had given the Tigers arms and ammunition-and also Rs 75 lakh in cash. Moreover, the IPKF pull-out was nearly complete.
Dhanu dropped the garland as she came face to face with Rajiv Gandhi.
She knelt down, ostensibly to pick up the garland, or touch Rajiv’s feet. Nano-seconds later, Sriperumbudur, the birth place of saint Ramanujam, was devastated by a deafening explosion. It was the night of May 21, 1991.
Dhanu never touched Raj iv’s feet. Perhaps, sparks were flying out of her cold eyes as she deliberately let the garland slip from her hands to kneel down to switch on her belt bomb. Perhaps, in the last few split seconds of his life, Rajiv felt uneasy by the steely gaze of the grotesquely dressed bespectacled young woman. Nobody knows.
Those who were standing close to Rajiv were immediately felled by the blast ; those who were not so close could in no way see the expressions on the faces of the predator and the prey. Scores of videos and still cameras covered Rajiv’s last public function, yet there was no last-minute footage of the night of the Tigers.
A fountain of orange and white light and thick smoke sprang from the blast zone. A white Ambassador sped away flashing its revolving red light. A private blue Ambassador followed seconds later. The blue car had screeched to a halt in the sterilised area at the back of the dais under a palm grove, minutes before Rajiv’s arrival. Its tinted glasses were rolled up as it left the assassination site.
“The job is done,” said a coded wireless message sent the same night from Madras to Base 14, the codename for LTTE supremo Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Base 14 also doubles up as the codename for his hideout.
The message was sent by Nero, wireless operator of the hit squad leader, Sivarasan. Scores of coded messages pertaining to Rajiv’s assassination were sent from the hide-out at Kodungaiyur, Madras , where Sivarasan alias Raghuvaran’s powerful wireless having a range of more than a thousand kilometres was hidden. A 60-feet-high antenna jutted out conspicuously from the hideout’s rooftop.
The Indian security agencies intercepted the message but could decode it only after several days.
Intelligence chief M K Narayanan was a harried man the night Rajiv died.
“Are you sure that Rajiv Gandhi is dead ? Or has he been hurt?”, the IB director asked N V Vatsan, IB’s joint director-in charge of Tamil Nadu, who first called to break the news.
“It is not yet clear, sir. Ten or twelve policemen have also died in the blast,” Vatsan informed.
Narayanan’s phone rang ceaselessly after 2225 hours that night. Tamil Nadu’s inspector general of police, R K Raghvan, a seasoned former IB man supervising security arrangements for Rajiv’s election meeting at Sriperumbudur that night, rang up the IB chief after Vatsan.
Chief election commissioner T N Seshan phoned to confirm whether Rajiv had indeed died in a bomb blast in Tamil Nadu. Seshan had been told about the assassination by an acquaintance who had rung up from the United States .
Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar rang up from Bhubaneswar , where he had gone for election campaigning. The DIB confirmed the “rumour” the PM had heard there. Shekhar cancelled his engagements to rush back to New Delhi .
For the next half an hour, Narayanan sat on his RAX phone. All important constitutional and government functionaries of the government had to be informed. All officers concerned were in their offices by 2300 hours.
President R Venkataraman, cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra, home secretary R K Bhargava, RAW chief Gauri Shankar Bajpai and others had been informed. The defence secretary, the three services chiefs, MI chief Lt General B M Khanna, the foreign secretary and CBI director Vijay Karan had already learnt about Rajiv’s assassination.
Narayanan rang up Rajiv’s top aide V George, who said he was trying to confirm the rumour. The assassination was confirmed to 10, Janpath around 2300 hours. Sonia and her daughter, Priyanka, were at home, while son Rahul was in the United States .
Top officials of the ministries of home, defence, external affairs, and the IB chief sat grimly in the Prime Minister’s South Block office past midnight. A crisis management group (CMG) meeting was in progress. The Prime Minister was presiding.
It is rare for the CMG meeting to be held in the PM’s office. Normally, such sessions are held in the office of the IB chief or home secretary. The CMG meets in situations of a national emergency or crisis, lists out the avenues available and then finally decides on the best option to set in motion the government’s response mechanism.
There is no fixed time schedule for holding of the CMG . As its name indicates, the CMG meet takes place only during a national emergency. This may happen twice a day or not even once a year.
In this case, the CMG had a gruelling task at hand. The participants did not know for sure what problems they were supposed to tackle. Because they did not know anything more than that Rajiv was killed in an explosion at an election meeting in Sriperumbudur. In police parlance, it was a blind murder. There were many theories and many suspects. Nobody had reported seeing the assassin or assassins. Nobody knew whether the killer was a male or a female. Nobody knew how the assassination took place. There was no crater on the ground, which ruled out the favourite theory of a landmine blast.
The million dollar question for the crisis managers was : did Rajiv assassination require a military response?
A special aircraft took off from New Delhi at around 0300 hours on May 22, 1991.
The Madras-bound eight-seater BSF plane had on board M K Narayanan, MI chief Lt General B M Khanna, RAW chief G S Bajpai and two joint directors of IB - the crack operations man Ajit Doval, who was in charge of all IB operations, and E S L Narasimhan, an expert on the LTTE.
The crisis managers were carefully picked. The emphasis was on finding out the possible involvement of a foreign power, and planning out various operations if the answer were to be a “yes”.
The immediate suspicion fell on Punjab terrorists and the LTTE, in that order, though at that time there was no evidence to prove either outfit’s involvement. Who killed Rajiv? How was he killed? There was no answer to these fundamental questions.
But the one big question that began intriguing India ’s crisis managers was whether the Sri Lankan government was in any way involved with the assassination. Did the Sri Lankan government engineer or support the assassination, or whether it had incited the assassins or connived with them?
An influential section of the Sri Lankan leadership had bitterly opposed Rajiv’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Colombo . In March 1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, visibly under pressure from the Tamil Nadu state government, had adopted aggressive postures to help Sri Lankan Tamils. Colombo had announced an embargo against the Tamildominated northern and north-eastern areas of the island nation. The decision had evoked a bitter response from the Indian Tamil community. In June 1987, Rajiv sent two Coast Guard flotellas with food and medicines for the Tamils in Sri Lanka . In a rare show of defiance, the Lankan navy did not allow the flottellas entry into their waters. Baulked by Colombo ’s show of strength, Rajiv sent a transport aircraft with fighter air cover to air-drop the relief material. The fighters flew over the Sri Lankan air base of Palaly near Jaffna . The Lankan air force had orders from president Junius Jayewardene not to retaliate. The air-dropping caused an uproar in Colombo ’s corridors of power. Prime minister R Premadasa accused Rajiv of interfering in Sri Lanka ’s internal affairs and browbeating a much smaller neighbour. To drive home the point, he absented himself from the signing ceremony of Indo-Sri Lanka Peace accord in Colombo in July 1987.
Later, when Premadasa became the Sri Lankan president he made it clear to Rajiv’s successor V P Singh that the IPKF had ( to pull out completely from Sri Lanka as it was an “occupational force”.
V P Singh could not agree more, but the withdrawal had to be in a phased manner or else those who supported the IPKF’s presence in Sri Lanka faced certain massacre at the hands of the LTTE. Premadasa was known to be in touch with the LTTE in the fond hope of winning it over diplomatically. In fact, intelligence reports suggested that when the IPKF’s phased withdrawal had begun, Premadasa, then the president, had supplied the guerillas with arms and ammunition to fight the IPKF if it were to return. New Delhi was in a quandary. What if the Sri Lankan government’s involvement in Rajiv’s assassination is borne out ? What if Premadasa colluded with Prabhakaran to get rid of Rajiv who was on a come-back trail in the ongoing general elections ? What if some other country was found to be actively behind the assassination? If answered in the affirmative, India would have had to exercise military option to salvage national honour. The entire southern coast had to be patrolled by navy and the coast guard personnel. Troops would be needed to be redeployed. Para-military forces, like the BSF would have to be withdrawn from terrorismhit states to back up. This would mean cancellation of elections in some states. All these questions had to be addressed to by the expert panel, led by Narayanan. The occupants of the aircraft had animated discussions during the four-hour-long flight. Lt Gen B M Khanna’s role was crucial. Investigation was not the objective of the expert panel, but to assess the need for a military response.
Laxmi, the librarian at the Indian High Commission in Colombo, had received a mysterious call nearly six hours before the assassination.
“Is Rajiv Gandhi dead,” the caller asked in chaste English. Laxmi, a Sri Lankan Tamil, asked the caller to identify himself, but he had already hung up. She took it as a prank and did not inform anyone about it, until the next day when she realised its importance.
Was the anonymous caller a friend or a foe ? Did he want to tip off Indian intellignece agencies about the coming event or was he a desperate conspirator or accomplice who wanted to check their secret mission’s progress ?
Another LTTE shipment of weapons and explosives reached Jaffna. It was five months after Rajiv’s assassination.
The same pattern was followed. Golden Bird, an LTTE ship, cast anchor in the high seas off Bay of Bengal some time in September-October, 1991. The vessel, of the same size and tonnage as Sunbird, had originated in Greece . This time the Tigers were more lucky. The Sea Tigers’ speedboats transferred the entire cargo of RDX, ammunition and anti-aircraft guns from the ship to their speedboats and sped away to Jaffna .
It was yet again the unfailing KP at work. KP’s movements are interesting and may illuminate the dark areas of the international conspiracy behind Rajiv’s assassination. He was in Cyprus before the assassination, making arrangements for the Golden Bird shipment. But after Rajiv was killed, he shifted base to Karachi , the bustling Pakistani port city, from where he operated for quite some time.
KP has a Pakistani passport. There are reports of his hobnobbing with the Pakistani secret service, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Two months before the Golden Bird incident, there was another development. Another LTTE-owned vessel, Tong Nova, was seized in a dramatic fashion in the Bay of Bengal , about a hundred nautical miles from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
The 60-feet-long vessel, larger than a trawler but smaller than a ship, with a large boat by its side, were sighted by a reconnaisance plane of the Indian navy in the evening. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination had taken place about two months ago and surveillance in the coastal areas and high seas had been stepped up. The naval plane radioed a command to Tong Nova to identify itself, but the crew did not respond. The reconnaisance plane then informed its base at Vizag of the two unidentified vessels and gave their latitude-longitude. The information was passed on to the nearest naval base at Rameswaram, with instructions to immediately send an armed patrol vessel to investigate.
Though an armed patrol vessel can sail at 22 nautical miles an hour, more than double the speed of a cargo ship, it could reach the spot only the next morning. The boat had been sunk by the Tigers by that time and only a small portion of it was visible above water. Tong Nova was seized and brought to Rameswaram.
There was a strong suspicion that the seized vessel was carrying arms and explosives. The vessel had originated in Cyprus and had been booked by none other than KP. What is more, K P was among the crew members to have been chargesheeted in the case. KP, who owns a chain of shipping companies in different countries, and was also found to be the owner of Tong Nova, was charged with illegally procuring arms.
The arrested crew feigned total ignorance about the cargo they had loaded, repeatedly telling their interrogators they had no clue about what the boxes contained. The accused were asked some searching questions. What was the size of boxes? Did they receive any specific instruction to keep some boxes in sunlight, away from fire and some wrapped in polythene and away from water? Explosives have to be kept away from fire and ammunition from water. Where were the boxes lying when they were loaded? Were they lying hidden somewhere or were these loaded mid-sea? Who supervised the loading operation?
It was only after several days’ grilling could it be reasonably established that Tong Nova had brought an arsenal of arms which might have been transferred to the Sea Tigers’ speedboats before the vessel was seized.
The LTTE’s biggest arms consignment, and perhaps the biggest-ever obtained by any terrorist organisation in the world, was yet to arrive. The consignments brought by Sunbird and Golden Bird were peanuts compared to that brought by M V Swanee in August 1994. The vessel, which originated in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Nikolayev , carried 50 tons of TNT and 10 tons of RDX explosives.
In keeping with the usual LTTE tactics, the vessel’s name was changed by the time it approached Jaffna . The Sea Tigers swung into action, offloading the cargo mid-sea and transferring it to some of the numerous jungle bases the LTTE has for the purpose. The end-user certificate for the shipment had been purportedly signed by Bangladesh ’s defence secretary. The consignment, arranged by a Dhaka-based front company of the LTTE, was required by the Bangladesh military, the end-user certificate said. M V Swaneewas actually the Golden Bird.
Yet another arms consignment of the LTTE was brought in the Bay of Bengal in January 1993, but it proved to be the biggest maritime disaster for the Tigers. The 80-feet-long 100-ton capacity MV Yahata left France in October 1992. It was flying the Honduran flag. The Tigers changed its name as it reached the Bay of Bengal . They did not undertake any elaborate method, and simply painted over the first and last alphabet of “Yahata”, so it read, M VAhat.
RAW received a tip-off of an LTTE ship setting sail for Jaffna with a cargo of arms and ammunition. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, it had begun using submarines to monitor traffic at particular ports in south-east Asia where LTTE vessels docked regularly. The day the ship left the Thai port of Phuket , RAW had point-specific intelligence about the consignment. The Indian navy intercepted it on January 13, 1993, about 700 kms off Madras harbour. LTTE’s key man, Kittu alias Krishnakumar Sathasivam, the former Jafna commander and later the Tigers’ London-based international spokesman, was commanding the ship.
The Tigers kept dumping explosives into the sea during the three-day journey from the high seas to Madras harbour. Indian navy personnel, who were escorting M V Ahat, were helpless bystanders. The Tigers threatened to explode the ship if the Indian navy were to do something drastic. MV Ahat was finally blown up by Kittu when it was about ten kms away from the Madras harbour. There were 18 people on board. Nine of them, who tried to escape just before the ship was detonated, were arrested. Three charred bodies were found on the deck of the vessel. Six bodies could not be traced at all.
More than Rs 10 crore were spent on investigation and salvage operation which yielded nothing. A Tamil Nadu court acquitted all nine accused in the case in 1996 for lack of evidence. The court also directed the authorities to bear the expenses for sending the acquitted back to Honduras at government expense.
Several questions arise which defy answer.
* Could there be a link between Rajiv’s assassination and LTTE’s multi-million dollar arms shipments.
* Was Rajiv killed by the LTTE and the LTTE alone? Was it the brain behind the assassination or just the hand ?
* Was LTTE supremo Prabhakaran so naive as to kill Rajiv Gandhi in India and risk a crackdown which was inevitable or did he do it on behalf of some individuals or powers for money?
* Were the arms shipments a remuneration of the LTTE for killing Rajiv -the Sunbird an advance payment and subsequent shipments the next instalments ?
* If the LTTE had paid for these, how had it arranged the money for such massive consignments, particularly after being battered by the Sri Lankan government and the IPKF for over three years?
* How were the shipments procured? For whom had the enduser certificates been obtained and by who?
* The LTTE had not received any major arms consignment since 1986. During its armed conflict with the IPKF, the LTTE had been pushed to the wall and denuded of all weaponry and ammunition. Ironically, while the IPKF was engaged in a full-scale war with the LTTE, the guerillas were using grenades made in India . A grenade manufacturing factory making supplies to the LTTE was smashed in Coimbatore , Tamil Nadu, in 1989. This clearly proved that the guerillas were not getting arms from anywhere. How they became so rich to purchase several shiploads of arms and explosives, remains a mystery. But what does not is that the stature and strength of the Tigers had increased internationally after Rajiv’s assassination. Was there a connection between the murder and the emergence of the LTTE as the deadliest terrorist outfit in the world?
* Why did the LTTE need so much arsenal when the IPKF had already pulled out and the new government of president Premadasa was having peace talks with the Tigers ?
* Was there any link between the LTTE and Premadasa, who himself became a victim of a Tiger suicide bomber on May 1, 1993? If so, could it have a bearing on Rajiv’s assassination?
Imagine this scenario.
Rajiv Gandhi is on a come-back trail. Certain vested interests within India and abroad don’t want it. But they are all respectable people and are constantly under public and media gaze. So they need an expert agency which can carry out the assassination. Why not an Indian or foreign terrorist outfit which has a known enmity against Rajiv Gandhi? The LTTE fits the bill, but so do several terrorist outfits from Punjab, Kashmir and north-eastern India .
But before they strike a deal with anyone, they need cover -- somebody who can negotiate with the terrorists and keep in touch with them at a regular basis. A prominent jet-setter with pretensions of being a religious figure is willing to be the middle-man between the real conspirators and executioners.
Enter international arms dealers and drug traffickers at this stage. They open their coffers in lieu of political patronage and other material benefits which come as a by-product. Secret accounts in Switzerland and dubious banks as the now-collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) are used to finance the operation. The LTTE is promised an uninterrupted weapons supply for doing the job. The LTTE is tasked. Perhaps other outfits also were, but the Tigers struck first.
This may not be pure fiction.
*The writer is a Firstpost columnist who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @Kishkindha