Lal Bhadur Shastri was not only India’s second prime minister but also an apostle of faith which was what India needed the most after the lugubrious demise of its beloved Prime Minister Jawahar lal Nehru. Lal Bahadur Shastri ji was an epitome of allegiance and veracity. He upheld the touchstones of morality by taking the moral and constitutional responsibility of the railway accident in Tamil Nadu though he was not related to it in any way. Such was the enigma of a man who was once considered feeble by his fellow politicians.
Even on the instance when he became the prime minister of the country, people saw him indisposed for the position which coerced the shoulders of even the most primed. But he obliterated this image and proved his mettle during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. The father of the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisaan” which echoes even now throughout the country, Shastri through his sapience and keen support was able to tackle this problem with the back of his hand. This was what made him the leader that our country has always longed for, until his clandestine death which marked the end of what looked like an era of promise.
Lal Bahadur Shastri died of a cardiac arrest in 1966 in Tashkent under suspicious circumstances after signing the Tashkent treaty which raised many eyebrows about the conspiracies surrounding his untimely demise. After the Indo- Pak war of 1965 Shastri went to meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Ayub Khan in Tashkent to sign a peace treaty but died on the night of January 11, 1966 of what the government claimed to be under natural circumstances but evidence suggested something else.
Shastri’s wife demanded an enquiry about her husband’s death stating that his body turned blue after his death suggesting a possible case of poisoning. Not only this, no post mortem was conducted of his dead body even when his family allegedly agreed to do so. Blue spots and cut marks on his abdomen suggested that there was something more to the story. His son Sunil demanded to know that how did the cut marks appeared on his body if no post mortem was ever conducted, but all this was in vain. None of his questions were ever answered by the government.
Anuj Dhar, author of CIA’s eye on South Asia once raised a query under The Right to Information Act to seek the possible circumstances surrounding Shastri’s death. To his surprise the Prime Minister’s office refused to process and acknowledge his request. An official stated “citing that this could lead to harming of foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and cause breach of parliamentary privileges”. In another instance another RTI filed by Kuldip Nayar who was Shastri’s media advisor from 1960 to 1964 was also declined by the Prime Minister’s office. So what was so unpleasant about his death that cited an exemption?
Now as far as the reports go there is no illustration depicting any report issued by the Home Ministry on queries relating to whether a post mortem of Shastri’s dead body was conducted or not. Some reports said that the External Ministry has already concluded that no post mortem of his body was conducted in USSR. The Ministry of External Affairs reportedly issued a statement saying that the one and only document that existed from the former USSR government is “the report of the joint Medical Investigation conducted by a team comprising Dr. R N Chugh, Doctor in attendance to the prime minister and some Russian Doctors” and finally concluded that no post mortem was conducted in USSR.
Even a RTI application addressed to the Delhi Police said in its reply that it does not have any record connected with the death of the former prime minister. In a reply by the Central Public Information officer dated on 29th July 2009 stated “No such record related to the death of the former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri is available in this district. Hence the requisite information pertaining to New Delhi district may be please treated as Nil”. Not only this , the Home Ministry even adverted the matter in any case if it arises of any post mortem conducted on Shastri’s body to the Delhi Police and the National Archives for any future reference.
Records suggests that the Russian Butler who served Shastri before he retired off to bed was also arrested for suspected poisoning but he was absolved owning to the lack of evidence. A report issued by India and Russia in 2013 stated, “Proponents see the “hand of Moscow” in the incident. The USSR was allegedly unhappy with Nehru’s policy of non- alignment, which Lal Bahadur Shastri consistently adhered to, and intended to bring more loyal forces to power in India”. What truth lies behind these statements is still ambiguous.
Sunil Shastri sharing his personal information in an interview said, “His death was a big shock to us and the entire nation. I was just 16 years old then. But I remember his body had darkish blue spots on the chest, abdomen and back. My mother and I suspected that he died under mysterious circumstances.” He sees no reason why the government is withholding any information regarding his father’s death. He also said,”I personally feel Shastri was not just a great leader but a national treasure. He was a lovable person who many feel was the best Prime Minister India had. The government should come out with the facts about his death and close the chapter once and for all”.
Even after 49 years of his demise this still remains a part of an unsolved mystery and what is known to us as the biggest death conspiracy of any Indian politician. What exactly happened in that room and was it so dreadful that it would jeopardise the foreign relations of our country? Nonetheless, these still remains a part of the bigger question- Is this information ever going to be made public to us? Only the future holds answer to this question.