The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon
Part 25

Sachi Sri Kantha
[1 December 2001]

Rajiv Gandhi Assassination: Wading through the Paper Maze

A review of my previous observations

If I’m permitted to use a well-worn Indian movie metaphor, the Rajiv Gandhi assassination in May 1991 was a ‘mega-hit’ [no pun intended]. Its implications for many disciplines such as sub-continental politics, warfare, espionage, law, and last but not the least forensic science, were of epic proportions. Only the assassination of the 35th American president, John F.Kennedy in 1963, can be comparable to Rajiv Gandhi assassinations for its multi-dimensional maze. Thus, from May 22, 1991, it had captured my interest. Between 1991 and 1994, I had contributed nine brief commentaries (to be precise, letters) to journals and newspapers. These were as follows:

  1. [Rajiv] Gandhi assassination. Lanka Guardian, Aug.1, 1991, pp.21-22.

  2. Looking for scapegoats. Far Eastern Economic Review, Oct.3, 1991, p.7

  3. Backed by the President [Premadasa]. Far Eastern Economic Review, Nov.28, 1991.

  4. Behind Rajiv Gandhi assassination. Japan Times, Jan.26, 1992, p.24.

  5. The assassination of John F.Kennedy and Rajiv Gandhi. Tamil Nation (London), Mar.15, 1992, p.4

  6. Truth elusive in Gandhi assassination. Asahi Evening News (Tokyo), June 19, 1992, p.8

  7. Assassinations of John F.Kennedy and Rajiv Gandhi. Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo), June 25, 1992, p.2.

  8. Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Lanka Guardian, Oct.1, 1992, p.5

  9. Political assassinations. Tamil Times (London), Dec.1994, p.28

These were my initial observations, based on the information which appeared in the public domain until mid-1992, related to the purported arrests and the charge-sheet prepared by the Indian investigators, in charge of the assassination. In my Aug.1, 1991 letter, published in the Lanka Guardian, I commented on the (a) observations of Lalith Athulathmudali, (b) initial denial made by the Congress Party sources that a Rajiv Gandhi-Kasi Anandan meeting on March 5, 1991 did not take place in Rajiv’s private residence, and (c) the Colombo’s twist of the said meeting, as presented by the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, who had met Rajiv Gandhi on March 10, 1991 at a public function, in which Gandhi had made some unappreciative remarks about LTTE. In the published version of my letter, my comparison of the stature of poet Kasi Anandan to that of Neelan Thiruchelvam among young Tamils, was omitted by Mervyn de Silva. Thus the following is the complete text of my letter mailed to him on July 17, 1991.

Gandhi Assassination

[Lanka Guardian, Aug.1, 1991]

I wish to make the following comments regarding your coverage of the Gandhi assassination (LG, July 1).

(1) In your News Background, you quote Minister Lalith Athulathmudali as stating that, Rajiv Gandhi may not have died if Mrs.Indira Gandhi had accepted the Sri Lankan proposal for joint patrolling of the Palk Straits. I wonder why minister Athulathmudali’s memory has failed to see that Rajiv Gandhi was given a second lease of life on July 1987, only because the naval rating who swung the gun at Gandhi in Colombo missed his attempted target.

(2) The India Today report which you republished calls poet Kasi Anandan, the LTTE emissary to Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi, an insignificant political figure among Sri Lankan Tamil circles. Those three reporters who wrote the story have not checked their facts. Between 1972 and 1976, Kasi Anandan was a political prisoner under the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime. He was one of the three political prisoners (other two were Maavai Senathirajah and Vannai Ananthan) who symbolized the change in the traditional Tamil political leadership. He tried to infuse this change by attempting to oust the veteran FP stalwart of the Eastern Province, C.Rajadurai in the 1977 general election. This did create a headache for the TULF old guard and Kasi Anandan paid the price for losing in that general election. Nobody loves a loser. But to say that “he was never taken seriously as a political figure”, in my opinion, is flawed. Looked in another angle, compared to the ‘influence’ of Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam (who was an appointed TULF MP for a while, and who had the fortune of being the son of FP leader M.Tiruchelvam) generated among the Tamils, Kasi Anandan’s influence among the younger generation of Tamils in the 1970s was greater.

(3) What confidence one can have in the opinion of Congress (I) sources, regarding the Rajiv Gandhi-Kasi Anandan meeting of March 5th? Isn’t these same sources which denied such a meeting in the first instance? Since now it has been acknowledged that such a meeting did take place in Rajiv Gandhi’s private residence, how about asking Sonia Gandhi about what transpired between Rajiv and Kasi Anandan? Certainly Rajiv Gandhi would have discussed this issue frankly, as opposed to the ‘diplomatic niceties’ exchanged between him and the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka on March 10th. The three reporters make no mention about whether they approached Sonia Gandhi about verifying the truth of Rajiv-Kasi Anandan meeting. And this cable no.222 sent by the Deputy High Commissioner to the foreign ministry in Colombo is really interesting. Has the complete transcript of this cable been released to the public, if it is really revealing? Has the LG able to receive a copy of this purported cable no.222? If so, will you publish it in full for the record?

(4) Jon Swain’s republished report which states that Nadesan Satyendra also met Rajiv Gandhi on March 5th has been exposed as incorrect and the London Sunday Times did print a correction and an apology. Will LG also do the same?”

Editorial Comment: (relating to item 4 in the above letter): “We did not spot the Sunday Times correction. We regret the error.”

After Pirabhakaran was named as the first accused in the charge sheet prepared by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India in May 1992, I wrote another letter to the Lanka Guardian commenting on the contents of the charge sheet. It was as follows:

Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case

[Lanka Guardian, Oct.1, 1992]

I thank you for publishing in detail the ‘Final Report in 9/S/91/CBI/SCB/Madras - (Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case) Under Section 173 Criminal Penal Code’ (LG, Aug.15). What strikes me vividly is its selectivity and superficiality in regurgitating the political events which happened in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. For instance, nothing of the following has been included in this document.

(1) The role of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in training the Tamil militant groups in Tamil Nadu.

(2) The assassination attempt on Rajiv Gandhi in Colombo, after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord on July 1987.

(3) The training and arming of the Tamil National Army by the Indian Peace Keeping Force.

(4) Maldives invasion by the PLOTE mercenaries and the Indian “assistance in restoring peace”.

Even for a non-lawyer like me, it is apparent that the so-called ‘Final Report’ resembles the field note book of a RAW agent, than a legal document.”

Then I felt that it would be prudent to wait for the ‘results’ to appear from the Indian investigations in court of law and the two appointed commissions. Now that the verdict at the Indian court of law on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial has been delivered, and the findings of two appointed commissions (namely the Verma Commission and Jain Commission) had been released, albeit in truncated versions, for public consumption, I wish to revisit this assassination for two reasons. One is to focus on how the name of Pirabhakaran was used by the Indian operatives (prosecution team, journalists who were fed by the Indian intelligence wallahs, publicity seekers like Subramanian Swamy and even the guardians of law) to advance their image and own agenda. A second reason is, from the standpoint of an analytical scientist, to highlight the paucity (or more probably, suppression) of forensic details in the public domain, relating to the deaths of 18 individuals in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, which included the prominent victim Rajiv Gandhi and his purported woman assassin, named Dhanu. As an example, I provide the following box-story which appeared in the India Today magazine of Dec.15, 1991, reported by Anirudhya Mitra with the blaring caption, ‘Rajiv Assassination: Conspiracy Surfaces’, and a titillating lead sentence: “Investigations by the SIT and ‘Q’ Branch of the Tamil Nadu Police, reveal that Rajiv’s killing was part of a larger plot to form a greater eelam.” It carried the photos of Pirabhakaran and Pottu Amman, adjacent to this lead sentence. The box-story was on the ‘Letter Leads’, purported to be unearthed by the SIT officers.

SIT Evidence: Letter Leads

“Sivarasan may be dead, but he couldn’t carry the ‘clinching evidence’ with him. Investigators say at least two documents they have unearthed would ‘prove that the assassination was ordered by Pirabhakaran’.

The first clincher is a letter that the assassin, Dhanu, wrote to Pirabhakaran on May 10, 1991, from LTTE’s Kodungaiyur hide-out. Thanking Pirabhakaran for entrusting her with the ‘important’ task, Dhanu details her successful dry-run on V.P.Singh in Madras on May 8.

The second piece of evidence is the letter – dated September 7 – from Santhan, who was the LTTE’s chief coordinator in India, to Pirabhakaran. It was intercepted when the Indian Navy arrested an LTTE courier, Irumburei. It shows him as being down, but still fighting. Excerpts:

‘My dear elder brother,

I am writing this letter amidst crisis. But we have not lost confidence. The CBI seems to have come to know everything about us following the arrest of so many of our members. All Pottuamman’s boys got nabbed and that eventually led to the death of Raghuvaran (Sivarasan)…The arrest of Chinna Santhan helped the CBI to know about who killed Padmanabha…

After seeing so many arrests, I had to distribute cyanide to all our boys… As a result of my instruction/order, 25 of us have died. The situation here is just like what it was in Jaffna during the IPKF operation. Like our people hated to give the Indian soldiers water, the same treatment is being meted out to our activists.

I suggest that we have a smaller team to work here. I have waited several nights…no boat has come…how do I send goods? After the death of Rajiv, we were promised that boats will come once the election was over. But no boat came…

Send boats and wireless sets before some more of us get caught. If I get wireless set, we can identify the arrival or the departure point. Or, tell Irumburei in detail. The arrest of Vardhan cut off my last link with you. Pottuamman’s boys do not carry my message to you…The likely arrest of Kolatur Maniyam is worrying me as that would lead to many other Indians. The CBI cannot catch me. Have faith in me.’



It would come as no surprise that these two planted ‘Letter Leads’ were more likely forgeries. In my March 1992 column written to the Tamil Nation, I questioned the validity of the first quoted letter by Dhanu to Pirabhakaran, dated May 10, 1991. The second letter of Santhan to Pirabhakaran, dated September 7, 1991, was rejected as “not admissible in evidence” by Justice D.P.Wadhwa, in his Supreme Court verdict of 1999 [p.189 of Justice Wadhwa’s verdict].

Use of J.F.Kennedy Assassination as an appropriate ‘Control’

Among the nine brief commentaries I wrote between 1991 and 1994 on Rajiv Gandhi assassination, I wish to reproduce my comparisons between the Kennedy assassination and Rajiv Gandhi assassination as well. Scientifically speaking, for study of any phenomenon, the investigator has to make use of a proper control. On the importance of controls in assessing the actions of Pirabhakaran and LTTE, I have commented previously [see, the Pirabhakaran Phenomenon – part 14]. I have believed strongly that the parallels between the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and Rajiv assassination in 1991 make the Kennedy assassination as an appropriate control to compare and contrast the evolution of the ‘results’ and the incomplete nature of the evolved findings in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. This is particularly so, related to the paucity of forensic details of the Rajiv assassination.

Now, to my parallels between the Kennedy and Rajiv assassinations, as it appeared in the Tamil Nation of March 1992, under my pen name C.P.Goliard:

At death, John F.Kennedy was the President of the USA, Rajiv had served one term as the prime minister of India and was awaiting a favorable election verdict to regain that position.

Both Kennedy and Rajiv were 46 years old, at the time of their tragic deaths.

Both died in one of the southern states of their countries. Kennedy, in Dallas, Texas; Rajiv, in Sri Perumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

Reason for the visit to the southern states: Kennedy went to Texas, to prepare for his 1964 re-election. Rajiv was in Tamil Nadu, to campaign for the 1991 general election, to be re-elected as the prime minister.

Both suffered instant deaths: Kennedy, due to gun-shot wounds; Rajiv, due to bomb-blast.

Kennedy’s assassin was a 24-year old male, who was shot to death in an unexpected fashion inside the Dallas police station within 48 hours of his victim’s death. Details about Rajiv’s assassin, a female, is sketchy. Her age has been noted as ‘24 years’ and she met instant death like that of her victims.

Because the assassins did not survive longer, the attention was focused onto the person with ‘secrets’. In the case of Kennedy, it was Jack Ruby, whose real name was Jacob Rubenstein. He was seen close to the location of crime (eye witness evidence) and on Nov.24, 1963 (two days after the assassination of Kennedy), Ruby shot and killed Kennedy’s assassin. According to official records, Ruby died as a prisoner on Jan.3, 1967, due to ‘prostate cancer’. In Rajiv’s assassination, the person with ‘secrets’ was one ‘Sivarajan’, whose real name has been traced by one journalist as Packiyachandran. He was also seen at the location of crime (photo evidence). According to the Indian police personnel, he committed suicide on Aug.20, 1991.

The relationship of Jack Ruby with Mafia and Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) has been probed from surviving documents. ‘Sivarajan’, who had been identified as the member of TELO till 1986, would have had contacts with the Indian intelligence agencies. This lead has not been pursued in detail yet.

The Warren Commission which investigated the murder of Kennedy concluded that a lone gun-man Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president. The federal institutions (military establishment, FBI and CIA) and the mafia were exonerated from the conspiracy. But the American public distrust this conclusion. In the case of Rajiv’s assassination, the Indian press and the investigating agencies (CBI, SIT and RAW) have alleged LTTE’s involvement. However, ‘the politicians, bureaucrats, academics and semi-official journalists who represent India’s political status quo’ (according to Steve Coll, in the International Herald Tribune of June 15, 1991) believe that ‘the CIA agents probably organized the plot to kill the former prime minister’.

We should note that at least in the case of John F.Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, so much personal information is known now. But, how about the female assassin of Rajiv Gandhi? Nine months have passed since May 21 of last year, yet nothing is known about her. The Indian press has given her a name, ‘Dhanu’. And the Dec.15, 1991 issue of the India Today reported that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) had located ‘letter leads’ which ‘would prove that the assassination was ordered by Pirabhakaran’. According to this news report, ‘Dhanu, wrote to Pirabhakaran on May 10, 1991, from the LTTE’s Kodungaiyur hide-out, thanking Pirabhakaran of entrusting her with the important task.’

The humor in the ‘letter lead’ is that, the SIT and other Indian sleuths have yet to identify who this ‘Dhanu’ is. When was she born? Where did she live? Who are her kith and kin? Was she unmarried, married, divorced, separated? Nothing is known yet. She is not in the police files of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

Without knowing answers to all these vital questions, how did the SIT identify the purported letter the assassin has written as really an authentic one? To prove the veracity of this letter, they should first have in their hands other written documents which pre-date this purported May 10 letter. The SIT has not revealed how and where they obtained these authenticating documents, without identifying the person. If they truly succeeded in doing this, certainly the Indian sleuths can even bring Rajiv Gandhi back to life.”

Readers should note that I wrote this in February 1992, based on the then publicly available information as reported in the India Today of Dec.15, 1991, before the SIT filed its charge sheet on Pirabhakaran in May 1992. The letter from assassin Dhanu to Pirabhakaran, if there existed a genuine one, would have been the proverbial ‘smoking gun’ to link Pirabhakaran to the purported woman assassin of Rajiv Gandhi and hoist him as the prime conspirator. The fact that the SIT investigators produced such a ‘letter lead’ in December 1991 convincingly proves that they were indeed aiming to trap Pirabhakaran.

To my surprise, the Supreme Court verdicts on the assassination trial delivered by the Justice K.T.Thomas, Justice D.P.Wadhwa and Justice S.S.M.Quadri delivered in May 1999, do not provide any evidence for such a letter from Dhanu to Pirabhakaran. Rather, two letters dated May 9, 1991 authored by Subha [the purported substitute female assassin] and Dhanu to “Dear Akila sister” and “Pottanna” were incorporated in the judgement of Justice Wadhwa, as “Exhibit for Prosecution-95” and “Exhibit for Prosecution-96”. The question arises then, whether the December1991 revelation in the India Today magazine of an ‘existing letter’ from Dhanu to Pirabhakaran dated May 10, 1991 was a forgery.

A chronology of Investigation into the assassinations of Rajiv Gandhi and K. Padmanabha

I provide below a chronology of investigation into Rajiv Gandhi assassination (court trial, Verma Commission and Jain Commission), as it evolved from 1991 to 1999.

May 21, 1991: Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. 17 others also lost their lives, including Dhanu (the alleged woman assassin) and Hari Babu (the freelance photographer). The names of other 15 are as follows: P.K.Gupta (personal security officer to Rajiv Gandhi), Latha Kannan, Kokilavani, Iqbal (superintendent of police), Rajakuru (inspector of police), Edward Joseph (inspector of police), Ethiraj (sub-inspector of police), Sundaraju Pillai (police constable), Ravi (commando police constable), Dharman (police constable), Chandra (woman police constable), Santhani Begum, Darryl Peter, Kumari Saroja Devi and Munuswamy.

May 27, 1991: Verma Commission (Justice J.S.Verma) was set up to inquire, “(a) whether the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi could have been averted and whether there were lapses or dereliction of duty in this regard on the part of any of the individuals responsible for his security; (b) the deficiencies, if any, in the security system and arrangements as prescribed or operated in practice which might have contributed to the assassination.”

Aug.20, 1991: Prime suspects Sivarasan, alleged substitute assassin Subha and five other accomplices ‘committed suicide’ in Bangalore. Thus, nine (including the alleged assassin Dhanu, photographer Hari Babu) who were alleged to have links with the Rajiv assassination had died.

Aug.23, 1991: Jain Commission (Justice M.C.Jain) was set up to inquire, “(a) the sequence of events leading to, and all the facts and circumstances relating to, the assassination of Mr.Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur (other than the matters covered by the terms of reference for the Commission headed by Justice Verma)” and (b) “whether one person or persons or agencies were responsible for conceiving, preparing and planning the assassination and whether there was any conspiracy in this behalf and, if so, all its ramifications.”

Sept.1, 1991: Pirabhakaran was interviewed by Chris Morris, the BBC correspondent, in Eelam.

Sept.4, 1991: At 2115 hours, the BBC Tamil broadcast relayed the Pirabhakaran interview in which, the LTTE leader stated that “there is no connection between the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi and the LTTE organization whatsoever. The Indian Government appears to tarnish their organization at international level” [Jain Commission report 1997, vol.8, chapter 49]

May 20, 1992: SIT of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a 449-page charge sheet (Final Report) before the Designated Court in Madras, naming 41 persons as the accused. 26 among the 41 were Sri Lankan nationals. Pirabhakaran was listed as the first accused. Pottu Amman @ Shanmuganathan Sivasankaran was listed as the second accused. Akila @ Akilakka was listed as the third accused. [@ refers to ‘alias’.] The designated court Judge S.M.Siddick passed an order that none of the proceedings should be published; even the names and addresses of the coded witnesses were not allowed to be published.

June 12, 1992: Verma Commission submitted its findings to the then Home Minister of India.

Aug.12, 1992: Tamil Nadu Special Investigation Team (TANSIT) filed a 12-page charge sheet (with 250 pages of supporting documents) in Padmanabha murder case, before the Designated Court on 26 accused. Pottu Amman was listed as the first accused. Accused 1 to Accused 17 were charged under criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder etc. According to P.C.Pant, the Inspector General of Police, TANSIT, “there was no evidence to connect the involvement of the LTTE supreme Prabhakaran in this case and hence he had not been cited as an accused.” [Hindu, International Edition, Aug.22, 1992]

May 5, 1993: Pre-trial proceedings (arguments by the prosecution and defence lawyers) for the assassination trial began at the Designated Court, at the high-security Poonamallee Court complex. P.Rajamanickam, the special public prosecutor who represented the SIT, narrated the facts of the case. Of the 41 charged by the SIT in May 20, 1992, three (Pirabhakaran, Pottu Amman and Akila) were designated as ‘absconding accused’. Twelve who had died among the 41 charged were designated as ‘deceased accused’. These were, S.Packiachandran @ Raghuvaran @ Sivarasan, Dhanu @ Anbu @ Kalaivani, Subha @ Nithya, S.Haribabu, Nehru @ Nero @ Gokul, N.Shanmugam @ Jayaraj, Trichy Santhan @ Gundu Santhan, Suresh Master, Dixon @ Kishore, Amman @ Gangai Kumar, Drive Anna @ Keerthy and Jamuna @ Jameela. The designated court judge S.M.Siddick listened to the prosecution case, in the presence of all the remaining 26 ‘available accused’.

Nov.24, 1993: The Designated Court framed charges against the 26 accused. These proceedings were allowed to be covered by two news agencies – the Press Trust of India and the United News of India. The 26 accused who faced the trial were as follows:

Accused 1: S.Nalini (the only one who was present at the scene of the crime); Indian; arrested on June 14, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.9, 1991.

Accused 2: T.Suthendraraja @ Santhan; Sri Lankan; arrested on July 22, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Sept.17, 1991.

Accused 3: Sriharan @ Murugan @ Thas @ Indu Master; Sri Lankan; arrested on June 14, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.8, 1991.

Accused 4: Shankar @ Koneswaran; Sri Lankan; arrested on May 19, 1992; no confession.

Accused 5: D.Vijayanandan @ Hari Ayya; Sri Lankan; arrested on May 16, 1992; no confession.

Accused 6: Sivaruban @ Suresh @ Suresh Kumar @ Ruban; Sri Lankan; arrested on May 16, 1992; no confession.

Accused 7: S.Kanagasabapathy @ Radhayya; Sri Lankan; arrested on July 4, 1991; no confession.

Accused 8: A.Chandralekha @ Athirai @ Sonia @ Gowri; Sri Lankan; arrested on July 5, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.29, 1991.

Accused 9: B.Robert Payas @ Kumaralingam; Sri Lankan; arrested on June 18, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.15, 1991.

Accused 10: S.Jayakumar @ Jayakumaran @ Jayam; Sri Lankan; June 26, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.22, 1991.

Accused 11: J.Shanthi; Indian; arrested on May 16, 1992; no confession.

Accused 12: S.Vijayan @ Perumal Vijayan; Sri Lankan; arrested on July 8, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Sept.4, 1991.

Accused 13: V.Selvaluxmi; Indian; arrested on May 16, 1992; no confession.

Accused 14: S.Bhaskaran @ Velayudam; Indian; arrested on July 8, 1991; no confession.

Accused 15: S.Shanmugavadivelu @ Thambi Anna; Sri Lankan; arrested on May 16, 1992; confessional statement recorded on May 17, 1992.

Accused 16: P.Ravichandran @ Ravi @ Pragasam; Indian; arrested on Jan.6, 1992; confessional statement recorded on Feb.14, 1992.

Accused 17: M.Suseendran @ Mahesh; Indian; arrested on Jan.6, 1992; confessional statement recorded on Feb.14, 1992.

Accused 18: G.Perarivalan @ Arivu; Indian; arrested on June 19, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.15, 1991.

Accused 19: S.Irumborai @ Duraisingam; Indian; arrested on Oct.9, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Dec.3, 1991.

Accused 20: S.Bhagyanathan; Indian; arrested on June 11, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.5, 1991.

Accused 21: S.Padma; Indian; arrested on June 11, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Aug.7, 1991.

Accused 22: A.Sundaram @ Subha Sundaram; Indian; arrested on July 2, 1991; no confession.

Accused 23: K.Dhanasekaran @ Raju; Indian; arrested on Oct.13, 1991; confessional satement recorded on Nov.4, 1991.

Accused 24: N.Rajasuriya @ Rangan; Sri Lankan; arrested on Aug.28, 1991; confessional statement recorded on Oct.23, 1991.

Accused 25: T.Vigneswaran @ Vicky; Sri Lankan; arrested on Feb.4, 1992; confessional statement recorded on Feb.24, 1992.

Accused 26: J.Ranganath; Indian; arrested on Aug.28, 1991; no confession.

Jan.19, 1994: The assassination trial began, with the examination of the witnesses. Proceedings were conducted in camera. Other notable statistics include: citation of 1,044 prosecution witnesses, examination of 288 prosecution witnesses, presentation of 1,477 documents by the prosecution amounting to almost 10,000 pages, presentation of 74 documents by the defence, presentation of 1,180 material objects by the prosecution.

May 5, 1997: Examination of 288 prosecution witnesses completed.

Aug. 1997: The Jain Commission submitted its Interim Report, consisting of 17 volumes, to the then Home Minister Indrajit Gupta. According to Prabhu Chawla of India Today (Nov.17, 1997), this interim report was 5,280 pages long, comprising of 8 volumes of interim findings, and 9 volumes of annexures. The report carried the testimonies of 110 witnesses.

Nov.5, 1997: Arguments in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial concluded at the Designated Court.

Nov.8, 1997: Designated Court II judge Arumuga Perumal Adithan, acquitted 15 of the 17 accused in the Padmanabha murder case, since the prosecution had “not proved beyond any reasonable doubt” the allegations against them. Chinna Santhan was declared guilty for advising, abetting and facilitating the crime. Anandaraj was found guilty for harboring Gundu Santhan, one of the accused in the case. [as reported in the Frontline magazine, Nov.15-28, 1997]

Jan.28, 1998: Designated Trial Court Judge V.Navaneetham (who had replaced Judge S.M.Siddick) delivered the judgment, convicting and sentencing all the 26 accused, who stood for trial, to death. According to the Indian Express of Feb.5, 1998, the judge delivered a 1,600 page verdict, which contained 10 pages of transcripts of messages exchanged between LTTE stations, primarily between March 22, 1991 and June 23, 1991.

Mar.7, 1998: The Jain Commission submitted its Final Report, consisting of 2,000 pages.

Mar.27, 1998: The Supreme Court stayed till ‘further orders’ death sentences of the 26 accused which have been imposed by the Designated Trial Court judge.

Sept.1998: The Supreme Court consisting of three judges (Justice K.T.Thomas, Justice D.P.Wadhwa and Justice S.S.M.Quadri) began final hearing on appeals filed by all 26 accused, sentenced to death by judge V.Navaneetham.

May 11, 1999: Three judge bench of the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence on Nalini (Accused 1), Santhan (Accused 2), Murugan (Accused 3) and Perarivalan (Accused 18). Death sentences to Robert Payas (Accused 9), Jayakumar (Accused 10) and Ravichandran (Accused 16), delivered at the Designated Trial Court, was altered to life imprisonment. Other 19 appellants were freed.

The Labor of Saint Vyasa’s ‘descendants’

By conventional standards, written documents are categorized as following: (a) those with single digit number of pages are letters and communications, (b) those with double digit number of pages are pamphlets, tracts, children books, research papers and reports, (c) those with triple digit number of pages are theses, books and novels, (d) those with quadruple digit number of pages are ‘epics’.

If one point was proved convincingly from the Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial, I would say that, there live quite a number of Saint Vyasa’s ‘descendants’ in India, among the legal tribe. By general acknowledgement, Mahabharata is recognized as the longest extant epic in any culture. Pious Hindus believe that Saint Vyasa composed this epic, while Lord Ganesa [the Hindu god of wisdom], took the pains to record Vyasa’s words into script. The assassination investigation of Rajiv Gandhi generated documents which ran over 1,000 pages, along the lines of Saint Vyasa’s masterpiece. A list is as follows: 

  1. The verdict of Trial Court judge Navaneetham – 1,600 pages

  2. Jain Commission: Interim Report – 5,280 pages

  3. Jain Commission: Final Report – 2,000 pages

  4. Prosecution documents in the assassination trial – over 9,000 pages

It was impossible for me to get in my hand, every single page of these four documents. But, I had taken pains to study the three documents which more or less had distilled the essence of judge Navaneetham’s verdict (1,600 pages) and the submitted prosecution documents (exceeding 9,000) pages. These three documents were, namely,

  1. Verdict of Supreme Court Justice D.P.Wadhwa – 201 pages

  2. Verdict of Supreme Court Justice K.T.Thomas – 69 pages

  3. Verdict of Supreme Court Justice S.S.M.Quadri – 25 pages

These judgements are currently available in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) website of India, under the ‘Cases and Verdicts File’. To reproduce portions from the opening paragraph of theverdict, Justice Wadhwa:

“… A charge of conspiracy for offences under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987 (TADA), Indian Penal Code (IPC), Explosive Substances Act 1908, Arms Act 1959, Passport Act 1967, Foreigners Act 1946 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 was laid against 41 persons, 12 of whom were already dead having committed suicide and three absconded. Out of these, 26 faced the trial before the Designated Court. Prosecution examined 288 witnesses and produced numerous documents and material objects. Statements of all the accused were recorded under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Code). They denied their involvement. The Designated Court found them guilty of the offences charged against them. Thereafter all the accused were heard on the question of sentence. Designated Court awarded death sentence to all of them on the charge of conspiracy to murder. ‘A judicial massacre’, bemoaned Mr.Natarajan, learned senior counsel for the accused, and rightly so in our opinion…”

The mere fact that these three Supreme Court Justices, in their May 1999 verdicts, had overruled the (a) ‘judicial massacre’ on 22 of the 26 accused who stood for the trial, and (b) many other questionable conclusions of Designated Court judge Navaneetham, suggest that, one can bypass the 10,000-odd pages of legal muck-heap without any trepidation.

Questionability of wireless-radio intercepts

One notable point I wish to highlight in the verdict of Justice Wadhwa was his observation on the unreliability of the wireless-radio intercepts submitted by the SIT investigators to prove their involvement of LTTE in the assassination. The disinformation campaign promoted by the Indian intelligence wallahs since 1992 and gulped by Pirabhakaran’s opponents. For instance, the bile-spitting hack of the Island newspaper has noted with glee recently that

“The only occasion when judicial proof was found of Prabhakaran was in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, where Indian investigators were able to pinpoint the murder on the LTTE supreme and his intelligence chief Pottu Amman with radio intercepts.” [editorial; Island, Colombo, Oct.29, 2001]

However, Justice Wadhwa in his verdict had observed his doubt on the validity of wireless-radio intercepts, as follows:

(1) “Suspicion however strong does not take the place of proof. Wireless messages are transmitted and received in coded language. It is nobody’s case that Robert Payas (Accused 9) knew the nature or the contents of the messages. It must not be lost sight of that LTTE had various activities and all LTTE men were not necessarily involved in achieving the object of conspiracy. Evidence shows that other LTTE activists who had come to India were also engaged in arranging houses for various purposes like housing the injured LTTE cadre, storing of medicines, etc.” [p.174 of verdict; analysis under the activities of Robert Payas (Accused 9), Jayakumar (Accused 10) and Shanti (Accused 11)]

(2) “It appears to us that prosecution is looking at every circumstance with the proverbial jaundiced eye.” [p.180 of verdict; analysis under the activities of Shanmugavadivelu (Accused 15)]

(3) “Prosecution also does not tell us the contents of the code sheets and how these were used by Murugan (Accused 3). Charge under Section 6(1A) of Indian Wireless and Telegraphy Act, must, therefore, fail.” [p.191 of verdict; analysis under the activities of Bhagyanathan (Accused 20) and Padma (Accused 21)]

Next, I wish to provide my assembled list of prosecution witnesses and analyze the contributions of some of these prominent witnesses who still have some ‘secrets’ to reveal. (Continued)