Pirabhakaran’s denial in an interview to BBC.
To comprehend the conspiracy angle, I think chronologically one should study the sequence of events following the reported deaths of Sivarasan, Subha and five of their associates in Bangalore on August 20, 1991. Chris Morris, the then BBC Colombo correspondent recorded an interview with Pirabhakaran in Jaffna on Sept.1, 1991. I quote, Pirabhakaran’s answers to three questions asked by Mr.Morris.
Morris: “Turning to your relations with India. They are particularly bad at the moment. Does that worry you?
Pirabhakaran: Our organization has had problems with India for quite a long time. The government of India intervened in the Tamil problem in 1983 and provided military assistance to various Tamil groups and created new Tamil militant organizations. In 1987 the government of India entered into an agreement with Sri Lanka and imposed a solution on our people. We were opposed to the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement, and as a consequence the war broke out between India and the LTTE. So for a long time India was acting on its own national interest, but we were upholding the interests of our people. As a consequence there have been contradictions between the LTTE and the government of India. The present hostility is a product of this long historical bitterness. Therefore we are really concerned and to some extent disappointed over the approach of the Indian government.
Morris: Can you tell me more specifically about the clampdown on your activities in Tamil Nadu? What has been the worst aspect of that clampdown on your fight in Sri Lanka?
Pirabhakaran: For a long time the LTTE have been used as pawns in the political chess game in Tamil Nadu. The government of India, as well as the Tamil Nadu state government, has been making calculated efforts to turn the Tamil Nadu people against our struggle. Deliberate attempts are being made to undermine the image of our organization. But we can say confidently that there are vast sections of the people in Tamil Nadu who support the Tiger movement and the legitimate cause for which we are fighting. As long as there is this continuing support I don’t think our struggle will be in any way affected.
Morris: Now I know you have denied any involvement in the accusation of Rajiv Gandhi. But the Indian investigators are convinced that you are responsible.
Pirabhakaran: Our movement is not in anyway involved in the killing of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. So far this accusation has not been corroborated. It is true that the government of India has been engaged in a massive disinformation campaign against our movement, based on this false accusation.” [Tamil Nation, Oct.15, 1991, pp.7-8]
To the best of my knowledge, that was the strongest denial offered by Pirabhakaran to an international news organization pertaining to LTTE’s role in Rajiv Gandhi assassination. Pirabhakaran or any of his official representatives, for the past ten years, has neither offered any revision nor retraction to this 1991 stand.
Hamish McDonald’s report in the Far Eastern Economic Review.
Impressions of Hamish McDonald, the New Delhi correspondent of Far Eastern Economic Review magazine, appeared in mid-September 1991, under the caption, ‘Loose ends throw doubt on Gandhi murder theories: Stranger than fiction’.
“Working from the forensic and photographic evidence, Karthikeyan’s team quickly rolls up the LTTE support network that aided the assassins. Reports say they also knew from radio intercepts that the group leader, a 30-year old one-eyed man called Sivarasan, and a back-up woman assassin were still in the country after failing to rendezvous with a getaway boat from Jaffna. Finally, on 20 August , Sivarasan and the woman are cornered by police in neighbouring Karnataka state. They and five others take cyanide in LTTE fashion. Sivarasan shoots himself in the head as well.
What is missing so far is the positive link to the ultimate instigator, and a clear motive. The involvement of ethnic Tamils, the location and the suicide element all point to the LTTE. ‘How is anyone else going to find a Sri Lankan lady willing to blow herself up?’ said one diplomat. [Note by Sri Kantha: Journalists use this common euphemism of quoting an unnamed diplomat, when in fact their source is an ‘intelligence agent’, attached to an embassy. For comparison, you would never read a journalist quoting an unnamed LTTE source.]
The plot looks neat – almost too neat. Why would the LTTE take the risk of hiring a photographer if it proposed to hide its hand? Why did Sivarasan and his group not get back to Jaffna in the four or five days before the pictures were published? Why were so many LTTE sympathizers involved in such a sensitive operation? How did they get through security? [Note: Italics added by me for emphasis.] Was it only police carelessness that allowed Shanmugan to escape from custody, to be found dead later – an apparent suicide. [Note: As presented in part 31 of this series, McDonald was wrong to allude to Shanmugam’s suicide, when in fact overwhelming evidence show that he was murdered.]
Conspiracy theorists have had a field day, working back from the question ‘who benefited?’ The most obvious beneficiary goes beyond most imaginations: results from the first day of voting on 20 May indicate Congress would have lost seats but for the sympathy factor. The Sri Lankan leadership [Note: i.e, the then President Premadasa] hated Gandhi’s assertion of an Indian Raj and has been helped by the backlash against the Tigers. But Colombo has virtually no ability to operate covertly in Tamil Nadu.
For its part, the LTTE denies any involvement and profess not to know the alleged assassins. Spokesman Anton Balasingham suggested a host of Indian groups or aggrieved Sri Lankan individuals could have done the job. He said the Tigers had twice sent emissaries to talk with Gandhi in New Delhi in March, and had found him cordial. Many other sources, including rival Tamils and foreign diplomats [Note again: the euphemistic use of the word unnamed ‘diplomats’], believe otherwise. They said the LTTE could have feared Gandhi’s return to power would lead to renewed Indian meddling in Sri Lankan affairs.
Tiger leader V.Prabhakaran is also said to have held a deep personal grudge against Gandhi for having put under arrest while visiting New Delhi, and over the deaths of close colleagues during fighting with the Indian peacekeeping force. This school of thought assigns a degree of ‘irrationality’ to Prabhakaran.” [Far Eastern Economic Review, Sept.12, 1991, pp.27-28]
My Two Published Comments on McDonald’s Report
After reading McDonald’s report on the assassination conspiracy, I submitted my comments to the Far Eastern Economic Review, which passed the editorial muster and appeared in print a month later. This comment elicited a sarcastic note from a Sinhalese residing in Colombo, for which I submitted a rebuttal, which also was published in the same magazine in November 1991. For record, I provide below these three brief communications in entirety.
The captions of the letters were not mine.
Letter 1: Looking for scapegoats
By Sachi Sri Kantha
“I agree with Hamish McDonald’s report on the murder of Rajiv Gandhi [12 Sept.], that though ‘the involvement of ethnic Tamils, the location and the suicide element all point to the LTTE’, the murder theory formulated by the Indian investigation team ‘looks almost too neat’ to believe.
In his last interview in The New York Times [22 May] shortly before he was killed, Gandhi stated that ‘India and Indian leaders could be targets of outside powers as the country took on a larger role in the region’. It was also reported that when asked whether he had the CIA in mind as the outside force, he ‘smirked’. Gandhi’s reference to ‘a larger role in the region’ is not too cryptic a remark to fathom what he had in mind.
According to news reports released after the murder, Khaled el-Sheikh, the PLO’s chief envoy in India, said that he gave Gandhi a warning from PLO leader Yasser Arafat ‘about a plot to assassinate him’ some five weeks before he was killed on 21 May. The warning could have been about the activities of the Mossad, the secret service arm of Israel. And Gandhi’s reference to outside powers could be interpreted as a natural extension of his ‘intelligence’ received from the PLO.
If the LTTE planned to murder Gandhi, how could one explain that Arafat came to know about this plot? It is ridiculous to believe that Arafat spied on the LTTE in Jaffna or in jungles of the Vanni region of Sri Lanka.
Mossad’s motives in eliminating Gandhi are not incomprehensible, since India under Gandhis (both Indira and Rajiv) has openly supported the causes espoused by the PLO. Last year, Mossad also suffered a loss of face when one of its former agents, Victor Ostrovsky, exposed its nefarious activities in his much publicized book, By Way of Deception. So it is not improbable to expect that Mossad could have been tempted to redeem its tarnished image among clients, which included the military establishment of Sri Lanka.
One wonders why Arafat cannot be contacted and asked in detail about what kind of warning he gave Gandhi and whom he had in mind as the suspects.” [Far Eastern Economic Review, Oct.3, 1991]
Letter 2: Gandhi’s killers
“In reference to the letter by Sachi Sri Kantha [Letters, 3 Oct.], a ‘smirk’ by the late Rajiv Gandhi shortly before his brutal murder, the purported ‘warning’ five weeks before his killing, and a specious assumption that Mossad had ‘lost face’ by the publication of a book by an ‘ex-Mossad agent’, is apparently good enough evidence to suspect hands other than those of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for Gandhi’s murder.
The painstaking and impressive evidence uncovered by an Indian investigating team which fairly points the finger at the perpetrators pales into insignificance before the novel line of reasoning of your correspondent.
Such impeccable logic of LTTE apologists is not unfamiliar to Sri Lankans. Clearly ‘looking for scapegoats’ continues!.” [Far Eastern Economic Review, Nov.7, 1991]
Letter 3: Backed by the president
by Sachi Sri Kantha
“One Colombo correspondent [Letters, 7 Nov.] feels irritated by my linking of Israel’s secret service to the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. I wish to note that Mossad’s involvement in the politics of South Asia has been corroborated by Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa himself. On 24 September, Premadasa openly accused Mossad of trying to topple him.
In his address to the Sri Lankan parliament, he said: ‘You know that immediately after the sending back of the IPKF [Indian Peace Keeping Force], I had the Israeli Interests Section removed. In such a context there is nothing to be surprised about the Mossad rising up against me. Please remember that there are among us traitors [Note by Sri Kantha: he was indeed referring to his then nemesis Lalith Athulathmudali] who have gone to Israeli universities and lectured there and earned dirty money. Don’t forget that for a moment.”
Curiously, when you covered the impeachment crisis faced by Premadasa, this accusation was left out in your news reports. Also one should not forget that a serious assassination attempt was made on Gandhi in Colombo after he signed the now disgraced Gandhi-Jayewardene Peace Accord in mid-1987. Only the poor targeting by the assassin allowed Gandhi to have an additional four years of life.
Being more inclined to get involved in polemics, the Colombo correspondent makes fun of the warning given to Gandhi five weeks before his death. This warning had come not from an ordinary person. It was given by Yasser Arafat.
While some in Sri Lanka may be impressed by the ‘painstaking evidence uncovered by an Indian investigating team’ which pointed fingers at the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the performance of the Indian sleuths resembled more closely a page from a Marx brothers’ comedy script. The Tamil Nadu police, the Central Bureau of Intelligence and the Research and Analysis Wing of the Indian search team bungled at every step from 21 May to 21 August. The so-called ‘impressive evidence’ could not track the personal details of the female assassin. Nothing is known about her background. The alleged mastermind Sivarajan has been identified by an investigative journalist [Note by Sri Kantha: I was referring to D.B.S.Jeyaraj’s report to the Frontline magazine] as one who belonged to the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation until 1986. It was this rebel group which received official patronage from the Indian Government between 1983 and 1986.” [Far Eastern Economic Review, Nov.28, 1991]
In retrospect, after studying the Supreme Court verdicts on the Rajiv assassination trial, I feel relieved that my observations relating to the performance of the SIT officials and made in November 1991 have stood the test of time. The conspiracy angle of Rajiv assassination itself has become more murkier than what I perceived then. Also, neither Mr.Pethiyagoda nor any other LTTE antagonist could rebut my views expressed in November 1991. I also became more interested in studying the John Kennedy assassination to seek parallels. Toward this goal, in addition to studying some of the published research papers on Kennedy assassination, I also searched, bought and read at least six of the available 40-odd ‘recommended books’ on JFK assassination. These were,
1. Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F.Kennedy, 1964, 888 pp. [popularly known as Warren Commission Report]
2. The Ruby Cover-Up by Seth Kantor, 1978, 450 pp.
3. On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison, 1988, 406 pp.
4. JFK: Conspiracy of Silence by Dr.Charles Crenshaw, 1992, 203 pp.
5. The Killing of a President: The Complete Photographic Record by Robert Gorden, 1993, 223 pp.
6. Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J.Edgar Hoover by Anthony Summers, 1993, 621 pp.
I provide the details of these representative books on JFK assassination to show, how much information have been suppressed in Rajiv Gandhi assassination. For instance, there exists a book detailing the ‘complete photographic record’ of JFK’s final moments and autopsy details. But, in Rajiv Gandhi’s case, LTTE has been framed by the Indian investigators, based on the 10 frames from a roll of Hari Babhu’s camera. But he was not the only cameraman present on that fateful May 21, 1991 night in Sriperumbudur. Even as acknowledged by Mr.Kartikeyan, there were numerous other still photographers and video photographers who had captured the final moments of Rajiv Gandhi’s life. What happened to all those photos? Why these photos have not been placed in public domain? Why none of the post-mortem autopsy photos of Rajiv Gandhi, Dhanu and Sivarasan have been released to the public?
The Oswald and Ruby of the Rajiv assassination
The secrets behind the assassination of John Kennedy were held by his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, who in turn was assassinated by Jack Ruby. Oswald died two days following Kennedy’s assassination and Ruby was reported dead in January 3, 1967 due to prostrate cancer. In Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the roles of Oswald and Ruby were played by Dhanu and Sivarasan. Dhanu died together with Rajiv on May 21, 1991 and Sivarasan was reported ‘dead’ in August 20, 1991 - three months following Rajiv’s assassination.
The parallels are remarkable, but with one striking difference. Quite a few books have been written about both Oswald and Ruby by a number of independent investigators of JFK assassination. At least that much information (verified and unverified) has been made available. Contrastingly, though over ten years have passed after Rajiv assassination, not a single book has appeared on either Dhanu or Sivarasan. Why? I am under the impression that whatever information available on both Dhanu and Sivarasan have been suppressed by the Indian intelligence agencies, since if all the details are revealed, their Procrustean data-torturing technique linking Pirabhakaran to Rajiv assassination would crumble.
Another noteworthy issue to ponder is why during the last 10 years, not a single piece of evidence (video or audio or photograph or letter) had turned up linking Pirabhakaran with either Sivarasan or Dhanu. If such evidence existed, the SIT officials and Indian journalists would have exploited that to maximum. In the absence of such evidence (contradicting the oft-repeated hyperbole of journalists belonging to the Chicken Little Circuit that LTTE penchantly produces photographic records for posterity) questions arise whether those two prime assassins linked to Rajiv Gandhi assassination did belong to LTTE.
This forms the nucleus of the conspiracy angle of this assassination.
Meager Details on Sivarasan and Dhanu
The India Today magazine first published meager details on Sivarasan and Dhanu in its Aug.31, 1991 issue. These details made interesting reading, and I provide my annotations within parentheses for additional queries.
Key Suspects: Identity Crisis
by Anirudhya Mitra
“The on-going investigations reveal that he is a man with many names. In the murder of Rajiv Gandhi he was known to the police as Sivarasan, Shivaraj and Thurai. In the killing of EPRLF leader Padmanabha and 14 others in Madras he gained notoriety as Raghuvaran and Raghuappa. Apparently, he assumes a different name for each operation. But his real name is Raja Arumainayagam. He is currently the most hunted criminal in the country carrying a reward of Rs.10 lakh on his head. [Note by Sri Kantha: Though the date-line of the magazine issue stated Aug.31, 1991, by which time Sivarasan was reported dead on Aug.20, the magazine was released to the newsstand a fortnight earlier. This explains the discrepancy in this statement.]
Sivarasan, 32, is an employee of the Sri Lankan Government in the eastern province. Originally from Chavakcherri village in Jaffna, he graduated in humanities, but it is his other qualifications which earned him the trust of the LTTE. He was LTTE’s prime hit man, thanks mainly to his ability to speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Hindi fluently. [Note: This sentence is a gibberish. What is the correlation between good marksmanship and language fluency? One is a verbal skill, while the other one is a practical skill which develops following rigorous training!] Contrary to reports, his Tamil is sans a Lankan accent. [Note: Again, this statement is puzzling. Even though he was supposed to be Jaffna origin, he was able to mask the Lankan accent. In combination with the previous statement that Sivarasan was supposed to be fluent in Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi – these languages being not used in wider context in Sri Lanka – simple inference one can make from both these statements is that Sivarasan was an Indian, and not a Jaffna person. I’m not stating that this was indeed true, but this could be a matching possibility. See the next statement also.] He is also familiar with Indian topography which has served him in good stead in eluding the slew of super sleuths who are tailing him. [Note: This statement reiterates the impression that he could have been an Indian as well.]
One of his big advantages is the stark contrast between his side and front profiles. There is hardly any similarity between Haribabu’s photograph of him, which is a side pose, and the front view which appears on his driving license. [Note: It is not clear, which driving license? Indian or Sri Lankan?]
But today Sivarasan seems to have been discarded by the Tigers. With most of his disguises having been publicized, he is no longer good enough for ‘shadow work’. He is also too junior to be inducted into the LTTE cabinet. [Note: This sentence hides the fact that, he was alleged to have ‘belonged’ to another Tamil rebel group, identified as TELO, which received official patronage from the Indian intelligence agencies in mid 1980s. Or could it be, that he was inserted as a ‘mole’ by the Indian intelligence-wallahs to penetrate LTTE, following its decimation of TELO in 1986? Sivarasan appears as a stranger in pre-1991 LTTE line-up, since he is not mentioned even once in the Broken Palmyra book (published in 1990), authored by anti-LTTE activists Rajan Hoole et al., whereas Pirabhakaran’s other leading associates receive mention.] He lost his only brother, Arumai, 25, in an IPKF operation in 1988.
The woman who died while killing Rajiv, Dhanu alias Gayatri, is Sivarasan’s cousin. But little else is known about her. Aged 24, she came from a village in Jaffna, called Kupukullai. Intelligence agencies have supplied some of her old pictures to the investigators. When one such picture was shown to the Forensic Science Department, its Director P.Chandra Sekharan said he was fairly certain that it was hers, taken four years ago in Jaffna.
Shubha or Shalini, who carries a reward of Rs.5 lakh, is also Sivarasan’s cousin. Aged 27, Shubha like Sivarasan stayed back after the assassination to complete unfinished business. Like Dhanu, she too is from Kupukullai. She is slightly handicapped, her right leg being shorter than the left.” [India Today magazine, Aug.31, 1991]
Nine months later, after the SIT officials released their initial charge sheet on Rajiv assassination trial on May, 1992, the India Today magazine provided profiles of Sivarasan and Dhanu for the second time. These two profiles, presented by Anirudhya Mitra and Prakash Swamy, had revised the ‘purported real names’ of two assassins, from the Aug.31, 1991 detail. Sivarasan has been now identified as Packiachandran and not Raja Arumainayagam. Dhanu has been now identified as Kalaivathi and not Gayatri. To quote,
Sivarasan: Born to Kill
“It was, by far, the biggest assignment of his terrorist career. But Sivarasan, 33, the mastermind behind the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, had embarked on his hit-and-run course many years ago. The SIT probe has thrown some light on Sivarasan’s chequered past.
Indoctrinated by his father, a TULF leader, [Note: This is an exaggeration. His father could have been an ardent TULF supporter] at a very young age, Sivarasan was first arrested in Batticaloa for distributing leaflets containing pro-Eelam views. While in custody, he wrote Long Live Tamil Eelam on the walls of the lock-up and was severely beaten up for it. This, it seems, marked the beginning of his extremist career.
In 1983, Sivarasan joined the TELO and left for India soon after. Here, he received extensive training in handling explosives. [Note: This is interesting, but hides the significant details. Who gave the extensive training? – RAW personnel of course!] He also had an amazing aptitude for learning languages, and picked up all the south Indian languages. A year later, factional rivalry forced him to return home and join the LTTE. His new name was Raghu (Sivarasan – whose real name was Packiachandran – used many aliases: Sivarajan, Rajan, Aravinth).
For many years, Sivarasan worked in the LTTE’s political wing and was responsible for collecting funds from Udupidy, a job at which he was ruthlessly competent. He played an active role during the IPKF operation, even filling in as commander of Vadamarachchi. [Note: These statements do not stand up to scrutiny, since as I had mentioned already, if Sivarasan was such an outstanding LTTE activist, he would have received mention in the Broken Palmyrah book authored by anti-LTTE activists Rajan Hoole et al., which was released in 1990.] Still, he was not promoted and remained a lieutenant. His first real break came when he was asked to join the Black Tigers commando force – the suicide squad. Heading the nine-member core assassination team was fraught with danger. And it eventually cost him his life.” [India Today magazine, May 31, 1992, p.45]
If Sivarasan’s profile provided by the SIT officials was full of holes, the same applied to identified woman assassin Dhanu’s profile as well.
Dhanu: An Enigma
“ She holds the unhappy distinction of being the first-ever human bomb in the country’s history. In LTTE circles, Dhanu, 24, whose real name was Kalaivathi, is held in some awe. So much so that at a public function held in Jaffna last year, Pirabhakaran honoured her father posthumously with a ‘gold medal’ for her role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. [Note by Sri Kantha: This piece of information is like placing the cart before the horse. Subramanian Swamy records in his Rajiv Gandhi assassination book, that on June 11, 1991, Pirabhakaran honored Eelam activist A.Rajaratnam in a public function held in Jaffna. By this, the Indian investigators of Rajiv assassination arrived at the conclusion that Dhanu was the assassin. At that time, Dhanu’s identity was unclear even to the SIT officials. Evidence for this is revealed by Justice K.T.Thomas, in his supreme court verdict who recorded that it was from the confession of Athirai, the 8th accused in the Rajiv assassination trial, that “we got the idea of placement of Thanu and Suba in the LTTE ranking. The former was a member of ‘Black Women Tiger’ and the latter was a member of the Army branch of LTTE.” (p. 39 of Justice Thomas’s verdict). When did, Athirai offer her confession? According to Justice D.P.Wadhwa’s supreme court verdict, Athirai’s confession was recorded on Aug.29, 1991 – nine days after the reported death of Sivarasan and Subha (p.46 of Justice Wadhwa’s verdict.) Thus, the purported link of Pirabhakaran honoring Eelam activist Rajaratnam in June 1991 to assassin Dhanu is tenuous.]
Dhanu, who studied till middle school in Batticaloa, was inspired by the Tamil liberation movement at a very young age. In fact, her father, A.Rajaratnam, who is described as Pirabhakaran’s mentor, played a crucial role in moulding the LTTE chief’s thinking during the movement’s formative years between 1972 and 1975. His articles were published in pro-LTTE magazines such as Veera Vengai and Courageous Tigers. And the SIT is now producing these articles as evidence to bolster its argument that Dhanu had been indoctrinated by her father and this is what motivated the crime rather than her reported rape by the IPKF which, the SIT believes, is part of a disinformation campaign spread by the LTTE.
Dhanu has only one sister, who lives in France. But attempts by SIT officials to elicit information from her have so far drawn a blank. Exactly what prompted Dhanu to undertake her terrible mission is destined to remain an impenetrable mystery. Perhaps forever.” [India Today magazine, May 31, 1992, p.45]
The Supreme Court verdicts delivered by Justice Wadhwa, Justice Thomas and Justice Quadri are markedly silent on assassin Dhanu’s background. No mention was made in these verdicts about the reported pro-LTTE magazines Veera Vengai and Courageous Tigers. Thus, after 10 years on the strength of Supreme Court verdicts, one can infer that it was the SIT officials who had spread the disinformation campaign to bolster their Procrustean data-torturing techniques. This is substantiated by J.Ranganath’s (the 26th accused in the assassination trial) revelation in 1999.
Ranganath’s Explosive Revelation on Sivararasan
Despite the smearing campaign conducted by the SIT official Kartikeyan and supreme egotist Subramanian Swamy, J.Ranganath has gained credibility. Though he was charged as the 26th accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial in 1992, he was acquitted by the Supreme Court verdicts, delivered on May 11, 1999. His interview to the Indian weekly news magazine The Week of June 6, 1999 shed some light on the conspirators, and who aided and abetted the conspirators. I reproduce in length, Ranganath’s interview to reporter E.Vijayalakshmi.
“Immediately after his release on May 12 , Ranganath vanished, apparently somewhere in Bangalore, and on May 23 , the Tamil Nadu government assigned an armed security guard for him because of threats to his life. He has been frequently shifting residence and says his ‘days are numbered’. The Week met him at a lodge in Chennai. Excerpts from his explosive account:
‘I know my days are numbered because I am opposing Chandraswami, Kartikeyan and a few Congress goons. I thank the government of Tamil Nadu for the security they have given me.
August 2, 1991 was the darkest day in my life. Between 10.45 and 11 pm there was a knock on the door in my house at Putanhally in Banglore. Thinking it was friends, I opened the door without asking their identity. It was a mistake. A man, whom I later came to know as Suresh Master, pointed a handgun at me and told me to get inside. Only my wife was there. He said he wanted to talk. I asked him why then he had the gun. He said he was aware that members of my family were staying in different parts of Bangalore. I immediately understood that I was in a trap. Subha, Sivarasan, a driver ‘anna’ and a Nehru were with him… I had to carry out their orders. I arranged food for them. My wife and I had a quarrel; she didn’t want to stay with me with these people around.
On the third day I came to know that I was harbouring Sivarasan. He was standing in front of the mirror and adjusting his false eye… Sivarasan told me about the smell of lotus when he visited Chandraswami’s ashram, 140 km from Delhi on the Haridwar route, about 40 days before the assassination. He went there on a chartered flight that Chandraswami arranged to witness a ‘yagna’ for the success of the mission to kill Rajiv Gandhi. Chandraswami blessed his guns. That room was filled with lotus flowers and the next room was filled with lemons. He told that he didn’t believe in this kind of superstition, but it clicked.
He said he could have shot Rajiv Gandhi and consumed the cyanide capsule or vanished in the crowd. But Chandraswami wanted a mass killing so that he could recover his debt from abroad. And he showed me the suitcase with wheels which was filled with US dollars and travellers’ cheques. They said they wouldn’t use this money for food. In fact they would only eat bread and drink plain tea.
Sivarasan said that after completing another work, they would be flown to a European country and from there he would go to Jaffna. He said that he belonged to a splinter group of the LTTE, his mother tongue was Sinhalese and he was working in a government firm. He was with TELO before that. He was tortured by the Sri Lankan government while writing something on the wall. Then he joined the LTTE, and after some training, left the place. He came to Delhi in order to settle in Europe. There he met Chandraswami. Sivarasan used to mention ‘Mamaji’ very frequently…”
On Sivarasan’s status and his links to Chandraswami
According to Ranganath, Sivarasan had told him that he belonged to a ‘splinter group’ of LTTE. To quote,
“Sivarasan said he had never missed an RPG aimed at tanks. He told me his splinter group had about 15 women in its cadre and around 35 sympathisers. He had gone to Chandraswami’s ashram for monetary help, and had done two or three jobs for him abroad. As for killing Rajiv Gandhi, Sivarasan said his godfather had told him to do it.
Sivarasan said Chandraswami, who had financed him, had a link with William Webster, ex-head of an American intelligence agency, who had become the head of the Heritage Foundation here. Chandraswami, it seems, is very close to him. So money was not a problem for any kind of work he wanted.
The big suitcase with wheels was missing when the police raided my Bangalore house where Sivarasan and others stayed for 16 days. Until August 18 we were together. On that day I came out, met DCP Kempayya and surrendered to him. And on August 19 Sivarasan died. I was called to identify the bodies after they had raided the place. When I went I could see ash everywhere. The suitcase was missing. Some people were cleaning the place. I saw half-burnt currency in the big sump.”
Shielding Chandraswami by bullying and torturing Ranganath
Then, Ranganath pointed his guns (figuratively!) on the SIT chief D.R.Kartikeyan for distorting the evidence and threatening him utter consequences if Chandraswami’s links were revealed further. To quote Ranganath,
“My conscience told me that the police were the real culprits. At the same time the junior officers were doing their duty well. SIT chief D.R.Kartikeyan was knowingly shielding Chandraswami and others. I know Karthikeyan was close to Rajiv Gandhi. But I don’t know what made him shield Chandraswami. But he did.
I had asked Sivarasan how he had managed to go to Sriperumbudur though he was not very fluent in Tamil spoken in Tamil Nadu. He said he was ready as he had got Rajiv Gandhi’s tour programme three days before the local Congress people came to know about it. He said he got it from his sources in the office of a former woman Union Minister. [Note by Sri Kantha: This politician was Ms. Margaret Alva. Read below.]
I am ready to appear before the Congress Working Committee and the Youth Congress people to answer their questions. If there is a trace of doubt that I had anything to do with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, they can stone me to death. The place I stayed belonged to E.Anjanayappa, the Karnataka Congress president. He is the brother of Ashok Narayana who is like Margaret Alva’s PA. According to Sivarasan, Alva charted Rajiv’s tour two days before he came to Tamil Nadu…
Indian investigating agencies had a nexus with Chandraswami. While I was in SIT custody, I was taken to the Kumarakrupa guest house near the Asoka Hotel in Bangalore by a DIG from Delhi who had settled in Bangalore. There were twin bungalows there. I was handcuffed and made to sit on the floor. One gentleman came there and he was wearing a rudraksha mala. He asked the DIG in Hindi, ‘Yeh sala hai kya?’ I had pretended that I didn’t know Hindi. The DIG told me to stand but I just bowed my head. This man asked, ‘What is he expecting?’ The DIG told me that I should obey the SIT chief, I would get less punishment if I did, and that I should not tell what I had heard from Sivarasan about Chandraswami. Later on I knew that man was ‘Mamaji’.
When I was in illegal custody Kartikeyan told somebody in Delhi on the phone in my presence: ‘Yeh sale ko sabi maloom hoga, ab kya karna padege?’ This was at the CBI office in Bangalore. I was taken to the Jayanagar police station. I met Kartikeyan. I told them everything. But Kartikeyan told me to be silent about the Delhi connection and said I could reveal everything at the CBI office. He asked how I could discuss the matter with the local police. I told him I couldn’t distinguish between the different police.
Karthikeyan asked me how I had come to know about Chandraswami. I told him I was moving closely with Sivarasan. He said they must have referred to some other name. He became violent and told me not to mention Chandraswami’s name. ‘Are you aware of the capacity of Chandraswami?’ he asked me. I told him I was not bothered about Chandraswami. The police officers tortured me. You can see my middle finger. They pierced it and passed electricity through it. They told me not to say anything about this, not to repeat Chandraswami’s name.” [The Week magazine, June 6, 1999]
Credibility of Ranganath
How much one can rely on Ranganath’s information relating to Sivarasan’s activities need to be assessed critically. From May 1992 to April 1999, while he was an accused in the Rajiv assassination trial, Ranganath’s position in the credibility totem pole was low. Contrastingly, the SIT official Kartikeyan’s credibility was in zenith. But on May 11, 1999, tables were turned and Karikeyan’s credibility sank to nadir, and Ranganath’s credibility rose. Acquitting Ranganath, Justice Thomas had written in his verdict,
“The trial court at the close of the discussion of evidence against A-26 [i.e, Accused 26] has entered the following finding in paragraph 2419 of the Judgment:
‘From the foregoing discussion and analysis of evidence proved by the prosecution it has to be concluded that A-26 harboured Sivarasan and Suba, who were proclaimed offenders and the other accused A-24 Rangan, Nehru, Suresh Master, Driver Anna and Amman in his house at Puttanahalli and subsequently at Konanakunte voluntarily and willingly without any fear to his life.’
The above is the only finding on facts which the learned trial Judge [Note by Sri Kantha: i.e., Navaneetham, whose credibility also sank abysmally on May 11, 1999] appears to have made regarding the role of A-26. Thereafter no discussion is seen made about his activities. But learned Judge had held in paragraph 2451, that A-26 is also guilty of the offence under Section 120-B read with Section 302 IPC and rest of the offences included in the charge…
But at the same time we have to point out that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for connecting A-26 with the conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, the prosecution did not even bother to establish that A-26 had no knowledge that anybody would be plotting to murder Rajiv Gandhi. It is very unfortunate that the trial court has convicted A-26 also of the offence under Section 120-B read with Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to be hanged.” [pp.64-65 of Justice Thomas’s verdict]
Thus, I tend to believe that Ranganath has gained some credibility. Therefore, one tidbit he had stated in his 1999 interview about Sivarasan’s travels prior to Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, puzzles me. He had observed that, Sivarasan had told him that “he visited Chandraswami’s ashram, 140 km from Delhi on the Hardwar rout, about 40 days before the assassination. He went there on a chartered flight that Chandraswami arranged to witness a ‘yagna’ for the success of the mission to kill Rajiv Gandhi. Chandraswami blessed his guns.” 40 days before the assassination can be placed to around April 10, 1991. This schedule does not align properly with the pre-assassination travel schedule of Sivarasan prepared by the SIT officials. According to Justice Wadhwa’s supreme court verdict, Sivarasan had spent much of the time between February and end of April in Sri Lanka, with only one annotation around April 24, 1991 stating that “He was at Madras in the house of Vijayan (A-12)” [pp.42-43 of the verdict].
The possibility that Sivarasan could have lied about his links with Chandraswami to Ranganath cannot be denied. If that be the case, then Kartikeyan also has some explanation to do to convince the public why he bullied and tortured Ranganath to hide any information pertaining to Sivarasan’s links to Chandraswami. It could be that, like Jack Ruby who had links to the FBI, Sivarasan also had deeper links with the Indian intelligence-wallahs. This is one reason why, as discussed in chapter 31 of this series, Sivarasan’s mortal remains was disposed quickly – rather than being exhibited as a ‘precious trophy’ representing a vanquished LTTE activist. [Continued.]