22 April, 2021

Night Of The Suicide Bomb

An eyewitness account of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination

Night Of The Suicide Bomb

May 21, 1991 would be difficult to erase from my memory. After all, it’s not every day that you are witness to a political leader’s assassination, and that too just a few hours after a face-to-face with the head of the team of assassins. On that typically humid summer evening, I had gone in a hired car to Sriperumbudur along with three colleagues to cover Rajiv Gandhi’s first halt at Tamil Nadu during the 1991 election campaign. He was to proceed to the constituencies of Mani Shankar Aiyar and P. Chidambaram the next day.

We arrived early and chatted with R.K. Raghavan, who would become CBI director later and was then in-charge of security of the badly lit meeting ground on a dried-up lake bed. Rajiv’s chartered flight from Visakhapatnam was delayed and so the meeting would start late, Raghavan told us. When we talked about poll-related violence in other parts of the country, he said Tamils were blessed to have had a violence-free campaign.

We proceeded to have a snack and ran into Hari Babu, a photographer with a local photo agency. My...

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