Congress veteran P Chidambaram today turned emotional while remembering former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a “messenger of peace”, and said those who feared that peace would prevail in Sri Lanka were responsible for his death. The former finance minister said Rajiv’s mother, Indira, “realised” that a nuclear-powered India would enter the elite superpower club and conducted the Pokhran-I test.
Her son, however, did not do it when he was the prime minister as he was a “lover of peace” and never ordered nuclear tests despite being well aware of the status it would accord on the country, he said. Describing Rajiv as a “messenger of peace”, Chidambaram said the former prime minister had initiated various peace agreements in Punjab, Mizoram, Kashmir and Assam during his tenure.
And when he was trying to ensure one more peace agreement, i.e. in Sri Lanka, “some rebels from the (Tamil) race, which would have benefited from the peace accord, took his life,” he said in an apparent reference to Rajiv’s assassination by an LTTE suicide bomber at Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.
“Messengers of peace getting killed is not new. Jesus was killed, Abraham Lincoln was killed, Mahatma Gandhi, who was a messenger of peace–he was killed, John F Kennedy was killed.” “Rajiv was a messenger of peace and he was killed because of that,” Chidambaram said and broke down.
He quickly composed himself and proceeded to address the gathering on the Congress leader’s 26th death anniversary at the TNCC headquarters Sathyamurthi Bhavan here. He said Rajiv knew “he will face an unexpected end”.
“He, however, said that he will never withdraw from the efforts taken for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils. Those who feared peace will prevail in Sri Lanka were responsible for his death,” he added.
He heaped praise on Rajiv, saying he ushered in a number of development projects, including in the fields of telecommunication and health, and said he was one of the few young leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh to have left a lasting impression among people.
He also credited Rajiv with introducing the Panchayati Raj system, calling it a “revolution”. He questioned if all communities lived in peace and whether secularism and good relations prevailed in present day India.
Noting the number of soldiers killed in the Line of Control since 2014, he asked if that had ensured peace at the LoC. He also asked if Dalits, Muslims, Christians were able to live in India without fear.