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Rajiv Gandhi assassination: 24 years later

DC | BELLIE THOMAS
Published May 21, 2015, 8:54 am IST
Updated Feb 23, 2016, 2:43 pm IST
Today is the 24th anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
 Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi

Bengaluru: It is the anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. The brutal killing by a suicide bomber that sent chills down the spine among millions is still an incomplete story. Sivarasan, also known as the one-eyed-jack, the brain behind the attack on Mr Gandhi, and his close associates committed suicide when policemen surrounded their secluded house in Konanakunte Cross, on the outskirts of Bengaluru weeks later.

It is a fascinating story of the city’s LTTE sympathisers giving shelter to LLTE cadre, who travelled in an empty oil tanker from Chennai to Bengaluru, soon after the assassination. DC tracks down those “LTTE sympathisers” in the city to unravel details of the story that shook the world and put Bengaluru on the terror radar.

Those were the days when scores of Tamilians in Bengaluru roamed the streets of Bengaluru with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran picture in their pockets or wallets, and boast about Tamil power in Sri Lanka. Some of these sympathisers offered shelter to wounded LTTE cadre, who came to Bengaluru for medical treatment. Just weeks later, in what could be one of the biggest successes for investigative agencies, one group of LTTE men and women was tracked down to a small house in Konanakunte Cross on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Sivarasan, shot himself in his right temple, while Shubha and others bit into their cyanide capsules and died after a brief encounter with local policemen.

 

The Konanakunte house where Sivarasan and six LTTE members committed suicide in August ’91 was later converted to a police station after which the house owner rented it out to a school   

Jayaram Ranganath, accused number 26 in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, who was released in 1999 after serving a jail term of nine and a half years at the Poonamallee sub-jail in Tamil Nadu, is now a resident of Basavanagudi and owns a real estate firm at Nagasandra Circle. Ranganath recollects the day he was arrested by the CBI team and city police on August 18, 1991 as he organised shelter for seven LTTE members – Sivarasan, Shubha, Keerthi, Neru, Suresh Master, Amman and Jamila.

“On August 1 night, I was introduced to them by R. Rajan, who was another LTTE sympathizer. He requested me to find a house for them, while my wife, Mridhula and I were staying at Puttenahalli 2nd Cross in J.P. Nagar,” he said. “First, I did not know that they were involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s killing. But later, TV channels and newspapers flashed their pictures, saying this was the group that came from Sri Lanka to assassinate Rajiv,” he added.

As Ranganath could not arrange for a house for them immediately, they stayed at Ranganath’s house in Puttenahalli on August 2, 3, 4 and 5. Later, all of them, including Ranganath and his wife, shifted to a single-bedroom house in Konankunte Cross. On August 15, when the police swooped down on 12 LTTE men, all of them handicapped, at a guesthouse in Muthathi village, all of them bit their cyanide capsules and died.

When police officers searched their bodies, they found that the dead had links with Puttenahalli Anjanappa, who was the house owner of Ranganath. When the police questioned Anjanappa, the needle of suspicion pointed towards Ranganath, who had by then shifted with his family to Konankunte Cross along with seven LTTE terrorists. The police first picked up Mridhula from her brother’s house and she revealed to the police that these seven members of LTTE were staying at their house at Konankunte Cross. “On August 17 midnight, battalions of police surrounded the house. But the next morning, all the suspects were dead as they had bitten into cynaide capsules. The group leader, Sivarasan, had shot himself in the right temple and had also consumed cyanide,” said Ranganath.

The armed policemen who surrounded the house (above) in Konanakunte Cross, where LTTE cadre were holed up.

“I was arrested by the city police and the CBI team. They took me in a helicopter from HAL Airport to Avadi and I was in their custody for two months. Later, I was locked up at Poonamallee sub-jail,” he said. “I was also sentenced to death by the courts, but my appeal in the Supreme Court gave me relief,” he said.

The seven terrorists, who travelled in an empty oil tanker to the city on August 1, 1991, had occupied two houses in New Thippesandra on rent with the help of another LTTE sympathizer, Jaganath. One of the two houses was raided by the city police the same day after a tipoff given by a senior police officer that nearly a dozen LTTE cadre had entered the city and had moved into a house in New Thippesandra.

As the city police swooped down on the house, two LTTE men, who were not part of the seven-member group, committed suicide by consuming cyanide. The police brushed away the incident, saying the raid did not yield any ‘big catch.’ Investigating officials, who later questioned a real estate agent who fixed the house, were startled to know that the broker had fixed two more houses, one right opposite the house that was raided. But by then, the seven had fled the precinct and approached R. Rajan, who introduced them to Ranganath.

Was it on Rajiv’s birthday?

LTTE cadres were not found dead on Rajiv’s birthday: LTTE sympathiser. The then CBI director, D.R. Karthikeyan, assisted the Bengaluru city police in swooping down on the house in Konanakunte Cross, where the terrorists involved in the assassination of former prime minster Rajiv Gandhi were holed up. Two Deputy Commissioners of Police, Kempaiah and Shankar Bidari, led their teams to the house in a secret operation, which was monitored by then city police commissioner R. Ramalingam.

The police claimed that the bodies of the seven LTTE members, including that of mastermind Sivarasan, were found in the house on August 20, 1991, Rajiv’s birthday. But the LTTE sympathiser, Ranganath, who was in the house with the LTTE cadres, said that the police surrounded the house on August 17 and the bodies were recovered the next morning. Ranganath, who was arrested the same day, identified the bodies of the LTTE cadre.

But the news of suicides was announced only on August 20, as Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka visited a memorial to the former prime minister in New Delhi to observe his 47th birthday. The Konankunte house where the seven LTTE members committed suicide was later converted into a police station. After which the owner of the house again renovated it and has now rented it out to a pre-school.

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