The puny Lal Bahadur Shastri ( 2 October 1904 – 11 January 1966) was the second Prime Minister of the Republic of India and a leader of the Indian National Congress party. He joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s and impressed and influenced by Congress leader MK Gandhi, he became his follower, first of Gandhi, and then of Jawaharlal Nehru. Following independence in 1947, he joined the latter’s government and became one of Prime Minister Nehru’s principal lieutenants and close aid, He served as Railways Minister (1951–56), and then in a variety of other functions, including Home Minister.He has become famous after his resignation as railway minister after a serious train accident owning responsibility. This was unlike what we see today. Rustic pan chewing Lalu Prasad Yadav claimed that he had no direct responsibility in accidents when he was railway minister and many accidents took place. He shamelessly stuck to his seat. Such are the changed values today. Shastriji was chosen as Nehru’s successor owing to his adherence of Nehruvian socialism after Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi turned down Congress President K. Kamaraj’s offer of premiership. Kamraj although was great man , found glory in promoting dynastic succession. Indira Gandhi reportedly refused the offer.
Shastriji as Prime Minister continued Nehru’s policies of non-alignment and socialism that took us nowhere. He became a national hero following the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. His slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) became very popular during the war and is remembered even today . But the slogan is now for only remembering. Everyday one can find news of suicides by farmers in media particularly in AP. Less said is better about treatment meted to army men. Recently we have seen how the issue of former Army Chief General VK Singh was handled by the central govt. The pay commission problems are known to the whole world. The supremacy of civil authority in a democratic setup has degraded Defense forces to such an extent that none of bright youth volunteer to join these services. There is a great shortage of officers in army and third rate or even fourth rate stuff keep knocking at the doors. Less said is better about ex- service men. Officers- class do not want to reveal their identity for the fear of finding themselves in humiliating condition in a civil society. Thus Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan slogan died with Shastriji long ago and it remains a mockery now. Mother is remembered in pain and a soldier is remembered in war. Rest of the time they are kicked around. This may be harsh fact unpleasant to some. But fact remains true. A sad naked truth to digest.
The war of 1965 was formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement of 10 January 1966; he died the following day, still in Tashkent, of a heart attack ( Reportedly). The nation was stunned receiving the news of his death and great calamity fell on the country at the tragic hour. Time and tide wait for no man. Soon Indira Gandhi was chosen as the PM of India although stalwarts like YB Chawan, Morarji Desai, and Gulzari lal Nanda were there. The bacteria virus of dynastic succession already entered the blood stream of Congress party leaders and they could never imagine any other one as a PM of India while the party was in power.
Sudden death of Shastriji in a far off land at the end of 1965 war with Pakistan resulted in many questions, doubts and theories and most of the answers remain doubtful although official versions indicated heart attack. The real truths still remain as mystery to the people of India. There are many speculations, riddles, unsolved puzzles pointing to some mischief in the death of Indian PM in a far off land . After Shastri’s death in Tashkent, USSR, on January 11, 1966 soon after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan, his wife Lalita had alleged he was poisoned. Thus people of India are surely suspicious of the happenings in which Shastriji died.
The important issues are:
1. There were dark spots and cut marks on abdomen of the dead leader. No post mortem was conducted on the dead body. The question is from where such cut s have come?
2. A query was later posed by Anuj Dhar, author of CIA’s Eye on South Asia, under the Right to Information Act about his death but the government had refused to part with classified information on the issue. The Prime Minister’s Office, while refusing information under the RTI Act on the cause and circumstances of Shastri’s death, had said revealing these details could harm India’s foreign relations and would violate Parliamentary Privilege
3. The government had admitted no postmortem was conducted on Shastri. However, his personal doctor R N Chugh and some Russian doctors conducted a medical examination.
4. The Russian butler attending on Shastri at the time of his death was arrested for suspected poisoning but released later.
5. Kuldip Nayars statement offers insight into the issue (4). During an interview he stated, “Shastri has been forgotten by the nation. He has been pushed into the background. I have no doubt that there was a Congress conspiracy to underplay Shastri after his death. The Congress is the party that should have put him to the fore but I remember visiting a Congress meeting where Shastri’s portrait was not even displayed with respect. They even protested against inscribing the slogan – Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan on his samadhi. Then again, only when Mrs Shastri threatened to go on a hunger strike was it was allowed.”
6. Dr R.N. Chugh, the accompanying physician was found dead in a roadside accident
7. After some more time, Dr Chughs wife and one son died in a road accident. How mysterious is that Dr Chugh who was the key witness to the incident died in a strange circumstances followed soon by his wife and a son.
8. The suspicions among people in this regard to Shastris death as summarized byDebasish Battacharjee are (5) (6) :
i. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was inside a jail in USSR (He died in 1976)
ii. USSR was threatening Jawaharlal of Netaji’s release if business not done with them.
iii. USSR made good business relation with India showing Netaji inside jail.
iv. Jawarlal died and Lal Bahadur Shastri became Indian PM
v. USSR can’t threaten him because if Shastri knows about Netaji, he will tell to release Netaji and welcome him.
vi. USSR wanted somebody in power who can be threatened and utilized.
vii. Indira Gandhi was consulted by Sr. Defence Official (He wrote in Diary)
viii. In Tashkent (USSR), Shastri was given poison in the milk.
ix. He went to Coma and died.
x. There was no inquiry / committee given to check the whole thing.
xi. Media was made silent.
xii. Indira gandhi came into power.
xiii. USSR had good business thereafter.
The above suspicions could be conjectures, but people of India are suspicious of some plot and clever execution at some high level that has been kept great secret over the years. Netajis disappearance has been a unsolved mystery till date.Nana sahib Peshwas disappearance in 1857 war has also been a great mystery. Hero of 1857 war Tantya Tope’s hanging has been also a mystery and people are not accepting government versions.
Thus we see that the death of Shastriji is surrounded in mystery and it is necessary that it be solved. Will it remain one of the many unsolved mysteries of the world?