Today is the 50th nniversary of the demise of former Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri – one of the icons of modern India whose lasting popularity cuts across all divisions. What happened on the night of January 11 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) in 1966 is shrouded in mystery, thanks mainly to the secret secrecy supported by our government.
Generations have gone, but the conspiracies about what caused Shastri’s death have not stopped. In another country, the strange case of the death of a prime minister was questioned long ago by a high-powered team and all relevant documents were kept in the public domain.
After the signing of the Tashkent Agreement, around 4 pm on 10 January, Prime Minister Shastri arrived at the villa provided by his Russian hosts. Late in the evening, he had a light meal prepared by John Mohammed, personal chef of Indian Ambassador to Moscow TN Kaul.
There were other Russian butlers in his service at the same villa. At 11.30, Shastri had a glass of milk brought by the ambassador’s cook. He was fine when his personal staff discharged him at the time.
But at around 1.25 pm on 11 January, Shastri woke up, coughing profusely. The room that had no phone or intercom. So he moves to another room to tell his staff to inform his personal doctor, RN Chugh. Until Dr. Chugh arrived, Shastri was dying. Its symptoms were of a heart attack. Dr. There was not much Chugh could do. He started crying. “Babuji, you did not give me enough time.” Shastri took the name of Lord Rama and he left.
There was a ring of abnormality about what happened next. Here are four reasons for your consideration that make Shastri’s death suspicious:
- KGB suspected poisoning
At 4 am, Ahmad Sattarav, a Russian butler attached to Shastri, was badly woken up by an officer of the ninth directorate of the KGB (responsible for protecting VIPs). In Sattarov’s own words, the KGB official said that he suspected that the Indian Prime Minister had been poisoned.
Sattaruv was handcuffed and sent to a location 30 km away with three junior butlers. His harsh questioning began in a cellar. After some time, Jan Mohammed was brought back to Sattaruva’s words: “We thought it must have been the person who poisoned Shastri.”
The decision was taken after rigorous questioning, with Sattaruv continuing to reel under its influence. “We were so nervous that one of my colleague’s temple hair turned gray in front of our eyes, and I stutter ever since”.
- The needle of doubt points to an insider’s hand to those close and dear to Shastri
When Shastri’s body was brought to Delhi, no one had any clue as to what the KGB suspected. But seeing strange patches of blue color on Shastriji’s body, his mother screamed that someone had poisoned her son. “Poison deya diya to my bitwa!” The fun of the old woman continues to haunt the Shastri family till date.
Shastri’s sons Anil and Sunil Shastri (one in Congress, another in BJP) and grandchildren Sanjay and Siddharth Nath Singh have often talked about their ongoing agony and pain that happened long ago.
Shastri’s wife Lalitha died thinking that her husband had been poisoned. Other family members and close people like childhood friend TN Singh and close follower Jagdish Kodia were not able to make scars on the back of Shastri’s stomach and neck. He had blood on his neck and the sheets, pillows and clothes he used were all soaked in blood. A grandson of Shastri told me that he still had Nanaji’s blood-soaked cap.
Back in 1966, the family demanded clarification and action from the government. Whatever was done did not satisfy them. Former Delhi Congress chief Kodeshia had also started thinking that Shastri’s death has some connection with Netaji mystery.
Veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar, who was in Tashkent on that fateful day as Shastri’s advisor, recently said that his suspicions were aroused sometime after the tragedy when a member of Parliament dismissed the allegations of poisoning and TN Kaul By then, the Foreign Secretary is “ready to issue a statement against me”.
“He really maligned me four or five times.”
Jan Mohammad was appointed to the Rashtrapati Bhavan after the Tashkent tragedy.
Dr. Chugh, his wife and two sons were driven by a truck in 1977. Only his daughter survived, but was crippled.
- No post mortem was done on Shastri’s body
The only sure shot way to find out if Shastri was poisoned was to do a post-mortem on his body. The family demanded it. But the demand was not accepted. Interim Prime Minister Gulzarilal Nanda later had to make contact with Dee with him due to ignorance about Shastri’s family.