It was a day just like any other pre-exam night for a student preparing for his University exams. I had just finished for the night and was preparing to go to sleep when I heard a faint chorus that appeared to be that usual night time 'jaatha' the politically active working men of my neighbourhood used to take out at regular intervals in the darkness of the power-cut ridden nights. This used to be their way of showcasing their allegiance to their political beliefs of the time after they get home from their work places. The subject matters of these nocturnal 'jaathas' were aimed to 'sensitise' the neighbourhood of the 'deeds' or 'misdeeds' of the Ruling or the Opposition fronts.
Tonight as the chorus drew close, I easily recognised the familiar voices of neighbourhood men shouting out slogans which, I noticed, was some way different from the usual aggressive tone. I casually glanced at the wall clock and saw that the time was just past midnight. The date had just rolled over to 22 May . The time was unusual for such a demonstration. I decided to listen intently to the far cries which now obviously had a tone of grief - it appeared the leader of the 'jaatha' was struggling to fight back tears as he shouted the slogans. Then it slowly dawned on me as I deciphered word after broken word that flowed clear through the stillness of the night - They were announcing the unbelievable fact of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. I couldn't believe my ears. Barely a week before had Rajiv Gandhi visited our City and made his typical speech punctuated with the familiar '.. Desh ke kone kone mein .. ' and '.. Bhaiyon or Behno ..' statements, which was attended by a multitude of men, women and children from across party lines. Across the borders of our property, I could see lights popping up from households that were waking up in the middle of the night to hear the news. Shaking, I tip-toed to the bedroom of my parents and woke them up and told the news. I remember tuning the radio to the BBC to get a confirmation on the horrifying news. The major part of that night, my family spent discussing the ghastly act wondering who could have have had the guts to go to such lengths as to take out leaders of a country through such inhuman acts.
The rest is history. The gory images of the dead that flashed in the newspapers and on the screens, the images of Jayanthi Natarajan weeping like a school kid, the images of the photographs that were developed from the camera that was recovered from the site of the assassination, the stories that filled up tonnes of newsprint, the mysterious delay in taking Commando action to catch the suspects alive in a colony at Bangalore a few weeks later, the photographs of the bodies of the suspected masterminds of the assassination that were published in the newspapers - all flow into my memory like a fresh monsoon stream gushing down the green hills of Wynad.
I never had any particular affinity to any political party ever in my days in school as well as college, and I am proud that I am able to carry on without any, even today. However, I believed, that there was something in Rajiv Gandhi which most other politicians of our country lacked in those days and are still lacking. He had some kind of fire in him that could carry the crowd along. He was bold enough to take stern action in Sri Lanka as well as in Maldives. He had an international appeal which no other minister or PM of the governments of our immediate past and of the present could ever think of. He definitely had a vision, though highly debatable for a vibrant future for India, for which he had the guts to put in practice. Later on, when I started reading about the political setup of our nation I came to know of the cock-eyed advisors he kept, which undoubtedly made him fall from power, never to return and in a way spell the end of the much debated dynastic politics.
Over one-and-a-half decades later, today we have news that the last and only active link to the case - Nalini - who is in prison with a commuted life sentence, is repentant about the whole ghastly act she aided and abetted fully aware of what the ultimate aim was, of her husband (lover) and his friends. I sincerely believe that this is a ploy coming out of the brains of a highly intelligent, highly motivated and adequately trained agent as a prelude to larger plan of action, the first step of which is to break free from prison and from the hands of the Indian people. If one can see, this woman has had her way out in each and every thing that she wanted ever since she was caught on suspicion and later sent to jail on a death warrant. These include the marriage that she performed with her lover and one of the prime accused in the case, the baby that she delivered, the studies that she pursued and now, her ultimate goal is to break free from the soft hands of the Indian public and for that she has started a different kind of drama in which she knows - and she has already intelligently roped in flamboyant Indian media too - the need for garnering the emotions and support of the women of the Indian nation; a ploy that is bound to fetch her far-reaching results; the ultimate being to convince the unyielding men through their wives, girlfriends, daughters and even mistresses to take the decision to set her free.
Having had opportunity to tour the interiors of Tamil Nadu and more intensely, the sensitive neighbourhoods of Rameshwaram and Nagapattinam, I have had occasions in which I could interact directly with the local population on issues related to essential survival. I can tell with confidence that each and every fisher-man's hut along the sea coast that borders the BoB and the SE Arabian Sea on the Tamil Nadu coast is totally aware of what is going on in the background, which always remain opaque to our eyes. They know very well what is going to happen and when. It is we, who do not have direct access to them, who have to depend upon the powerful Indian media of today to hear and see what the media wants you to see and know. One must remember that the media is not always honest. Gone are the days when the good old Doordarshan and Aakashvani were tuned into by the nation to seek reliable information on issues of National Security and of National importance. They still remain so in perfectly judging what amount of news need to be telecast or broadcast and when. Unfortunately, there is no proper guidance to harness the power they actually wield, in an intelligent manner. The development of the privately owned news channels have eclipsed the existence of the good old friends. These new comers are into the business of money making and do not owe much of social responsibility. They talk too much about social responsibility as it needs to be kept that way as a USP for their own survival in today's fast world. The ordinary Indian would have to brand himself as the most foolish and idiotic of all species on earth if he or she is ready to believe that an educated, intelligent and sharp woman like Nalini did not know what was happening behind her back or in front of her. Her eyes tell it all, if not her words.
Jails are designed to psychologically crush a criminal by their high walls, dark cells and strict regimen supplemented in adequate measure by physical torture meted out to the more dreaded ones. However, experienced jailors would admit that it is the apparently dumb, but actually smart, scheming and intelligent criminals that give them the hardest of all times. Even the ruthless British jailors of the mother of all jails - the Cellular Jail at Port Blair - were brought to their knees by them. The very fact that Nalini could complete degree after degree sitting beneath the 'protection' that the jail walls provided unmindful of the scathe and disgust she generated for herself outside the walls and most of all commendably overcoming the overwhelming psychological pressure that the physical environment inside the jail is bound to affect an ordinary woman, speak for itself in support of my premise in this direction. Only a disciplined and psychologically trained professional can out bear such mental pressure. But here, we see a quasi-mastermind planning to walk free and most of our 'Proud and Independent' media supporting her intention in more ways than one. There are discussions, panel discussions and video conferences complete with news breaks, coffee breaks and ad breaks that are aired by the 'professional newsmen' to kill time and gain cheap popularity among the people of India on an issue that ought not be discussed in public at such regular intervals. Each time these channels show the deftly chosen pictures; their editors, production floor managers and high profile reporters and news readers - superbly educated and fashionably intelligent as they may seem - are knowingly or unknowingly becoming part of a cunning game plan that been fabricated and has been put into action by some nasty rat who resides inside or outside our own ship : that is our homeland - India.
It is high time we take cognizance of this multi-factored game that is being played on us as a nation. I saw in disbelief the reports of the visit of Mrs. Priyanka Vadra, the daughter of the slain leader to the quasi-mastermind behind the killing of her father. The reason for the visit and what transpired between the visitor and the visited is best known to them both and God above. I would not like to dwell upon this any further. I just wondered, and many of my friends also wondered with me, if the families of those policemen and the poor, ordinary villagers who were blasted into pieces along with Rajiv Gandhi would ever forgive Nalini and her comrades - both dead and alive - in any of their re-births, let alone now? Has anyone ever thought of the numerous officers and men of our Armed Forces who have given up their lives in Sri Lanka fighting her like-minded brethren a long time ago? Here we are, facing shameless, droning, lip-sticked, fashionably bespectacled faces of the media babbling away at us and proudly announcing the progress of the carefully scripted game that cursed woman is playing deftly on each one of our minds. She should have been buried long back.