Claiming that former Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who died in Tashkent after signing a peace pact with Pakistan, could have been murdered, his son Anil Shastri Saturday demanded a thorough probe into the incident and declassification of all related files.
“I do urge the Indian prime minister to release the documents. Not a bad idea to have an inquiry into his death, question all remaining witnesses and clear all speculation and at least establish the negligence,” Shastri, a Congress leader, told news channel CNN-IBN in an interview.
Shastri and Pakistani president of the time, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, had been invited to Tashkent by then Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin for peace talks following the Indian-Pakistan War in 1965. An agreement was signed on January 10, 1966 but Shastri was found dead a few hours later, having suffered cardiac arrest.
Lal Bahadur Shastri’s family, while demanding declassification of all documents related to his death, indicated that blue marks and white spots seen on his body were signs of foul play.
Recalling the scene, Anil Shastri said: “When his body (Lal Bahadur Shastri) came to the Palam airport, we found that the body had turned blue and there were white spots on his temple.”
“The moment my mother (Shastri’s wife Lalita Devi) saw the body, she knew it was not a natural death. She told us it was a murder, there was out and out foul play,” he said.
Anil Shastri called it “unbelievable” that the prime minister’s room in the capital of then Soviet Uzbekistan had “no call bell, no telephone, no caretaker in his room and no first aid. He had to walk up to the door himself.”
He alleged that the death was due to fault done by the Indian embassy and termed it as “height of negligence”.
“His death was badly handled by the Indian government. It hurts me to a great extent,” he said.
Opining that Shastri was not taken “seriously”, he said: “Post-mortem could have been done in Tashkent if there was a request from the Indian government or a request from the Indian doctors.”
“… some close associates feel that suspicion revolves around an Indian hand or a foreign power,” he said.
Anil Shastri claimed that his father had come to know about a scam involving a shipping tycoon Dharam Teja.
Citing an article by the late journalist Khushwant Singh, Shastri claimed Teja was in Tashkent at the time of his father’s death.
He also claimed that the prime minister was likely to take action and order an inquiry against Teja after his return to India.
Raising suspicions over the hand of a foreign power in his death, Anil Shastri said: “…Lal Bahadur Shastri had suddenly gained a lot of power, when he retaliated with full force against Pakistan. Whether it was America, China or any third country… I cannot name any country but the truth is Lal Bahadur Shastri was becoming very strong in the region.”
He also raised the sudden death of Dr R N Chugh, the personal physician accompanying the prime minister. Chugh died in an accident with his family.
Anil Shastri said his father’s personal assistant too met with an accident, was crippled and lost his memory.
He also expressed concern over his father’s missing red personal diary.
“He made daily notings in it and may have even written about the Tashkent agreement and the pressures he was under,” he said.
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