On the occasion of death Anniversary of our former Prime Minister Late Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri, the fact that mystery of his death is still unresolved is deeply saddening. Despite being a Prime Minister it is hard to believe that nobody knows how he died and a country like India that aspires to become World Power chicken out about the death of its former Prime Minister even today.

Who is Lal Bahadur Shastri:

Late Sri Lal bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of India. He had played a great role in promoting White Revolution & Green Revolution in India. His original surname was Srivastava. He was highly influenced by thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand and Annie Besant that is why he dropped his caste derived surname from his name. He led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and gave the sloganJai Jawan Jai Kisan”. Famous Actor and Director Manoj Kumar has produced his super hit movie “Upkar” based on this very slogan.

The Death Controversy

Just one day after signing a peace treaty to end the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War Shastri Ji died in Tashkent, Uzbekistan(then soviet Union) on 11th January 1966. Conspiracy theories started to appear within hours of his death and still persist as we have got no proper explanation or reason for his death. Most people at that time, and since, allege foul play regarding his death.

There are several reasons that suggest that something is not right about his death and some conspiracies do exist.

  • The media at that time kept silence and the government also did not release any information about his death. People tried to file RTI to gain information regarding his death but in vain.
  • Anuj Dhar, author of CIAs Eye on South Asia, posed a query under Right to Information Act to declassify a document supposedly related to Shastri’s death, but the Prime Minister’s Office declined the same reportedly citing that this could lead to harming of foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and breach of parliamentary privileges.
  • Another RTI was filed by Kuldip Nayar but it was also declined by PMO citing exemption from disclosure on the plea. No response has been received even yet about whether India had conducted post-mortem on Shastri Ji and if the government had investigated alleged foul play.
  • In reply to an RTI the Delhi Police said that they do not have any record pertaining Shastri’s death. The replay dated 29th July said “No such record related to the death of former Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri is available in this district. Hence the requisite information pertaining to New Delhi district may please be treated as nil”.
  • The Ministry of External Affair had said that no post mortem was conducted in the USSR.

All these facts create suspicion about Shastri’s death and since then many conspiracy theories have emerged which involved role of either Soviet Union or United States of America.

The Soviet Union conspiracy theory

The discussions between Indian and Pakistani delegations virtually ended in a stalemate and till the late afternoon hours of 9 January 1966 it seemed that there would be no agreement between the two sides. Sensing that, many of the journalists went shopping. Suddenly, they were alerted that an agreement was imminent and would be signed between the two leaders at about 4.30 in the evening. Many journalists have raised the issue that Shastri who so far stood like a rock, unwilling to give up, looked a bit shaken at the agreement-signing ceremony. So what actually happened in the few hours that compelled Shastri to change his stance? If he was under tremendous pressure to accede to Pakistani demands then who created such pressures? And Shastri who maintained his composure, his determination for so long when it had become almost certain that there will be no agreement, under whose pressure made him give in?

The role of KGB behind Shastri’s death too has been conjectured by many. It is believed that T N Kaul, the then Indian Ambassador to the Soviet Union, was very close to the Soviets, his role behind the agreement and his silence even after Shastri’s death, is bound to raise some uncomfortable questions.

From the Soviet perspective, US was expanding its geopolitical influence in Asia. Pakistan had become an American ally and some reports suggested that they had allowed a secret base at Peshawar to be used by the USAF’s U2 spy planes that were deployed for surveillance of Soviet nuclear facilities, space research, and other secret works mostly done in Central Asia.

The Soviet Union as a means to please Pakistan took its side forcing India to accede to its request to that Pakistan could return the favor to them later on. Many journalists claim that they witnessed the amount of persuasion, insistence and implicit pressure was exerted on then Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and probably Shastri by then Soviet PM Kosygin who was supposed to be mediating between India and Pakistan.

Following the Tashkent Treaty signed between Indian PM Shastri and Pakistani President General Ayub Khan on January 10, 1966, in the presence of the then Soviet PM Kosygin, the death of the PM Shastri the same night did raise many questions that remain unanswered even after almost 55 years. 

The US conspiracy theory

Gregory Douglas, a journalists who interviewed former CIA operative Robert Crowley for more than 4 years recorded their telephone conversations. He published a transcription in his book titled Conversations with the Crow in which he claim that the CIA was responsible for eliminating Homi Jahangir Bhabha, an Indian nuclear scientist whose plane crashed in the Alps, when he was going to attend a conference in Vienna; and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Crowley said that the USA was not happy with India’s rigid stand on nuclear policy of then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who wanted to go ahead with nuclear tests. He also said that the agency was worried about collective domination by India and Russia over the region, for which they required a strong deterrent.

Its still not clear as to who was responsible for Shastri’s death but the circumstances under which he died and the incidents afterwards where his personal physician and assistant died under mysterious circumstances in New Delhi and the fact that stil no proper investigation has been carried out ever and the government of India is reluctant to share any information regarding it create concrete suspicion. As of now all we know is that just like the disappearance of Netaji subhash Chandra Bose or the death of former US President JF Kennedy, Shastri’s death also remains a mystry that has not been solved and might never be solved.