India’s one of the most iconic political personalities - Lal Bahadur Shastri – was the second Prime Minister of free India, who succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1964. Two years after coming into the power, the former PM was declared dead in the wee hours of January 11, 1966, in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent. Reports then claimed that the reason behind his sudden death was a heart attack. However, what really happened back in the day is still an unsolved mystery. Today, even after decades of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death, several conspiracy theories still hit the internet. A death that gave birth to millions of queries, to an extent that there are various books, RTI Applications, writings, investigative pieces… though none of these come with a conclusion. Now, when people still question the death of this visionary leader, a film titled ‘The Tashkent Files,’ based on the same will be soon making its way to the big screens.
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri and starring Naseeruddin Shah and Mithun Chakraborty among others in the lead roles, the film revolves around Lal Bahadur Shastri’s mysterious death. Well, it claims to present a reliable theory. Trailer of the same was released a few days ago, it had a journalist (Shweta Basu) researching the truth of Shastri’s death. It also gave us a glimpse into one of the most circulated theories, which depicted that Shastri was allegedly murdered by Congress insiders because supposedly he had some news in regards to Netaji. The trailer was intriguing and left us with so many unanswered questions.
Talking about Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death, it was reported that after signing the Tashkent Declaration, a peace treaty between India and Pakistan, Shastri headed back to the villa that was provided by his Russian hosts. Later, he had a light meal, prepared by a personal cook of the Indian ambassador to Moscow, followed by a glass of milk. It was in the midnight when Shastri woke up, coughing severely. The room wherein he was accommodated, had no telecom or phone. He then walked out to another room to inform his personal doctor. However, by the time doctor arrived, Shastri was nearly dead, after a few moments, Shastri chanted Lord Ram’s name and took his last breath.
Now, as we came across the film, it took us back to the innumerable amount of conspiracy theories that were doing the rounds after Lal Bahadur Shastri’s alleged ‘murder.’
#1 No post-mortem
Shastri’s corpse had blue and white spots and there were a few cut marks on his abdomen and the back of his neck. His near ones claimed that the blue marks were a result of poisoning. Further, if no post-mortem was conducted, how did the cut marks appear? His personal doctor, R N Chugh stated that LBS was fit and fine and had no sign of any heart trouble.
#2 The witnesses
The two witnesses present on the night were Dr RN Chugh and Shastri’s servant – Ram Nath. They were scheduled to be presented in front of the parliamentary body in 1977. However, none of the two could make it. Dr RN Chugh was hit by a truck and Ram Nath, too, was hit by a car. While Dr RN Chugh couldn’t survive, Ram Nath’s legs were crushed and he had lost his memory. Reportedly, before the hearing, Ram Nath had revealed to Shastri’s family members that he has been carrying a burden since long and he will get rid of it today.
#3 The Russian Butler
As a response to all the poisoning allegations, Ahmed Sattarov, the Russian butler, was held in custody by the Ninth Directorate of the KVB. He was handcuffed and along with three junior butlers, was sent off to a location that was 30 km away. Jan Mohammad (the cook), too, was brought in. However, they were allowed to walk off and the authorities maintained their claim of Shastri dying because of a cardiac arrest.
#4 No response from the RTI
The author of CIA’s Eye on South Asia, Anuj Dhar, filed an RTI to inquire about Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death. Replying to the same, the PMO responded saying that there was only one single classified document available which could not be declassified as it could affect India’s relations with foreign countries.
#5 Was the CIA involved?
In an interview with Journalist Gregory Douglas, the CIA agent Robert Crowley confirmed that the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri was plotted by the CIA, in fact, they were behind the murder of Dr Homi Bhabha. Reason being, the US was threatened by India emerging as one reformed state and also to put an end to Indo-Russian dominance in the nuclear front.
Now, that's too much of mystery. Having said that, let’s see what The Tashkent Files has to offer us. It will hit the big screens on April 12, 2019.