India, in the 1960s just 13 years into its independence was beamingly looking at its future-global partners and strategic allies that would help her hold its land against adversaries like China and Pakistan.
Lal Bahadur Shastri took the top seat in the Parliament in 1965. He was a dynamic leader, having grown in the ranks of politics as honest, dedicated and truthful leader.
He succeeded India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who died in 1964.
Shastri was leading an India that was aiming for self-dependence while fighting a war in Kashmir against Pakistan- the Indo-Pak war of 1965.
The war that started with Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar to infiltrate Kashmir and start a wave of insurgency against Indian rule.
Pakistan’s President General Ayub Khan and Shastri signed the Tashkent agreement on 11th January 1966 that brought down the curtain on the war.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan which was part of the Soviet Union at the time served as good place to sign the accord.
Both Shastri and Khan were guests of Soviet Premier Alexie Kosygin who served as a silent spectator of the signing.
The same night after the signing, Shastri was energetic and full of life.
After the signing of the accord at 4 pm and attending the reception hosted by Soviet leader Kosgyin, Shastri returned to his villa at around 10 pm.
He got his light dinner which included spinach, potatoes and some curry especially made by the Indian Ambassador, Triloki Nath Kaul’s head chef, Jan Mohammed.
At around 11:30 pm, Ram Nath, Shastri’s personal attendant gives him a glass of milk.
At 1:25 Shastri woke up to a sudden burst of uncontrollable cough and tries to call his staff for help. His room was not equipped with a buzzer or bell to call his staff so he walked out.
He summons his personal assistant J.N Shahi to get his doctor, Dr. R.N Chugh, while his other assistant M.M.N Sharma tried to relax him.
Chugh arrived for a critical Shastri and tried to do everything he can to help the Prime Minister along with a team of doctors who witness the Indian leader dying with his last words being “Jai Shree Ram”
“The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Council of Ministers of the USSR is sad to notice that 11 Jan 1966 in 1 hour and 32 minutes in Tashkent died a distinguished statesman, Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri.”
‘Mere bitwa ko jahar de diya!’
Upon state funeral, Shastri’s mother realises blue and black marks on Shastri’s body. She claims he was poisoned, to what many also believe the former Prime Minister was poisoned and had cuts on his abdomen. He was oozing blood from cuts on his neck and lips.
His mother cleaned his lips with ‘ghee’ (butter), the butter in the bowl turned blue and hardened.
The request of an official autopsy is denied by the government of the time and
In 2009, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs revealed that no ‘post-mortem was conducted by the authorities of the former USSR’. The solitary record available is the report of the joint medical investigation conducted by Dr.Chugh and some Russian doctors attributing Shastri’s death to ‘an acute attack of INFARKTMIOCARDIA’.
It was also revealed in 2009 that the government holds a document with details of Shastri’s death and cannot disclose the same for safety reasons and friendly relations with a foreign state.
Minutes before his death Shastri had called up his family to know the reaction to the accord back at home.
Sanjay Nath Singh (the elder son of Shastri’s second daughter Suman Singh) said that he then informed them that he had something to reveal to the nation that would stop the protests if there were any and would send opposition into turmoil.
He didn’t describe what this surprise was and what would that mean for India as a country. A few moments later Shastri’s family gets a call about his falling health and minutes after the first call, second call announced his death to the family.
Lost but Not Gone, Bose
Another greatest political mystery to grip Independent India was the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose- who many believe left India to look for support from the Imperial Japanese armies and Nazi forces to help India win independence.
Mostly believed mysteries around his death are that he died in a plane-crash near Taiwan in 1945 or that he was executed by Soviet leader Stalin.
Another shrouded controversy claims that Bose lived in Ayodhya, UP as ‘Gumnammi Baba’, he also attended Nehru’s funeral as a monk having walked up to the remains of Nehru.
Before the last controversy came out, parliamentarians believing Bose was dead and Shastri was a crusader of finding out what happened to Bose.
When he became Home Minister, he wanted to know the truth whether Subhas Bose was alive or not.’ Shastri also showed a deep interest in the antecedents of Gumnammi Baba of Faizabad who was rumoured to be Netaji.
He had promised Bose’s family members that he would personally look for evidence of Bose’s presence in the Soviet Union
A photo of the handshake between the Soviet leader and Shastri also captured that many believe was Bose and that he was present with Shahtri during the signing of the Tashkent declaration.
On 12th December 2015, the Times of India divulged that a forensic face-mapping report submitted by a British expert Neil Miller had found a strong resemblance between Netaji and a man photographed in Tashkent with Shastri.
Sanjay Nath Singh (the elder son of Shastri’s second daughter Suman Singh) revealed:
“Amma first spoke to Babuji but could hardly hear his voice. Then Hari Mama (Shastri’s eldest son) exchanged a few words with him.
Lastly, Ramji (his father Vijay Nath Singh) spoke to Babuji who asked him about the reaction in India to the Declaration. When Ramji told him that certain prominent opposition leaders were planning to hold a black flag demonstration against him for having returned Haji Pir Pass, Babuji clearly told him that he would bring forth such a thing that would make his countrymen forget about the return of the Pass and any criticism about the Declaration.
Was this ‘special person’ Netaji? Was Shastri planning to present Netaji before his countrymen on 23rd January 1966? Did he intend to invite Netaji as the Chief Guest to the Republic Day parade on 26th January 1966? Was he going to abdicate in favour of Netaji? These questions will perhaps remain inscrutable forever!