Security as Farce

Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am also the only surviving son of an assassinated mother. It takes a peculiarly sick mentality to insinuate that I could betray the love and affection she showered on me by restoring to bureaucracy a suspected accomplice in her assassination ?My brother, Sanjay, was killed in the prime of his life. It broke a mother's heart. It did not break a Prime Minister's will ?She called out to me in her loneliness. I went to her side…’?said Rajiv Gandhi defending himself against snide comments regarding the assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and action by the Government on the Thakkar Commission's Report.



But Rajiv Gandhi, who had left his love for flying and even sacrificed his family life to join his mother in Politics, suddenly found himself bound amongst tight security. The more the security was tightened, the more he yearned to be free. One such incident has been vividly described by R. D. Pradhan, Home Secretary in Rajiv Gandhi's Government, in his book Working With Rajiv Gandhi: Accords and Discords.. Air Chief Marshal M. Katre had suddenly expired of a heart attack. Both Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi had gone to pay a condolence visit to Mrs. Katre. It was not clear whether Sonia would be accompanying Rajiv on their return or whether she would go separately. So the usual security and entire motorcade followed her.

Rajiv then instructed a police officer standing near him to ensure that all those cars did not follow him. When Rajiv got into his vehicle with Sonia, he was amazed to see the entire fleet of cars moving behind him. Perhaps the officer did not understand his instructions.

R.D. Pradhan describes the incident thus: "PM suddenly stopped his vehicle. He stepped out in the torrential rain and strolled down the cavalcade, opened doors of the escort vehicles and pulled out the switch keys of three cars. As soon as the motorcade came to a halt, the Assistant Commissioner of Police of Delhi Security Police, who was at the tail end, rushed to the front where PM was standing. He was shocked when PM opened the door of the ACP's car and took away the keys without uttering a word. He then moved to two other vehicles and did the same. Before returning to his own car, he threw all the keys into the storm water drain and drove away. The ACP looked after him in a state of shock not knowing what to do. All the six security cars were stranded in the middle of Rajaji Marg in the torrential rain.

‘‘The security staff had lost wireless communication with the PM's vehicle and did not know where he had gone. They were in a state of panic. Only after fifteen minutes they learnt that PM was in his house.’’

Pradhan continues: ‘‘The same evening PM moved out in his special jeep and came to Vijay Chowk without his escort. He found the traffic heavy there, took a side route and reached home. Fortunately, a smart traffic cop had recognised his vehicle and flashed a message to alert the staff in that area. They made sure that PM's vehicle got priority access on the route.’’

Pradhan brings out some more daredevilry of Rajiv. It was 2.00 a.m. when Pradhan’s meeting with the PM and Sidharth Shankar Ray, the Governor of Punjab, had finished. Rajiv signalled to Pradhan to get into his jeep. Pradhan thought that Rajiv must be wanting to drop him to the gate. But what happened was most funny. As soon as they got out of the gate, instead of turning left, Rajiv turned right. All his escort vehicles had already started moving left and there was utter confusion. The barriers were hurriedly removed and his car shot up to the crossing. He suddenly stopped and asked Pradhan: ‘‘I forgot to ask you, which direction is Pandara Road?" By that time Pradhan had realised what was happening. He lost his nerve but got hold of the steering and said: ‘‘Sir, if you do not turn back, I shall jump out.’’ He reminded Rajiv of his assurance to him after that episode in the heavy rains, that he would not take such risks. Seeing him determined, Rajiv made sure that Pradhan got into another car. He then turned back and drove towards 5 Race Course Road. A few days later a report of that ‘‘nocturnal escapade’’ appeared. Rajiv had a hearty laugh.

But whether Rajiv listened to his Home Secretary’s advice or not is not the point. Mrs. Gandhi's assassination had revealed several weaknesses. There were conflicts and confusion within the security setup and considerable slinging of mud. There was grave and instant need to have a single effective security outfit, which gave birth to the Special Protection Group (SPG). Today, our Prime Minister is provided with 'ZZZ' security by the Special Task Force. So are other ministers provided with ‘Z?security by commandos. The point is, has this shaken the resolve of terrorists or so-called ‘‘holy warriors’’ (jehaadis)? Or has corruption and deterioration of our values made their will even stronger? Is our Security and Intelligence system merely a farce?

Rajiv Gandhi, a great statesman more than a politician, like his mother, was just one of their victims. His emotion-choked voice still rings in Pradhan’s ears: ‘‘I have felt Indiraji’s presence beside me ?I have felt her benediction in the actions we have taken to keep our country strong and united. That is my comfort. That is my reward.’’

Courtesy: ‘‘Working With Rajiv Gandhi: Accords and Discords..’’
by R.D. Pradhan, published by Ulhas Latkar, Ameya Prakashan, Pune.