Priyanka confirms meeting with Rajiv assassin

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New Delhi, Apr 15 (UNI) About 17 years after her father Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack, Priyanka Vadra today created a flutter when she confirmed she had met one of his assassins, Nalini Sriharan, in Vellore Prison in Tamil Nadu a month ago to ''come to peace with the violence and loss'' that she has experienced.

"It was purely a personal visit that I undertook completely on my own initiative," she said in a signed statement after a leading newspaper front-paged a report about the meeting that took place on March 19 this year.

"I would be grateful if this could be respected," Ms Vadra said even as her brother and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi approved of her meeting with Nalini, saying that their family did not want to carry any anger and hatred.

"I do not believe in anger, hatred and violence and I refuse to allow it any power over my life," she said, while stressing that "the meeting with Nalini was my way of coming to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced." Priyanka said she wanted to know why her father was made the target of the fatal suicide bombing that killed him at Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.

"I have a different way of looking at these things," Mr Gandhi told reporters, when asked if he would also like to meet Nalini.

"We don't have anger...We don't have hatred. She has been feeling it for some time that she should go and see the person (Nalini)," he said.

Except for releasing the statement of Ms Vadra, the Congress did not give any reaction to the meeting.

Though the meeting between Nalini and Priyanka, the daughter of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, took place on March 19 this year, it was kept a secret till a Tamil Nadu lawyer filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, seeking to know the details of the purported meeting at the special prison for women in Vellore.

There were already reports that Priyanka had visited Vellore on March 19 to pay obeisance at the Sripuram temple there.

Nalini Sriharan was the only surviving member of the five-member LTTE assassination squad that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. She was given the death sentence in 1998 by a special court for her involvement in the assassination case. However, the sentence was later commuted to lfie imprisonment after Ms Gandhi pleaded for clemency for the sake of Nalini's five-year-old daughter.

A leading newspaper said today that Priyanka became emotional during the hour-long one-to-one meeting and made Nalini sit next to her.

Quoting two lawyers of Nalini, now 43 years old, the newspaper said Priyanka took genuine interest in knowing why her father, a 'good person" was killed.

Nalini reportedly told her that she knew nothing till the last moment, even though she was present at the assassination spot.

Nalini believes that the visit may have been prompted by the frequent letters that she sends to the Gandhi family.

Nalini's lawyers said her client found Priyanka to be "very simple and lovable".

UNI SH RR BST2119

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