Kuldip Nayar demands declassification of documents related to Shastri's death(Lead: Shastri)

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New Delhi, July 17(ANI): Noted journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar has asked the government to declassify documents relating to the January 1966 death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent.

According to an official announcement Shastri expired due to a massive heart attack on January 11 at 1.32 a.m. Tashkent time. Efforts made by his doctor Dr. R.N. Chug to revive him did not yield results.

Forty years after the incident, efforts are being made to get the documents relating to the death under the Right to Information Act. Anuj Dhar author of CIA's eye on South Asia has made a demand under the RTI act.

In its response, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has said that it has a file related to the death of Shastri, but details can't be disclosed as laid down under Section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act.

According to published information, Russian cook Akhmad Sattarov was arrested, on the suspicion of poisoning Shastri, but was later released.

Kuldip Nayar who was present in Tashkent to cover the talks between Shastri and Pakistan's martial law administrator General Ayub Khan, told ANI " I still believe that Shastriji died of a heart attack. If the government has any documents relating to his death, it should declassify it, otherwise it leads to suspicion of the Government."

Under clause 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act, the government can withhold information whose release could harm foreign relations, cause disruption in the country and lead to incitement of an offence.

Shastri's younger son Sunil Shastri has said, " How can it (his death) create violence in the country. It is right of the millions of Indians to know what happened to their beloved leader. So the government should come out clear on this matter."

Dhar claims that he had asked four questions, but got a reply to only two questions. The two other questions have been forwarded to the Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs, he added.

Senior Congress leader and Shastri's elder son Anil Shastri has also demanded the declassification of the file, and said: " There is some suspicion in the minds of the people. Declassification would clear that doubt. Being a worker of the party which is in power, I would take up the issue at different levels of the Government."

Immediately after Shastri's death, his wife Lalitha Shastri suspected some foul play as the body was said to have turned into blue. Family members say that she wanted an inquiry to be conducted in the matter, but senior Congress leaders then counseled her against it.

" I was 16 years old when babuji (father) passed away, but I still remember there were dark patches on his chest, abdomen, and back. And the body was bluish," says Sunil Shastri.

"If Shastri's family had any doubt about his death and wanted an investigation, I think it went without the media' attention " says Nayar, who was also closely associated with Shastri.

Leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and Dharam Yash Dev raised the matter in Parliament.

"In 1990-91 there was a media report which stated that Russia's KGB had some documents related to babuji's (father's) death. Then, I wrote to the then Prime Minister Chandrashekhar and to the then President R.Venkatraman, but only to get a one line answer," said Sunil Shastri.

It is said that Shastri had a telephonic conversation with the his family on the night of January 10, and his family members conveyed to him the likely adverse reaction in the country to the decision in Tashkent to return the Haji Pir and Tithwal peaks captured by the Indian Army during the operations to Pakistan. That might have put Shastri under pressure.

Recalling that conversation in "Mere Pati, Mere Devata" Lalita Shastri says, ..."The telephone conversation was not clear."

"It is still felt in the country that whatever may be the reason for the demise of the hero of 1965 war should come to light. Now, the people of third generation of this country have raised the matter. But no one should use this for their political gains", says Sunil Shastri. By Shreeraj Gudi(ANI)

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