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Many observers heap praise on Rahul Gandhi’s character, calling him very humane and eminently decent. I too would like to think he is, but am afraid there’s a blind spot – the Lankan Tamil issue, more particularly when it comes to those convicted of assassinating his father. He just would not forgive either the convicted or the LTTE.

The reaction of the Congress to the apex court’s order releasing six persons serving a life term has the imprint of Rahul Gandhi all over — Jairam Ramesh, trusted advisor of Rahul called the decision of the Supreme Court “totally unacceptable and completely erroneous. “The Congress Party criticises it clearly and finds it wholly untenable. It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in consonance with the spirit of India on this issue,” he said.

Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party’s stand had been consistent on this over the years and that it would take “all available remedies, be it review or any other form of legal redress” on the matter.

“We will exercise whatever legal rights we have. We owe it not only to the people of this country but also to the Supreme Court and the legacy it has built,” Singhvi said, asserting that the decision had “shocked the nation’s conscience”.

Of course he deftly sidestepped party president Sonia Gandhi’s own appeal for clemency or Priyanka’s meeting Nalini at the Velllore prison in 2008, saying they were entitled to their views, but that the party was clear the SC order was not acceptable.

Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party’s stand had been consistent on this over the years and that it would take “all available remedies, be it review or any other form of legal redress” on the matter.

When was the last time the party dared differ with Sonia or the Rajiv clan, for that matter?

One can only presume the crown prince is just not willing to forget or forgive. He might even forgive Modi or other detractors, but not those behind the gruesome tragedy of May 21. He was to turn 21 a month later, but his father was not going to be around. And the human bomb had left Rajiv Gandhi in bits and pieces, depriving his family of even a proper last look. The sight of the young Rahul setting alight the pyre was heartrending to many at the time — clearly he himself would have been devastated.

So would have been Priyanka, only two years younger. But she could come to terms as perhaps could be seen from her coming down to Tamil Nadu some 17 years later and calling on Nalini Sriharan, key accused, at the Vellore prison.

Also Read: Bharat Jodo yatra: What polarized Kanyakumari shows

No, not a publicity stunt. It was all wrapped in secrecy and the world came to know of it only after the Times of India broke the news. Later she issued a statement, saying, “It is true that I met Nalini Sriharan in Vellore Central Jail on March 19, 2008. It was my way of coming to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced.”

She said it was a personal visit “that I undertook completely on my own initiative” and “I would be deeply grateful if this could be respected”.

“I do not believe in anger, hatred and violence and I refuse to allow it any power over my life. Meeting with Nalini was my way of coming to peace with the violence and loss that I have experienced,” she added.

Indeed it was at her instance that her mother Sonia chose to appeal for clemency for the convicted and wanted the death sentence to be commuted.

Rahul himself did not accompany his sister to Vellore for reasons never made clear. All that he would say at the time was that he had had a “different way of looking at these things.” When asked whether he too would like to meet Nalini, he of course insisted, “I don’t have a problem either,” but he never did.

“We don’t carry hatred. We don’t carry anger,” he then went on to add nobly.

Rahul Gandhi, though no minister in the government, carried enormous clout and was present when the pleas were made to Manmohan Singh and Sonia. But he stubbornly refused to bail out the LTTE, saying it was for the government to decide

It may also be recalled that in her letter to then President K R Narayanan in 1999, Sonia Gandhi had said all three of Rajiv’s immediate family were in favour of commutation — “As you are well aware, my children Rahul and Priyanka and myself are suffering untold mental agony day in and day out due to the loss of our beloved Rajiv. But neither my children nor myself would like the persons responsible for my husband’s tragic end to be hanged,” she has been quoted as saying, though the letter was never officially released.

Still there were reports that Rahul Gandhi was not exactly in favour of the Priyanka-Nalini meeting, but gave in because Priyanka had insisted.

An ever clearer indication of his attitude to the assassination and the LTTE was that he would not yield to the desperate pleas for Indian intervention in the last days of the strife in the island nation.

In the face of the great appeal the Lankan Tamil nationalists had in the state, the DMK, a key constituent of the UPA-II government, tried all it could to make the Centre pressure the Lankan regime to desist from complete annihilation and to spare the lives of Prabhakaran and his associates – take them into custody and let’s think of what next later, was the message.

Also Read: Why Priyanka should lead a militantly secular Congress

Rahul Gandhi, though no minister in the government, carried enormous clout and was present when the pleas were made to Manmohan Singh and Sonia. But he stubbornly refused to bail out the LTTE, saying it was for the government to decide. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Sonia would not go against his wishes. These could be spin, all right, but the fact remains Rahul did not utter a word throughout the period.

A little later, when all was done and dusted, he told an audience in Singapore that when he watched the images of Prabhakaran on TV lying dead, he was overcome with emotion –“I got two feelings – one was why they are humiliating this man in this way. And second was I felt really bad for him and for his kids and I did that because I understood deeply what it meant to be on the other side of that thing.”

Nobody asked him why he didn’t do anything to avert the Mullivaikkal bloodbath. Such is the media tribe in India, the Lutyens if you wish, this issue was never raised with him at any point.

Rahul Gandhi is no novice. He should have known the mileage his party could have derived in Tamil Nadu by some form of intervention to end the Lankan civil war, but didn’t seem to care.

Yet again, though the death sentences had been commuted to life in the case of the seven convicted, they rotted in jail for nearly three decades when their role was relatively marginal at best. One of them, Perarivalan, was set free in May this year. There was a lot of clamour for their release, and most parties spoke up in their support, but the Congress kept looking the other way. And now they have explicitly criticized the SC order.

Clearly Rahul Gandhi continues to call the shots, everyone prefers to defer to him. He has not come out of the 1991 trauma and is ready to face the consequence of antagonising Tamil sentiments, it seems.


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