Mystery still shrouds Shastri's autopsy

Questions unanswered

 The Ministry of External Affairs has already said that no postmortem was conducted in the USSR.

The Central Public Information Officer of the Delhi Police in his reply dated July 29, 2009, said: “No such record related to the death of former prime minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri is available in this district. Hence the requisite information pertaining to New Delhi District may please be treated as nil.”

Anuj Dhar, author of the book “CIA’s Eye on South Asia,”  had filed an RTI application, carrying eight questions, with the Prime Minister’s Office. In one of his questions, Dhar had asked if any postmortem was conducted on the former prime minister’s body in India to ascertain the causes of his death and if not, the reasons thereof.

Tashkent declaration

After the 1965 war with Pakistan, Shastri went to Tashkent to meet Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan. On January 11, 1966, a day after signing Tashkent declaration, he died under mysterious circumstances. His wife Lalita Shastri had alleged foul play and demanded a postmortem to know the causes of his death.

The PMO answered only two questions of the RTI application saying it has only one classified document pertaining to the death of Shastri which is exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act.

It sent rest of the questions to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Home Ministry to answer.

Sole document

The MEA said only document from the erstwhile Soviet Government is “the report of the joint medical investigation conducted by a team comprising Dr R N Chugh, doctor in-attendance to the PM and some Russian doctors” and added that no postmortem was conducted in the USSR.

The Home Ministry referred the matter to the Delhi Police and National Archives for the response pertaining to any postmortem conducted on the body of Shastri in India.
Sunil Shastri, son of the former prime minister, called the transferring of application as “absurd” and “silly joke.”

“He (Lal Bahadur Shastri) died as sitting prime minister. It sounds very silly that the MHA is referring the matter of the death of second prime minister of India to a district-level police. It should be looked into by highest authorities like the President, Prime Minister and Home Minister.”

Dhar said: “The Government of India seems to have a knack for fermenting unwarranted mysteries. Nearly 44 years after Shastri passed away in the erstwhile the USSR, the PMO has refused to declassify a report throwing light on how its former boss died.”

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