43 years on, mystery shrouds post-mortem of Shastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri

Was any post-mortem conducted on the body of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to know the causes of his mysterious death in Tashkent, in the erstwhile USSR, in 1966? The Delhi Police in its reply to an RTI application has said it does not have any record pertaining to the death of the former prime minister. The Ministry of External Affairs has already said no post-mortem was conducted in 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 the 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." Author of the book 'CIA's Eye on South Asia', Anuj Dhar had filed an RTI application, carrying eight questions, with the Prime Minister's Office.

In one of his questions, Dhar asked if any post-mortem was conducted on former prime minister's body in India to ascertain causes of his death and if not, the reasons thereof. 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 post-mortem 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 Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry to answer.

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 no post-mortem was conducted in the USSR. The Home Ministry referred the matter to Delhi Police and National Archives for the response pertaining to any post-mortem 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 MHA is referring the matter of death of second prime minister of India to a district level police. "It should be looked into by highest authorities like President, Prime Minister and Home Minister."

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