Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son and Congress leader Anil Shastri on Friday said the NDA government should declassify all documents related to the death of the former prime minister to “clear the air once and for all” around the circumstances of his passing away in 1966. He was speaking on the sidelines of the release of a Punjabi translation of the book “Lal Bahadur Shastri: Lessons in Leadership”, the original version of which is in English and has been penned by Pavan Choudary with anecdotes given by Anil Shastri. “We want all documents pertaining to Shastriji’s death to be declassified,” Anil Shastri said here while addressing the media. The English version of the book was earlier released by the Dalai Lama.
Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent on January 11, 1966, at the age of 61, soon after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan. It was maintained that Shastri died of cardiac arrest but his family had alleged foul play. “Many things have been said about the way he died, even yesterday a young man walked to me at Delhi airport and asked me how my father had died. Family members and common public still have suspicion because the circumstances in which Shastriji died were uncommon…,” Anil said.
He said the findings of the Raj Narain Committee, constituted in 1977 to look into the mysterious death of then prime minister Shastri, should also be made public. “When BJP was in opposition, one of their major demands was that the documents related to Shastriji’s death be declassified. Today, I am not asking as a politician, but as a son. Although they have been in power for the past four years, they have not done so although files related to Subhas Chandra Bose were recently declassified. “If the prime minister can take a decision on this and release the findings of the Raj Narain committee report and declassify documents related to Shastriji’s death, I think once and for all, it would clear the air,” Anil said.
He said he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this a year back, stating, “there is doubt in people’s mind surrounding Shastriji’s death and the only way to clear it is to declassify the documents”. He added that he was yet to receive a reply.
Anil said the previous government refused to reveal information saying they were classified documents.
About the book, Anil said it was a biography that encapsulated Lal Bahadur Shastri’s inspiring life, presenting a recollection of his childhood, his adult and public life narrated by him (Anil), and interpreted by Pavan Choudary. The biography has been published by Wisdom Village Publications.
Anil said translations of the book in Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil too have been released. “In Tamil Nadu, it is prescribed in certain schools as a moral science book,” he said.
Anil recalled how as a 15-year-old, his father who was a prime minister then had touched his feet only to teach his teenage son “how to touch feet of elders in a proper manner”.
About his father, Anil said, “without any formal management education, he practised all modern concepts of human resource management.” “He had high risk-taking ability and he demonstrated it. During the 1965 war with Pakistan, he would not sit at home. He would travel and address jawans at the border and keep motivating them,” he added.
Anil said his father was a man of peace and never wanted war, but at the same time he felt any aggressor had to be paid back in the same coin. “He had the courage of a general and the compassion of a saint,” Pavan Choudary said.