Chai Khana: The Public Square

Lal Bahadur Shastri and the price of peacemaking

Shastri had asked one Mr Sahay from his personal staff to connect him to his home. Sahay obliged in no time. Shastri is said to have spoken first with his younger son-in-law who chose not to say much. Then he spoke to Kusum, his eldest daughter whom he asked in Hindi, 'Tujhay Kaisa Laga?'. 'I have not liked it', came the reply. Shastri then asked, 'What about Amma?', referring to his wife. She too had not liked it, he was told.

Lal Bahadur Shastri died this day in 1966 at Tashkent. The cause of his death was the controversial Tashkent agreement, which Shastri’s detractors did not approve of, and was even rejected by his own family members. Immediately after the historic agreement came to be signed Shastri held a press conference where the Indian journalists grilled him and expressed anger at the decision to part with Teethwal and Haji Peer posts. Shastri had in the press conference told the media that he had been left with no choice after Prime Minister Kosigen threatened to side with Pakistan.
Dharam Yash Dev, an MP then, had alleged that Shastri was poisoned with the food that was served to him from TN Koul’s residence, then Indian ambassador to USSR. Mr Koul was considered to be close to the Nehru family especially to Indira Gandhi who succeeded him as PM.

The eye witness account of what actually happened that evening after the Soviet officials threw a lavish party at Hotel Tashkent where whiskey and vodka flowed like water and the tables were choked with delectable food.

Shastri had asked one Mr Sahay from his personal staff to connect him to his home. Sahay obliged in no time. Shastri is said to have spoken first with his younger son-in-law who chose not to say much. Then he spoke to Kusum, his eldest daughter whom he asked in Hindi, ‘Tujhay Kaisa Laga?’. ‘I have not liked it’, came the reply. Shastri then asked, ‘What about Amma?’, referring to his wife. She too had not liked it, he was told.

Shastri had then asked his daughter to let him speak with Mrs Shastri. Kusum replied that Amma didn’t want to talk to him bcoz she was angry over the return of Teethwal and Haji Peer to Pakistan. It is said that despite Shastri’s pleas, his wife refused to talk. The telephonic conversation according to Sahay appeared to have upset Shastri a great deal and left him broken. That whole night Shastri kept awake. He had his routine glass of milk, a little after midnight, Shastri told his personal servant to go to his room and get some sleep. Ram Nath, his servant had offered to sleep on floor in Shastri’s room but he was asked to go to his own room upstairs.
It was at 1:20 AM when Shastri came out at the door of his room, from where with great difficulty he asked for the doctor. He was helped back to his room. He had a terrible coughing bout as his personal assistant helped him to bed and was given water. Shastri had immediately fell unconcious. Doctors arrived on spot only to find Shastri dead.

 

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