I was then in Baghdad, Iraq. It was 8 August 2022. One of my school buddies, Aranjit told me that he was going to a Hauz Khas bookstore in New Delhi, where Anirudhya Mitra was coming to sign his recently released book “90 Days: The True Story of the Hunt for Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassins”. He was going to get a signed copy for him, and I asked him to get a signed, personalised copy for me too.
I collected the book from Aranjit during my recent visit to New Delhi. It’s fascinating to collect and read a book autographed by the author. Thanks, Aranjit for this gift.
Anirudhya Mitra is a journalist and filmmaker. During his successful stint of news reporting in The Times of India and India Today, he broke several stories, including the Bofors scam, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, drug wars in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, money laundering by the BCCI bank that led to its closure, corruption in the judiciary, the life and times of Indian-model-turned-spy Pamela Bordes, godman Chandraswamy, and others. He moved to write and create television drama series with UTV and also wrote and produced movies in South-East Asia.
Anirudhya Mitra has come up with a fascinating, gripping and the most comprehensive story of the hunt for those who meticulously planned and executed Rajiv Gandhi’s brutal end. Anirudhya Mitra’s account reads like an electrifying and enthralling thriller.
Afraid that the Congress leader was on a comeback trail, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief Pottu Amman took the audacious decision to finish him off. The killing of Rajiv Gandhi was the biggest blunder by Prabhakaran, a decision that cost him, for eternity, the invaluable support of India and the use of its land and sea for its insurgency. He probably never thought the LTTE hand would get exposed.
If those tasked with masterminding Rajiv Gandhi’s killing had not hired a photographer, Haribabu, and if only his camera had perished along with him in the ball of fire that consumed the former Indian Prime Minister, the investigators may have run into a wall they would have found near impossible to penetrate.
Unfortunately for the LTTE, the camera miraculously survived the heat and explosion at Sriperumbudur on 21 May 1991, and its 10 clean images ended up giving the security agencies an invaluable close look at the key assassins gathered at the election rally – all of whom saw Rajiv Gandhi getting blown into smithereens.
The detailing of this book is so apt plus the struggle that he went through to unravel the truth is something commendable. “90 Days” provides a blow-by-blow account of the massive manhunt launched by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and other security agencies of India to unearth the one of the biggest political assassinations of that time — how they cracked the assassination plot, identified the assassins, and chased the mastermind to his final hideout. The deaths from cyanide consumption of the members of the hit squad left several unanswered questions in their wake, which this book explores.
I finished the book almost in one go although the bulk of the information in the book is known in varying degrees. But what hooked me is the way Anirudhya Mitra connected, one after another, the seemingly endless, dots with a writing style that doesn’t bore. Some accounts, including how hours of tension-filled waiting led to the arrests of Nalini and her LTTE assassination squad member and lover Murugan, make for dramatic reading.
Recently, the Content studio Applause Entertainment has greenlit “Trail of an Assassin”, which is based on this book. A series detailing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is under development with acclaimed filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor attached as director.
This book is an excellent choice for those who are interested in reading real events, journalism, national affairs, crime stories, including the investigation process of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. I appreciate Anirudhya Mitra for writing the book, albeit a bit late, and for providing a deeper understanding of the circumstances, possibilities, and cover-ups before and after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Highly recommended.