A “genuine” murder or death committed or caused by a genuine conspiracy can arouse curiosity. Apart from Netaji’s mysterious death in a plane crash, there are several conspiracies in the popular imagination. Such are the deaths of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Dr. Homi J. Bhabha. A popular conspiracy theory had blamed the CIA, which is said to have executed an agenda to paralyse India’s nuclear programme.
Bhabha was not an advocate of the atom bomb. Perhaps he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s strong aversion towards the bomb. In 1955 he had suggested to Nehru that India should unilaterally renounce the production of atom bombs. The Prime Minister replied that India should first have the ability to make a bomb… or else the “renunciation” would not be very convincing.
Ten years later, Nehru’s successor Lal Bahadur Shastri asked Bhabha ~ in the context of the Chinese tests of 1964 ~ whether Indian scientists could manage an underground test. Ironically, when General Ayub Khan was forced to accept a ceasefire following the Indo-Pak war in 1965, flying with Bhutto to Tashkent for a peace conference with Shastri, the frail Indian premier died ~ the day after the armistice agreement was signed in January 1966.
It’s been over five decades India lost its beloved Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri but the mystery surrounding his death is still not resolved. On January 10, 1966, after the Indo-Pak war in 1965, Shastriji visited Tashkent to sign a peace agreement with Pakistani President Ayub Khan. But hours after the meeting he was found dead mysteriously. Reportedly he died of a cardiac arrest but the circumstances seemed extremely suspicious. His family members noted that his face and body had some unnatural blue and white spots and there were cut marks on his abdomen and back of his neck. The Raj Narain Inquiry could not come up with any valid conclusions. Parliament’s library does not have any records of the inquiry stored. Regardless of the reason behind the death, why the reports are missing or destroyed remains a question.
Shastriji’s body had blue and white spots and there were cut marks on his abdomen and back of his neck. His family claimed that the blue colour was due to poisoning. Also, if the post-mortem was not conducted then why were the cut marks there? His personal doctor RN Chugh claimed that he was in perfect health and had no sign of heart trouble. However, in 2009, Indian government claimed it did have a medical investigation conducted by Shastriji’s doctor and some Russian doctors.
In 1977, two witnesses – his servant Ram Nath and personal Dr RN Chugh – who accompanied Shastriji on the tour were scheduled to appear in front of the parliamentary body but faced cruel end. Dr Chugh and his family were on his way to meet the parliamentary body but they were hit by a truck. The accident took the life of Dr Chugh, his wife, and two sons. His daughter survived the accident but was crippled. Ram Nath who visited Shastriji’s home, before meeting the parliamentary body, claimed he was carrying a burden since Shastriji’s death and would reveal the truth soon. But he too was hit by a car. The accident crushed his leg and took his memory.
Anuj Dhar, the author of CIA’s Eye on South Asia, filed an RTI pertaining to Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death. Replying to the RTI, the PMO responded that there was a single classified document available which could not be declassified as it could affect foreign relations.
Death of the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastriji and Dr. Homi Jahangir Baba,Father of India’s Nuclear program-me occurred in quick succession i.e. 11 January and 24 January 1966.Both of them died overseas.
In October 1965, Bhabha had announced over All India Radio that if he got the go-ahead, India had the capability to make a nuclear bomb in 18 months.
According to experts requesting anonymity, Bhabha was convinced that if India had to become a major force to reckon with, it had to launch a nuclear programme focussing on its peaceful role in areas like power, agriculture and medicine. But they said he also had a hidden agenda: developing an atomic bomb to defend the country.
Homi Bhabha was flying to Vienna to attend a meeting when the plane crashed into Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps on January 24, 1966.
Many possible theories have been advanced for the air crash, including a conspiracy theory in which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is involved in order to paralyze India’s nuclear program. When an Indian diplomatic bag containing newspapers, calendars and a personal letter was recovered near the crash site in 2012, it was a “Type C” diplomatic bag containing no important documents.
The flight was piloted by one of the most experienced pilots of Air India, who had radioed the control tower that all instruments were working fine. The plane was flying at 19,000 feet, at least 3,000 feet above the Mont Blanc summit and a few minutes later it crashed right into it. Was there a sabotage? It is said that there was a bomb in the luggage compartment that went off, forcing the flight to crash and killing everyone on board.
On July 11, 2008, an alleged conversation between a journalist Gregory Douglasand a CIA officer Robert T Crowley, which was reproduced by a relatively unknown news media TBRNews.org suggested that the US intelligence agency had a role in the crash.
The transcript of the conversation was sent to this correspondent by a top official in November 2008.
The CIA officer was quoted as saying: “We had trouble, you know, with India back in the 60’s when they got uppity and started work on an atomic bomb…the thing is, they were getting into bed with the Russians.”
Everyone knew that Dr Homi Bhabha was the father of Indian nuclear physics. He and Shastri were both in favour of India being a nuclear power, which threatened the US and thus, the CIA stepped in to sabotage the Air India flight 101, killing Bhabha and 116 others.
Referring to Homi Bhabha, he said, “that one was dangerous, believe me. He had an unfortunate accident. He was flying to Vienna to stir up more trouble when his Boeing 707 had a bomb go off in the cargo hold….”
Whoever planned all this, was aware that along with Homi Bhabha and Lal Bahadur Shastri, India would be a power to reckon with in the subcontinent along with support from Russia.
The death of two of its most powerful and visionary revolutionists left India amidst a situation of pain and chaos. But the mysterious deaths of these two was just a beginning.
Eleven nuclear scientists in India died in unnatural circumstances during 2009-13, as per data furnished by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in its response to an RTI query posed by a Haryana-based Rahul Sehrawat on 21 September 2015. Quite a few of the scientists and engineers working in laboratories and research centres of the department died in a blast or by hanging or by drowning in the sea. Attention has been drawn to the series of questionable deaths at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), as well as at the Kaiga nuclear facility, in a span of three years.
In 2013 two high-ranking engineers ~ KK Josh, chief engine room artificer at the defence ministry’s shipbuilding centre at the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam, and Abhish Shivam, chief engineer with INS Arihant, the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine in the same city ~ were found dead beside a railway track. They were allegedly poisoned before being placed on the tracks. The incident was brushed off as a routine accident and the media did not raise much hue and cry.
Conspiracy theories abound and there is a perception that Indian scientists are being killed in an attempt to thwart the country’s progress in nuclear and space research and make it dependent on enriched uranium from other countries. Another deterrent is the possibility of hostile Western reaction. The explosions that sunk INS Sindhurakshak, a submarine docked in Mumbai, in August 2013 had raised suspicions.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost 684 personnel in a span of 15 years. There are conspiracy theories that foreign powers are trying to cripple the organisation. On 30 December 1971, a few years after Dr Bhabha’s death, Vikram Sarabhai, hailed as the father of India’s space programme, was found dead in a hotel room at the Halcyon Castle in Kovalam. He had shown no signs of illness the previous evening and died rather mysteriously. His cremation was performed without even an autopsy.
The fear of conspiracies has been a potent force across the political spectrum, from the colonial era to the present. But these ought not to be regarded as factual evidence against any establishment or its personnel. Conspiracy theories are sustained by anonymity. Hidden assassins and shadowy saboteurs thus roam free.