New Delhi: Today is the 20th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and people still remember India's youngest Prime Minister, who dreamt of the 21st century India.
On May 21, 1991, in Sriperambudur at 10 o'clock in the night, Journalist R Bhagwan Singh was discussing the Lok Sabha polls with fellow journalists in the media enclosure. He could see former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi walking towards the podium. Thousands of supporters, mainly women, were pushing each other for a glimpse of the man who, it seemed, was all set to return as the prime minister. But seconds before Rajiv was about to mount the podium, a huge explosion took place. Initially, people thought it was a cracker blast.
Deccan Chronicle Consulting Editor R Bhagwan Singh said, "I remember telling my friends how can these Congressmen be so stupid and have a powerful cracker next to the dais. But then, within moments we saw people screaming, running around, some black, some burnt. We got up and ran and we saw on the right side of the carpet. Rajiv was on his face, head turned down and then we saw Moopanar and Jayanti Natrajan and Karate Thyagarajan who were bending and trying to turn and see whether it was him."
"They turned to see and there was no face! The entire thing had blown up. It was a gruesome and horrible death for a leader who wanted to find a solution for the Tamils in Sri Lanka."
Amid the chaos and confusion, local Congress leaders rushed to identify the shattered pieces of Rajiv's body.
R Bhagwan Singh says, "You are meeting me 20 years later and I'm describing the incident like it happened yesterday. Do u think I have forgotten? It hurts me deeply! Because I have covered the Sri Lanka issue, I have been there and seen people disintegrate and die. Through all the mess, the assassination keeps coming back to my mind."
For Communist leader D Pandian, it was just another hectic campaign day. He was looking forward to putting his feet up after many days on the election trail. He was there to translate Rajiv's speech into Tamil. But, fate decided otherwise.
"I was shouting where is Rajiv. I could not see him anywhere. I was surrounded by dozens of dead bodies," recalls Pandian.
Most eye witnesses who CNN-IBN contacted, did not want to talk about that tragic night. It troubles them even today - 20 years on.