Cop hurt in Rajiv Gandhi assassination gets blood-stained cap back before his last day in service
Prateep Philip recalls the horrifying account of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination
On 21st May 1991 India lost a young politician, a scion of the Nehru family, Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv fell victim to a suicide bomber sent by the LTTE to avenge sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka. The blast killed 16 people including Rajiv Gandhi and the suicide bomber, Dhanu. More than 40 people received grievous injuries and it included the protagonist of our story, Prateep Philip who is retiring as Director General of Police (Training).
Prateep Philip was an SP then and involved with the security of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Philip’s blood-stained cap and badge were produced as evidence during the prosecution of the alleged plotters of the assassination. Philip after a protracted legal battle was able to get back his blood-stained cap and the badge that he wore on the last day of his duty while reviewing a parade.
Political Leaders were vulnerable to terror at that time
Phillip recalls the incident which happened 30 years ago. Congress had been out of power and the nation was ruled by a caretaker government. The nation was going for election, a mammoth exercise considering the size and the sheer numbers involved. It was also a time when the political leaders are most vulnerable to terror attacks since they have to interact with the public and security norms are often slackened or ignored.
The LTTE wanted to remove Rajiv Gandhi from the scene since pre-poll analysis predicted a Congress win and Rajiv Gandhi was the most vocal critic of LTTE whom he called a bunch of killers and ruffians. Philips recalls that the election gathering was to be held in a school. However, the venue was changed and now the rally was to take place on the ground. It was a security nightmare and Philips protested. The organizers did not agree. Philips had a premonition that something is wrong but he kept quiet. He also told his views to the then SP Mohammed Iqbal.
The fateful day when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated
The Vishwanath Pratap government had earlier withdrawn the SPG cover given to Rajiv Gandhi and his family. However, the SPG officers went on leave and continued to be with Rajiv Gandhi unofficially. On a fateful day, Phillips recalls that Rajiv emerged from his bulletproof vehicle and looked majestic. Philips was in the front and was controlling the crowd with a cane when he heard a loud bang and was thrown 100 feet in the air and lost consciousness.
Regaining consciousness Philips recalls seeing smoke and blood, pieces of flesh all around. His superior officer SP Mohammed Iqbal was grievously injured in the attack and succumbed to his injuries later. Philips was also badly injured and still carries over 100 pieces of shrapnel on his body. Philips was hospitalized for 28 days and suffered fractures and burn injuries but thankfully he survived. Now that he has retired, Philip plans to write a book- a survivor’s tale from the assassination that shook the country.