The Tashkent Files Review - An Unsolved Mysterious Death

“2nd October” is a date that resonates with all Indians because it signifies Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday. But, little do we know that it is also the birthday of India’s 2nd Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Lal Bahadur Shastri’s mysterious death was met my several theories, some historians vouch for natural death or heart attack, other scholars and politicians are of the opinion that Shastri Ji was either poisoned or murdered.

No substantial evidence supporting either of the claims has come to the forefront, but one thing is for sure, Shastri Ji died twice, once in Tashkent and another time, he was killed from the memory of the Indians.

Background of Lal Bahadur Shastri: 

The Tashkent Files, centered on the life of the “Politician who had no money”, also known as Lal Bahadur Shastri, gives us a synopsis of his life.

The petite man of great stature, who made Prime Minister after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, was the one behind the Green and the White Revolution, the same man gave India a voice against casteism and gave India the very slogan of “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kissan”.

After India’s landslide victory in the Indo-Pak War, Shastri Ji went to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to sign the peace treaty. Within a few hours of signing the Treaty, he left for his heavenly abode, reasons for which still remain unknown.

Theories and Narratives of the mysterious death: 

(Source - ED Times)

The following theories have been highlighted by way of the film-

From the historian’s point of view, Lal Bahadur Shastri was a heart patient, and having suffered 2 heart attacks, made his heart weaker and thus unable to survive the third one.

From the point of view of the racists, Shastri Ji’s milk was poisoned by his cook, Jaan Mohammed.

From the International political perspective, Shastri Ji was murdered by the Russians who wanted to turn India into an ally and Shastri Ji was an obstacle in their path.  

From the Indian political view, the Nehru-Gandhi Clan plotted to assassinate him, in order to gain control over India by handing over the reins to Indira. The motive was allegedly carried about by the CIA and other international agencies. 

An Overview of the Movie:

A 2019 film, The Tashkent Files, stands testimony to the fact that India in 1966 had no interest to investigate the cause of the death of Shastri Ji and neither does it today. Politics and political leaders have only used it to frame an agenda in their election rally’s.  

The film revolves around a young political journalist who investigates the cause of the mysterious death of Lal Bahadur Shastri by pinning down the government and undermining its authority.

The Committee investigating the cause: 

In the film, A probe to find the truth results in the formation of a committee of 8. Its members represent those from different schools of thought and walks of life.

The committee not only gives us a deep insight into the background of the mysterious death, but also provides us with several rumours and conspiracy theories that made the rounds in 1966.

Conjecture based on two different medical and death reports also comes to light along with several archive documents that dig further into the filth of politics and its association with unsolved mystery.

The committee highlights the modern-day problems of corruption, racism, bureaucracy, socialism and the division of opinion based on the same. The narrow mindset of those politicians, who divide the country on the basis of religion and race is well represented.

Take-away from the film:

The masterpiece created by, Vivek Agnihotri aims at encouraging the youth to ask questions about matters affecting the nation and use their right to information as a tool to challenge the tyranny created by the politicians.

As the movie progressed, I underwent a lot of strong emotions ranging from sadness and despair to anger. Anger because of the act of suppressing and withholding information from the public who could have played a crucial role in bringing justice to a noble leader like Shastri Ji. Despair because even after everything is out in the public domain, we have time and again been enslaved and cheated by our very own politicians, judges, social workers, media, historians and activists, who claim to have won us our independence.

The Tashkent files, with its exceptional casting, direction, background score, argumentative scenes, and the portrayal of real-life politics makes it a work of art, which no Indian should miss out on.

Written by - Tushna Choksey