Sri Lankan National and Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case Convict, Santhan, dies

Santhan's passing marks the end of a chapter that saw numerous legal battles and political debates surrounding the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

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File photo of Santhan, one of the convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case ( Image Source :PTI Images )

Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national and a central figure in the infamous Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, breathed his last on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Chennai. His demise marks the end of a tumultuous chapter in one of India’s most high-profile political assassinations.

Santhan, born as T Suthendiraraja, had served over two decades in jail before being released. He was one of the six convicts freed by the Supreme Court in 2022, albeit amidst ongoing legal battles and health complications.

The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai had recently issued an order for Santhan’s deportation to Sri Lanka. However, his departure was delayed as he was admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) for treatment related to a kidney ailment, underscoring the precarious state of his health.

Born in Sri Lanka, Santhan’s association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had thrust him into the center stage of one of India’s most tragic events.

In May 1991, Rajiv Gandhi fell victim to an LTTE woman suicide bomber during an election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. The incident, which claimed the lives of numerous others and left many injured, shook the nation and had far-reaching political ramifications.

Santhan’s role in the conspiracy, as per the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chargesheet, was intertwined with Sivarasan, another key figure in the assassination plot. Despite spending decades in prison, Santhan remained an enigmatic figure, described by his fellow inmate Perarivalan as someone who lived in his own world, deeply immersed in religious practices.

Perarivalan, who spent nearly three decades alongside Santhan in prison, reflected on his personality, stating, “He never spoke to anyone. He was an excessively religious man who regularly performed puja and rituals, and would sit in the prison temple for almost the entire day.”

The Dean of RGGH, E Theranirajan, disclosed that Santhan suffered a cardiac arrest around 4 am on Wednesday but was temporarily revived following a CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) procedure. Despite medical interventions, he succumbed to his condition later in the morning at 7.50 am.

Plans are underway for a post-mortem examination to ascertain the exact cause of death. Legal formalities are also being arranged for the repatriation of his body to Sri Lanka, the country he had expressed a desire to return to upon his release.

Santhan’s passing marks the end of a chapter that saw numerous legal battles and political debates surrounding the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. His demise, along with the circumstances of his life and incarceration, adds yet another layer to the complex narrative of one of India’s most significant political tragedies.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email:

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