Part-III: ‘MGR accused Balu Mahendra of killing actress Shobha due to vendetta’

In his book 'A Road Well Travelled', released on October 26, 2020, Raghavan reveals how MGR was enacting a scene of murder using his handkerchief, while an amused Raghavan pretended he was giving him a keen hearing

RK Raghavan talks in his book about how Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MG Ramachandran (left) was convinced that actress Shobha's (right) death was not of suicide, but murder by director Balu Mahendra, who was in a relationship with her.

In the final segment of the three-part series, The Federal talks about the 219-page book, ‘A Road Well Travelled,’ by R.K. Raghavan, who provides juicy details of his encounter with the then chief minister M G Ramachandran who was desperately trying to convert the actress Shobha case from suicide to murder!

In his book ‘A Road Well Travelled’, released on October 26, 2020, Raghavan reveals how MGR was enacting a scene of murder using his handkerchief, while an amused Raghavan pretended he was giving him a keen hearing.

After R K Raghavan moved to the state CB-CID branch, having earlier been Superintendent of Police of Ramnad West district headquartered at Madurai, a huge controversy arose over the death of actress Shobha.

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Raghavan writes in his book, “She was infatuated with film director Balu Mahendra (originally from Sri Lanka). She was living with him in the hope that he would marry her. Following his refusal to do so after years of being together, the young girl took the extreme step of ending her life. This was a clear case of suicide.

“Because of the swelling controversy, the case registered by the police station concerned was quickly transferred to the CB-CID, a usual practice across the country. My officers and I handled the case professionally, ignoring the public furore and rumours that the actress was killed by the film director and later hung from the ceiling.”

Read the second part of the series here: Part-II: Raghavan recalls tough encounters with Jaya, MGR, Karunanidhi

“MGR was somehow convinced that this was a murder. There were reports that he had a score to settle with Balu Mahendra and was therefore determined to send him to the gallows. We had no evidence, however, to suspect that it was a murder,” Raghavan adds.

“MGR sent for me several times to sell me his theory,” Raghavan states, adding, “I remember visiting his home in Ramavaram Gardens on the outskirts of the city. The meetings were invariably around nine in the morning, when several senior officials of other departments had also been called. I received the top priority for one-to-one discussions. Gracious host that he was, MGR first had me served a delicious breakfast. Then came the interaction with him.”

The RK Raghavan read is highly amusing. “Using a white handkerchief, MGR would demonstrate to me how Shobha was first murdered and then hung from the ceiling. However ludicrous the theory was, I was a patient listener and pretended that I was a keen spectator to the demonstration. The meetings invariably ended amicably with my promise — with a serious demeanour — that I would certainly take MGR’s theory into account while arriving at my final conclusions.”

This game went on for a few months, at the end of which “MGR got so visibly annoyed and frustrated that he stopped calling me. But any police officer who bought MGR’s story just to be in his good books would have been in serious trouble later on in a court of law.”

Read the first part of the series here: Part-I: ‘Dravidian parties were complicit when LTTE had a free run’

Senior police officer K Mohandas, considered to be very close to MGR, “pleaded with me that I should at least press an abetment to suicide charge against Balu Mahendra… Now, this has become an accepted but dubious practice.”

“With both MGR and Mohandas getting thoroughly disappointed and annoyed by my intransigence, my days in the CID were numbered. Reports of MGR wanting to send me to Delhi on an inconsequential central government posting, were doing the rounds… I opted to go on study leave, to pursue a non-residential doctoral programme at the Karnatak University, Dharwad,” reveals Raghavan.

The sensational Shobha case led to Raghavan’s exit from the CB-CID.

Raghavan refers to pressure on the investigation team probing the Bofors case from certain persons in the government “run by a party which has a lot to hide from the public”, though he does mention that he had been asked “whether there was evidence of any payment made directly to Rajiv, and my emphatic response has remained the same: there was not the slightest evidence to this effect.”

“The big question mark was, and is, with regard to the money received by Quattrochi and the Hindujas, both known for links with the Gandhi family.” (Here, there is no mention whether the Hindujas had also made donations to BJP leaders/BJP or not).

“It is possible some of the payments were meant for the Congress party. It is difficult, however, to confirm this.” It is strange that he is willing to stick his neck out and make conjectures without any proof.

On the contrary, when it comes to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) chairmanship to probe the Gujarat riots, he “rejected the version of the IPS officer Sanjeev Bhat that the CM gave illegal direction to the police,” … and “absolved the chief minister as there was nothing to suggest that Sanjeev Bhat was present at the said meeting”.

Regarding the charge of the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, killed by a riotous mob, that he was not rescued despite several calls made to the chief minister, Raghavan recorded in his book that the SIT enquiries did not corroborate the charge that the chief minister was guilty. Raghavan has not raised the question whether the results of the SIT investigation would have been different had the BJP not continued to be in power in the state and at the Centre (2014-2017).

“In August 2017, within months of my giving up the Gujarat assignment, I was appointed India’s High Commissioner to Republic of Cyprus (by the Modi government),” he said.

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