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Shastri Memorial in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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The memorial to the Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri is one of the famous landmarks in Tashkent. It’s located in a shady park, along the Shastri street in the central part of the city. 

Why would Tashkent have such a memorial and even a street named after an Indian premier? Well, there is a story behind the Shastri memorial in Tashkent. And possibly even a mystery.

Back in January 1966, Tashkent was selected as the place for settling the India-Pakistan conflict. This was a huge deal. The hostilities between the two nations started in August 1965 when Pakistan launched an offensive into the disputed region of Kashmir. The response from India was strong and multiple battles between the armies were held, leading to a lot of destruction and losses of lives. It was necessary to take action to end the bloodshed.

Both Shastri and the president of Pakistan (Mohammad Ayub Khan) came to Tashkent to sign a peace agreement, as Soviet Union brokered the deal. The First Secretary of the Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic at that time was Sharof Rashidov. You can read more about him here.

The Tashkent Declaration included a number of pledges from both sides, such as withdrawing all the armed personnel, making efforts to create peaceful relations, repatriating prisoners of war and other actions.

This is where the mystery starts. A few hours after signing the agreement, the Indian Prime Minister died of a heart-attack. 

After having a celebratory dinner, he came to his hotel room and had a phone conversation with his wife and daughter in Delhi. He was feeling fine and expressed no concerns.

 At 2:00 am the same night, he died.

There were multiple conspiracy theories regarding his death. Normally, prime ministers of another country don’t just drop dead during their official visit to another country. Especially after signing such a landmark agreement. Some theories say Shastri was poisoned. Others claim that he indeed had a heart attack but officials purposefully delayed medical care.

To add more oil to the fire, 13 days later, another famous Indian died- the renowned nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha (this time in a plane crash). These two events could have been related.

We will never know the real answer, no matter how hard we try. But one thing we know for sure- Uzbekistan will take a good care of Shastri’s legacy. And people in India will forever remember Shastri for his simplicity, honesty and humility. So, day after day, tourists from India who visit Tashkent will stream to the Shastri street and pay their respects to the man so dear to their hearts.

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