Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 09:13 UK

Gandhi daughter visits assassin

Priyanka Gandhi (Pic: Geeta Pandey)
Ms Gandhi said her visit was 'completely personal'

Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, says she has met a woman serving a jail term for her father's assassination.

Ms Gandhi said she met Nalini Sriharan last month in a prison in Vellore in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomb in May 1991 while he addressed an election rally. India has always blamed the attack on Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sriharan was convicted for being part of the assassination squad.

She was initially given a death sentence along with three others.

But her sentence was changed into a life term, following a plea for clemency by Rajiv Gandhi's widow and Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi.

Mrs Gandhi appealed on Sriharan's behalf because she had a young child.

Correspondents say Priyanka Gandhi's visit is highly significant because her father's murder shocked India and turned many people in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere against the Tamil Tigers.

In 2006, they expressed "regret" for the murder in a move which correspondents say was a realisation by the rebels that the assassination was a huge mistake.

'Completely personal'

"Yes, I did visit Vellore to meet my father's assassins," Ms Gandhi told private television network CNN-IBN.

Ms Gandhi confirmed the visit took place on 19 March in the prison where Sriharan is lodged.

"It's completely personal, I don't want to say anything about it. I needed to make peace with all the violence in my life," she said.

Priyanka, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi at Rajiv Gandhi's memorial in Delhi

"I don't believe in anger or violence and I refuse to let it overpower me. Meeting Nalini (Sriharan) was my way of coming to terms with my father's death," Ms Gandhi said.

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Priyanka Gandhi's brother and Congress party MP Rahul Gandhi said he was aware of the meeting.

"Both me and my sister don't believe in violence and her meeting Nalini was in this context," he said.

Mr Gandhi said he had no plans to meet Sriharan.

Earlier, The Times of India newspaper quoted Sriharan's lawyers - who say they have been briefed extensively by their client - as saying the meeting was "very cordial".

The newspaper quoted Ms Gandhi telling Sriharan, "My father was a good person... Had you known about my father's good nature, you would not have done this."

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