Lankan photojournalist who captured assault on Rajiv Gandhi by sailor passes away

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 8

Former Sri Lankan photojournalist Sena Vidanagama, whose image in 1987 of the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi being assaulted by a sailor in Colombo, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 80.

“Only one guy captured the image – Sena Vidanagama of Daily News. It changed his life. It changed photography. He passed away this morning, at 80,” Sri Lankan sports journalist Rex Clementine in a tweet.

“His exclusive photo of Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi’s assault in Colombo by a sailor made front pages across the world. A gentle and humble human being, always had a smile on his face,” recalled his former colleague Indranil Mukherjee.

Sena Vidanagama worked as an official photographer for AFP News Service in Colombo for nearly 20 years from early 80s.

On July 30, 1987, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was attending a Naval Cadet Assembly at President’s House in Colombo when he was attacked with the butt of a rifle by a Sri Lankan Sinhala Navy soldier Rohana de Silva. The PM’s guards rescued him and captured the attacker.

The sailor later said he was enraged by India’s backing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and decided to attack Rajiv Gandhi. But the Gandhi stooped which cushioned the blow from de Silva’s ceremonial rifle.

The sailor was sentenced to six years in jail but was released prematurely after receiving a presidential pardon. He later said the idea to assault Gandhi came when he was 2 or 3 feet away.

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