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The Supreme Court has ordered the release of Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict A G Perarivalan while six of the convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case continue to be in prison.
The grounds for Perarivalan’s release rest on several factors. One was that his role in the assassination plot was marginal. The prosecution case was that he procured two 9-volt batteries that was used to power the electric detonator in the belt bomb used to kill Rajiv Gandhi. The police case was the LTTE assembled the belt bomb, in which Murugan, one of the convicts and Nalini’s husband played a key role, using a vest stuffed with RDX, pellets, and an electric detonator. The police case was that the explosives had been procured by LTTE operative Kumaran Pathmanathan, now under custody in Colombo. The belt bomb worn by the suicide assassin Dhanu killed Rajiv Gandhi and at least 16 others on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur.
The second factor was that in October of 2017, former CBI officer V Thiagarajan submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court that during interrogation Perarivalan had said he had “absolutely no idea” of the purpose for which the two nine volt batteries he had bought were going to be used for. Thiagarajan who took down the confession said the CBI did not include this in the confession statement of Perarivalan. The reason for this, as per Thiagarajan’s affidavit, was that “it would have been an exculpatory statement and hence the whole purpose of recording the confessional statement would be lost.”
During the initial stages of the investigation, the CBI was not sure about how much Perarivalan knew, said Thiagarajan. Later the agency came across a May 7, 1991 wireless message from Sivarasan, mastermind of the plot, to LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman that only he, Subha and Dhanu knew of the exact aim of what was being planned.
The grounds for Perarivalan’s release rest on several factors. One was that his role in the assassination plot was marginal. The prosecution case was that he procured two 9-volt batteries that was used to power the electric detonator in the belt bomb used to kill Rajiv Gandhi.
Journalist Neena Gopal, who was with Rajiv Gandhi and spoke to him moments before the blast, has said in her book, “The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi”, that only in the morning of May 21 did Dhanu reveal to Nalini that the target was going to be Rajiv Gandhi that day. She says Nalini had bought the green salwar kameez for Dhanu that day.
Dhanu’s dress was unusual for Tamils to wear in the early 1990s. Sivarasan was wearing a white kurta-pyjama apparently to pass off as a journalist.
Neena Gopal says Perarivalan, born in Jolarpettai and barely 20 years old at that time, was in thrall of the LTTE at that time. His parents were Periyarists and he sympathized with the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils.
In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence on Perarivalan to life along with that of three others — Nalini, Murugan and Santhan. Nalini and Perarivalan are Indian Tamils. The prosecution said Nalini got linked to the LTTE through her brother, Bhagyanathan.
During his long years in prison and solitary confinement, Perarivalan, who had studied electronics before he was jailed, finished his MCA. He is also known to be suffering from several physical ailments that need constant care. In late 2000s, he had told a journalist that his aspiration while growing up was to join the Indian Air Force.
Known as Arivu, Perarivalan was recently released on parole. Nalini, Murugan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar, Santhan and Ravichandran are still in jail.
Perarivalan’s mother Arputhammal has been a vocal campaigner for the release of her son who is now 50 years old. Arputhammal participated in several campaigns demanding the release of her son. She would speak to the media on behalf of her son. She met with then chief minister Jayalalithaa and pleaded for her intervention to secure his release.
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