Nalini Murugan, serving a life sentence as an accused in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case, has moved a court application seeking her premature release due to good conduct, the fact of her being a mother, of having educated herself in prison, and of having already served the stipulated term allowing premature release. Several earlier similar petitions by her had been rejected by the courts. She is the only surviving member of the death squad that killed Rajiv Gandhi. She was sentenced to death. But Rajiv's widow, Sonia Gandhi, pleaded that her sentence be commuted to a life term because Nalini had become a mother.
All these reasons adduced above may encourage a humanitarian view leading to Nalini's release. But there has emerged a twist in the tale that argues against it. Nalini's latest petition comes in the wake of Priyanka Vadra's visit to her in prison. That visit was secret and unrecorded by prison authorities. That was done in violation of law. It could have been done only through complicity of government officials who abetted that secret unlawful visit. Indeed, it has been acknowledged that an Intelligence officer accompanied Priyanka to prison. News of the secret visit might never have surfaced. And since it was nowhere on official record it could have been denied if alleged.
However, Nalini's lawyer, S Duraisamy, leaked the information to the press. He did this by getting his son to put a question about the visit under the Right to Information Act. Since the visit was not on official record Priyanka could, arguably, have denied or evaded the issue. Instead she promptly acknowledged the visit, even though it was in violation of prison rules. Was this done by Priyanka under official advice to assure Nalini and her advisers that any promise made to her would be honoured?
In her interaction with Nalini, according to the version given by Duraisamy, Priyanka specifically asked Nalini if she knew who the mastermind was behind Rajiv's assassination. The day after the report of her meeting surfaced this scribe speculated that Priyanka met Nalini to seek the full truth about the conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi's assassination which has never been satisfactorily explained. This might well be the case. But in the light of subsequent developments another possibility has arisen. The government, through Priyanka, may have wanted to find out how much Nalini knew about the truth behind the conspiracy.
As written earlier, several questions relating to the assassination remain unanswered. How did Dhanu, the suicide bomber become a Congress leader's tenant? Why did a Congress leader accompany Dhanu to the site where the killing occurred? Why and how did the Special Investigative Team (SIT) delay by one week the arrest of Sirihasan, the leader of the death squad, giving him opportunity to commit suicide and bury the truth? The SIT did a commendable job in nailing the LTTE for the murder. But it did an incomplete job by not satisfactorily addressing the questions posed above. In other words, while LTTE's guilt was established, the possible complicity of Indian political conspirators was ignored.
According to recent media reports Nalini's co-accused husband, Murugan, was planning to write a book about the assassination which would have contained explosive details about the complicity of ruling politicians in the conspiracy. These media reports could be baseless. But as long as public doubts persist about their authenticity, the issue of Nalini's premature release would be seen in an altogether different and sinister light. It would then seem that the government's complicity in the Priyanka visit was motivated by its desire to prevent the book being published and the truth about the conspiracy coming out. That the leakage of the visit by Nalini's lawyer was to make sure that the government remained under pressure. That Priyanka's swift acknowledgment of her unrecorded visit to the prison was a panic reaction to assure Nalini and her lawyer that they had not been abandoned.
What is most worrisome is that if even a fraction of the media speculation is warranted, the situation is fraught with danger. If the visit to the prison could be organized in contravention of rules, there is no guarantee that sympathizers of Nalini did not record her conversation with Priyanka. If that private and secret conversation contained anything to embarrass the authorities, the government would be vulnerable to blackmail.
Till doubts created by these media reports are cleared it would be improper to order the premature release of Nalini. Instead, a credible probe into the murder of Rajiv Gandhi should be freshly ordered. Detectives might then question Nalini and other LTTE members and attempt to unravel the conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.