Nalini Sriharan, one of the six convicts in the 1991: Rajiv Gandhi murder case Released from Tamil Nadu prisons on Saturday night, said one of the most tumultuous days she has experienced in her three decades of imprisonment was the visit of Priyanka Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter, to Vellore prison.
Talk to the media after releaseNalini said her first priority was to meet her daughter, who lives in the UK with her husband and fellow convict Murugan.
When asked about the possibilities of meeting the Gandhi family and other families of victims of the explosion that killed Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, she said she had no words. Nalini said she was reluctant to meet Rajiv Gandhi’s family.
“They (Gandhi family) have lost their father, a loved one, and I am a person involved in this case. They still have to go through this immense pain even now. I may meet them if they wish,” Nalini said.
When asked about it Priyanka Gandhi’s visit to Vellore Central Prison Meeting them in 2008, she said it was incredible. “I had to touch her to make me believe… She was like an angel… I was scared… She wanted to ask me about her father’s murder. She cried. I told her everything I knew. When she came back, I panicked. I prayed and fasted for her safe return (to Delhi),” Nalini said.
Of other victims of the blast, Nalini said she shares her grief and loss. “What am I going to say? How am I going to comment on them? I can’t even say I’m innocent… Then what do I tell the victims’ families?…” she asked. What made the charges against Nalini so serious was that she was the only one among the six convicts present at the site of the explosion near Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.
Nalini said her first priority is the formal release of Murugan, her husband and co-convict in the case, from a special refugee camp in Trichy and obtaining a passport and visa for his daughter, a green card holder living in the UK. “That is my first priority. My whole family is destroyed… I have to rip them to pieces. We will contact the Sri Lankan High Commission for an emergency passport and documents so that our daughter can take us to the UK,” Nalini said. One of four Sri Lankan nationals among the six, Murugan was transferred to Trichy camp on Saturday night after his formal release from Vellore Central Prison after 31 years incarceration.
“From the first day of my arrest, I tried to be released. I’ve had a lot of setbacks, I’d even thought about ending my life… but every time I’ve tried to make my efforts like a new step,” she said.
According to her, she was not very happy when her death sentence was commuted by then-governor Fathima Beevi in 2000, followed by an appeal by Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s wife. “Because three were still on death row. All the time we (convicts) fought in the prisons for justice for the three convicts,” she said, adding that alongside AG Perarivalan, her family also fought for their release from the very beginning.
Citing the 2014 Supreme Court decision that commuted the death sentences of three convicts to life imprisonment as a “significant chapter” in her “fight for justice” and her release, Nalini said the trial at every stage is often endless be. “After our arrest, it took seven years for the process to be completed. After the 2014 SC order, it was another eight years before we were released… Even before we were sentenced to death, we were all treated like death row inmates and held in solitary confinement. It was a doctor who intervened to get me permission to walk when I was pregnant,” she recalled.
She thanked former Prime Ministers J Jayalolithaa and Edappadi K Palaniswami for the assembly’s resolution in 2014 and the cabinet’s recommendation in 2018 to seek their release. She also thanked Prime Minister MK Stalin for campaigning for her release from the very first day he took office. “Just because I got parole from this government, I was able to fight for my release in SC,” she said, adding that her meeting with Stalin was not scheduled because she didn’t want to cause any trouble for him.”