Rajiv Gandhi assassination convicts Nalini, Murugan launch hunger strike
Nalini Sriharan and her husband Murugan have been in prison for 28 years and their death sentences were commuted to life in prison.Updated: Feb 11, 2019 21:10 IST
Five months after the Tamil Nadu cabinet recommended their release from jail, Nalini Sriharan (55) and her husband Murugan (52), two convicts serving life sentences in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, have gone on indefinite hunger strike in Vellore Central prison demanding their early release.
They have also appealed to the Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit to release the other five convicts in the case - Perarivalan, Santhan, Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.
According to P Pugazhendhi, Nalini’s lawyer, since the TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit has not responded to the Cabinet’s resolution passed last September recommending the release of seven convicts, the husband and wife duo have started an indefinite hunger strike.
“While Nalini started her protest inside the special prison for women in Vellore on Saturday, her husband Murugan launched his hunger strike protest on February 2. Even as the state government has urged the TN Governor for the release of seven convicts, the Governor has not taken any decision. Even though all the seven convicts have spent most of their lives in prison, it is not fathomable why the Governor is delaying the signing of papers enabling their release in spite of the TN cabinet resolution recommending the same,” Pugazhendhi said.
The lawyer said Murugan had been drinking only water since February 2. On February 8 when he met him, Murugan had stopped taking water. The prison staff could not be contacted for comments on Nalini and Murugan’s health but Pugazhendhi said they had requested the duo to end their fast.
The Tamil Nadu cabinet had passed a resolution in September last year urging the Governor to release the seven convicts under Article 161 of the Constitution.
Nalini also wrote a letter to the Governor on Saturday. “I want to go away from the earth by observing fast from Saturday morning, till I accomplish eternal freedom. Justice was denied to us for the past 28 years. We all are just innocent and circumstances made investigation officers to bring us under this case,” Nalini said in her letter.
Pugazhendhi also said that they would file a petition in the Madras high court seeking a direction to the Governor to take action on the Tamil Nadu Cabinet’s resolution.
When Perarivalan approached the Supreme Court last August for release, the Union Government had declined to release the seven accused saying that it would set a wrong example.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, when he was attending an election rally on May 21, 1991 by a suicide bomber named Dhanu of the Sri Lankan rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) had taken 23 people into custody for investigation and a trial court had awarded death sentence to all.
In 1999, the Supreme Court released 19 accused and convicted three people for a life. But it had upheld the death sentence for Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. In April 2000, the then Tamil Nadu Governor Fathima Beevi commuted Nalini’s death sentence into life imprisonment. Eight years after that, Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met Nalini in Vellore prison. Priyanka at that time said that she had forgiven Nalini.
In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan into life sentence citing the delay in examining their mercy petitions.