‘See us as victims, not killers’: Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict after walking out of jail
On November 11, the Supreme Court ordered the release of all the remaining six convicts, mirroring the reasoning of poor health and good behaviour it had cited in May in the release of another convict in the assassination case.
Referring to his release from prison after more than three decades in the assassination case of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, RP Ravichandran said that time will judge them as “innocents”. He made the remarks on Saturday after walking out of jail.
Speaking with news agency ANI, Ravichandran - who along with five other convicts, including Nalini Sriharan, were released from prison, said that the people of north India should see them as “victims instead of terrorists or killers”.
“Time and power determine who is a terrorist or a freedom fighter, but time will judge us as innocent, even if we bear the blame for being terrorists,” he was quoted as saying.
Nalini and Ravichandran had approached the Supreme Court in August seeking early release. They both have been on parole since December 2021. Their move had come after the apex court granted bail to another convict in the assassination case - AG Perarivalan - on May 18. At the time, the SC had evoked its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to release Perarivalan on grounds of poor health and good conduct.
On Friday (November 11), the top court released the remaining six convicts in the case, including Nalini and Ravichandran. Its ruling mirrored the reasoning cited by the court in Perarivalan's release.
All seven convicts – Perarivalan, Nalini, Murugan alias Sriharan, Santhan, Ravichandran, Robert Payas and S Jayakumar – were arrested in 1991. Four of them, including Nalini’s husband Sriharan are Sri Lankan nationals.
On Saturday, Nalini - who was the longest-serving woman prisoner in the country - expressed gratitude to the people of Tamil Nadu for supporting her for 32 years. “I thank both, the state and Union government,” she said.
Nalini further stated that she is not planning to meet anyone from the Gandhi family, stressing “there is no possibility” of that. “I want to be with my family…I will go wherever my husband goes. We were separated for 32 years. Our family kept waiting for us,” she said.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier recommended the early release of the convicts, and following the SC order on Friday, chief minister MK Stalin said that he “welcomed” the decision.
Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber of the Sri Lanka-based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an election campaign. The development was largely deemed to be because of his decision to send over 1,000 Indian forces to Lanka in 1987 to disarm Tamil rebels only to withdraw them later.
Congress slammed the apex court's order, calling it “totally unacceptable” and “completely erroneous”. The grand old party also said that the convicts have only been released from prison and not acquitted so they should not be seen as heroes.