P. Krishnaswamy, in The Sunday Oberver, 11 September 2011
The family of the victims killed along with the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi demanded that Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan should be hanged, the Indian Express reported. The latest demand came after the clemency plea for the three death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case grew louder. The family of victims, joined by a large numbers of Indian Congress workers, sat on a day-long fast opposing the clemency for the three convicts. Former Union Minister EVKS Elangovan and other Congress leaders also participated in the fast.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly on August 30 had passed a “unanimous” resolution requesting the President to reconsider and commute the death sentence awarded to the three convicts. The Madras High Court, too, on the same day stayed the execution of the accused for eight weeks, which was earlier scheduled for Friday. The three are currently lodged in Vellore Jail, according to the Indian Express report.
Early days: Steel-helmeted, stern looking security men, with machine-guns at the ready, were guarding the Colombo High Court premises at Bullers Road (later named Bauddhaloka Mawatha), with some of them positioned even at distant rooftops, when the trial-at-bar inquiry on the “Neerveli Murder and Robbery’” came up for hearing before High Court Judge C.L.T. Moonamale from the first week of January 1983. Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) leaders Kuttimani, Thangavel alias Thangathurai, Sivasubramaniam Sellathurai alias Thevan, Sivapathan Master and Nadesuthasan were the accused in the case. That probably was the first case against terrorism and terrorists tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in a Sri Lankan Court. Senior police and army officers, finger-print experts and government analysts were summoned as prosecution witnesses during the Court proceedings. A tense situation emerged every time the heavily-guarded accused who were in detention under the PTA were brought to the Court and taken back in a prison bus. What also unfolded in the Court was that the accused, hailing from Velvettithurai, the birthplace of Velupillai Prabhakaran, were professional smugglers.
Sivarasan and Dhanu wait for the kill
The Gandhi family in mourning vigil
Subha (reserve suicide bomber) and Nalini pictured in crowd
Senior Counsellor Nadesan Sathyendra assisted by a team of senior counsellors, including G. Kumaralingam, appeared for the defendants while Deputy Solicitor General Sunil de Silva, senior counsellors Mohan Peiris, the outgoing Attorney General, and other state counsellors appeared for the prosecution.
Rarely any relatives or friends of the defendants came to see the court proceedings either because they were not allowed or they did not want to be seen as relatives of suspects in a PTA case. But the first accused Thangathurai’s wife, an Indian national from Tamil Nadu, was there in the Court with her child , a boy aged about four, to see the proceedings. The writer who was covering the proceedings as staff reporter for a Tamil-language daily observed that the woman was very emotional, shedding tears every time the suspect was examined and cross-examined, and she also talked to him approaching the dock during court adjournments. It was rather touching to see the small kid trying to embrace and kiss his father.
While the verdict in this case was still pending, what happened to the accused is part of the darkest pages of the country’s history. In the 1983 “Black July” communal violence, let loose under the patronage of the then UNP Government headed by President J.R. Jayewardene, over one thousand Tamils were killed by wild mobs, many times that number were grievously wounded and several thousands were reduced to utter destitution having lost everything they owned.
The communal frenzy spread to the high security Welikda prison and 35 Tamil prisoners kept in detention there under the PTA, including the five defendants, were killed.
Consequently nearly 80,000 Tamils fled to camps that came up in school buildings and other public buildings. A good percentage of them, who feared for the safety of their lives and their families, were provided passage and asylum byIndiain its Tamil Nadu state. Hundreds of Northern Tamils also huddled together in boats and started sailing to Tamil Nadu marking their first mass exodus across thePalk Strait. During the onslaught on terrorists that lasted over two decades, the LTTE permitted hundreds of thousands Northern Tamils to flee to Tamil Nadu in boats and fishing vessels and, on many instances, the exodus was organised by the LTTE in a systematic manner.
What was evidenced by the presence of the Tamil Nadu spouse and the child of one of the accused in the Colombo High Court was that inter-marriages, smuggling operations and other illicit activities between Tamil Nadu and the Northern Sri Lanka have been taking place for quite some time,unchecked by the two governments, further strengthening the interaction between the two communities.
The relations so fostered and encouraged under the patronage of political hardliners seeking political mileage have now assumed such incendiary dimensions across the Tamil Nadu state that a cross section of the people and their political leaders have demanded the commutation of the death sentence on the three convicts, two of them hardcore LTTEers, in the Rajiv Gandhi gruesome assassination case. Many of them have expressed solidarity with the cause of the LTTE, the terrorist outfit that brutally killed their charismatic national leader, perhaps because public memory is short or that rousing communal sentiments is the only way out for their political existence.
Two LTTE members V. Sriharan alias Murugan, T. Sathendraraja alias Santhan and their Indian accomplice A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu who were convicted of having plotted the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi were sentenced to death by hanging and the executions were to be carried out yesterday, September 9.
Their mercy petitions were rejected by the President of India. But they got a reprieve two weeks ago with the Madras High Court staying the executions for two months, after a petition was filed on their behalf. It was reported that slogans were raised and crackers were burst in the court premises when the Court order was issued.
Rajiv Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989 and the third from his family after grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru and his mother Indira Gandhi to be the country’s prime minister was blown to smithereens on the night of May 21, 1991 by an LTTE suicide woman during the last leg of his polls campaigns at Sriperumbudur , a small town 50 km southwest of Chennai.His face was ripped off. Shocked survivors recognised his body from the white sneakers which he was wearing.
The bespectacled LTTE suicide woman, Dhanu, clad in salwar kameez was concealing her explosive and killer pallets in a belt. She disguised as a well-wisher waiting to greet and garland Rajiv Gandhi.
Fifteen people including the suicide woman, another accomplice Haribabu, who was posing off as a photographer, and her associates in Chennai Latha Kannan and Kokila were also killed. Haribabu’s camera, capturing the last moments of Rajiv Gandhi and others at the meeting, remained a mute witness near its temporary owner’s shattered body.
Rajiv Gandhi’s grotesque assassination stunnedIndia- and the world. Later developments and investigations proved that the LTTE was behind the repulsive deed.
Indian sleuths built a watertight case, naming 41 people as conspirators in the assassination. Twelve of them committed suicide to avoid arrests, mostly by consuming cyanide.
The one-eyed Sivarasan, the notorious LTTE assassin who had manoeuvred the Rajiv Gandhi assassination plot in Tamil Nadu and his LTTE accomplice Subha committed suicide when the Indian commandos tracked them to a hideout far away from the assassination site.
Nalini, wife of one of the convicts Murugan, who watched with an accomplice Gandhi die, was arrested, tried in court and is presently serving life imprisonment.