November 24, 2016
Chennai: ‘Rajiv Gandhi assassin, Hidden truths, Priyanka meeting Nalini’, the title lays bare what Nalini Sriharan’s autobiography, released at a function here in the city today, would reveal.
One of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination on May 21 1991, Nalini speaks about her childhood, her affair with her husband Murugan, who was given the death sentence in the case, circumstances under which she became witness to the assassination, her five-day run as an outlaw, arrest, torture in custody, birth of her child in jail, conviction and jail life. She also highlighted the secret meeting with the former Prime Minister’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi on March 19, 2008.
And some parts, particularly her custody under the special investigation team (SIT) probing the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and the travails of her daughter Arithra born in jail, make for disturbing reading.
The book has many surprising revelations, such as the fact that it was Mahatma Gandhi who named Nalini’s mother Padmavathi. She was a nurse in a Chennai hospital when Sriharan, a Lankan Tamil, entered their lives while looking for a house on rent. Sivarasan, believed to be the mastermind behind the assassination, made his entry soon after, since he too, hailed from the same area as Sriharan.
Within days, Sivarasan brought Dhanu, who later acted as the human bomb, and Subha. After the assassination, Nalini would say, “I was surrounded by blood-thirsty wolves.”
Maintaining that neither she nor her husband were aware of the assassination plan, Nalini says she told Priyanka that she was a prisoner of circumstances, when the latter repeatedly questioned her on why her father, “a good man”, was murdered.
As Nalini was not an LTTE operative, she could not provide answers for Priyanka’s queries on the people behind the assassination. Nalini says her life in jail was a little tolerable whenever Jayalalithaa was in power, with a consideration jail administration during the AIADMK regime, she says, unlike during the DMK government, when the jail officials were harsh on her.
In 2006, after the DMK returned to power, they threatened to ‘arrest’ her daughter if she was not immediately sent away to Sri Lanka, she says.
Nalini, as a death row prisoner, wrote a letter to her daughter saying her last wish would be to spend a day with her. “I will cuddle you and say sorry to you for leaving you behind as an orphan in wilderness,” she says.