A retired police officer, who survived the suicide bomb blast that killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, has strongly objected to the recommendation made by Tamil Nadu government to release the seven convicts in the case.
Anasuya Earnest was a sub-inspector in 1991. She was standing a few feet from where Rajiv Gandhi was killed. Fourteen people including police personnel had lost their lives in the blast. The officer too was among the injured.
"I had lost two of my fingers. There are pellets in my body. I still live in pain while convicts enjoy in jail. Many families lost their breadwinners. Their lives are ruined. Nobody looks at our pain and suffering," she said.
Four of the seven convicts were sentenced to death. However, the Supreme Court commuted their death sentence to life imprisonment, citing inordinate delay by the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in disposing their mercy pleas.
Anasuya, who retired as additional superintendent of police, says, "They are hardcore criminals. They are involved in killing our former Prime Minister. Releasing them is dangerous. They could target other leaders".
All political parties in Tamil Nadu except the Congress and the BJP have demanded their release. Anasuya calls it vote bank politics.
"For politicians it's vote bank politics. None of them ever visited us to see our plight. No family members of the convicts consoled us," she said.
Arputhammal, mother of Perarivalan, one of the convicts, says her family also suffered.
"We feel so sad for those who died. Kindly understand our families too experience hell and pain. A senior investigator and even a judge have confessed to have done improper work in this case," she said.
Citing the 27-year jail term so far, human rights activists say it's time to give reformation a chance. All seven convicts, they say, have a good track record in jail. Perarivalan has become an author and teaches prisoners in the Vellore jail. Nalini has earned her master's degree in computer applications. Her husband Murugan and another convict Santhan have become priests in temples inside the jail.
Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People's Watch, says,"They've spent half their lives in jail. Judicial custody is also a time for reformation. We should give them a second chance. Let politics not scuttle their chances," he said.
Senior Minister D Jayakumar says, "Public sentiment is in favour of the release of these convicts".
DMK chief and leader of opposition MK Stalin has also urged the Governor to order their release.
Legal experts, however, say the Governor is bound to abide by the state cabinet's decision.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has said he would look into the issue "in a just and fair manner" and has clarified he has not referred the matter to the central government.
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