‘In the Computer Age we still live by the law of the Stone Age: the man with the bigger club is right. But we pretend this isn’t so. We don’t notice or even suspect it – why, surely our morality progresses together with our civilization. Professional politicians, meanwhile, have deftly covered certain vices with a civilized veneer.’
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his 1997 essay ‘Hypocrisy Today’
Contrary to the previous 30 chapters, this chapter and the forthcoming chapter on the espionage angle of Rajiv Gandhi assassination do not contain any direct information on Pirabhakaran. But this does not mean that the information provided in these chapters are irrelevant to the theme of Pirabhakaran Phenomenon.
Anti-Pirabhakaran literature generated by half-baked analysts (which includes books by Rohan Gunaratna and commentaries by the journalists representing the ‘Chicken Little Circuit’ from Chennai) before May 1999 portray an erroneous view that Pirabhakaran had killed Rajiv Gandhi. This was strongly based on conjectures and the news releases from the Indian Intelligence agencies. But the presented evidence by the prosecution team at the assassination trial (as indicated in the Supreme Court verdicts of Justice Wadhwa, Justice Thomas and Justice Quadri) shows conspicuous lack of solid information linking Pirabhakaran to the assassination. Thus, some of the chapters dealing with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination have to be without any information on Pirabhakaran.
Defence Lawyer Duraisamy’s Interview
Now that I have presented my analysis on the Supreme Court appeal verdicts delivered by Justice Quadri, Justice Thomas and Justice Wadhwa (see, The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon – parts 28, 29 and 30), it is more than appropriate to study the impressions of defence lawyer S.Duraisamy on the final verdict delivered in 1999 – almost 8 years after the tragic event.
Duraisamy became the Bill Kunstler of Tamil Nadu. For those who don’t know, Bill Kunstler was the Jewish-American attorney who appeared for ‘harassed innocents’ (which included Martin Luther King Jr., Chicago Seven etc.) and gained victories in court against all odds. Luckily, Duraisamy’s impressions are available from an illuminating interview he granted to A.G.Nadar for the Rediff On the Net website and presented on October 13, 1999. It deserves reading (since he knew better on what aspects were ignored by the adjudicators of justice) and I reproduce it below.
The introduction of Duraisamy mentions,
“…Typical, you can say, of the man who saw the Rajiv Gandhi assassination accused in a different light. When the world condemned them, Duraisamy was among the few who sympathized at their plight. Unshaken by a frightening volley of hate mail and threats, he stood his ground to defend what seemed indefensible then. And succeeded. By snatching life for 22 of the 26 accused from the jaws of death: 19 acquitted and the sentence of three reduced to life. [Italics added for emphasis by me.] In his modest apartment in Madras, the soft-spoken lawyer spoke to A.G.Nadar about his defence.”
Note of explanation: the italics within parentheses are as in the original interview. Other descriptions within parentheses have been added by me, for clarification purposes.
Q: Since when you have been practising law?
Q: You have always been a criminal defence lawyer?
Q: When did you become a member of the Dravida Kazhagam?
A: Since my school days I have been a follower of Periyar [E.V.Ramasamy Naicker, founder of the Dravida movement]. Even today I am a follower. We have formed a separate party called Periyar Dravida Kazhagam three years back.
Q: When did you get involved with the Sri Lanka Tamil issue?
A: Since the issue started we have been involved in it – 1983. After the massacres in the northern parts, around Jaffna, all of India sympathised with them. We in the Dravida Kazhagam supported them wholeheartedly.
Q: Before this case [i.e, Rajiv assassination trial], have you handled anything that involved so much publicity?
A: During the Emergency [of 1975-77] there were a lot of excesses in jail. I was in jail for a year under the MISA [Maintenance of Internal Security Act]. People were tortured, some were beaten to death. After the Emergency a commission was appointed under Justice Ismail. I represented the victims. We examined the prison officials, jailers and superintendents. From their mouth I was able to get the answer that they had exceeded their authority. That was my first brush with the government.
Q: And then this case.
Q: When the court sentenced the accused to die, were you disappointed?
A: Of course, I was disappointed. The outcome of the arguments looked like they were in our favour. They should have been acquitted there [by the trial court] itself. Even the Supreme Court judgment shocked me. I don’ think they will hang four of them. There is no evidence at all.
Q: Do you expect all of them to be acquitted?
A: Definitely. They have not committed any offence at all.
Q: Not committed any offence at all, or not committed any offence that can be proved in court?
A: They have not committed any offence.
Q: You believe that.
Q: What were they doing in Sriperumbudur?
A: Sivarasan and the others?
A: They committed [the crime]. These people are innocent.
Q: So you are not talking about the LTTE. Only these accused.
A: Yes! Only these.
Q: You pleaded in the trial court and then you pleaded in the Supreme Court. They have handed death sentences to four of your clients.
A: The Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Act expired in 1996. Now the Supreme Court itself has said that in this case TADA is not applicable. They have acquitted the charges under TADA. Then the proceedings in the TADA court have to go. The court says there is no terrorist activity in Rajiv Gandhi’s case. If there is no terrorist activity, then the TADA court has no jurisdiction. So the proceedings in the TADA court will not be applicable in this case.
The case has to be reopened. Statements and confessions recorded under TADA cannot be, should not be, considered. When you take away those statements and the confessions, there is no case at all. There is no evidence.
Q: You mean they have to be tried by a regular court now.
A: Only then should it be relied upon.
Q: What about the photographs retrieved from the dead photographer’s camera?
A: Sivarasan, Subha and Dhanu were seen there. We are not denying that.
Q: Even Nalini was there.
A: We are not denying that. Other than Nalini, there were thousands of people there. [now Tamil Rajiv Congress leader] Vazhapadi [Ramamurthy] was there. [now Tamil Maanila Congress leader] Karuppaiah Moopanar was there.
Q: They were Indians involved in the election campaign. Not Sri Lankans, who has nothing to do with the election.
A: Nalini is an Indian.
Q: The other three? [referring to Sivarasan, Dhanu and Subha]
A: The other three came only for killing Rajiv Gandhi.
Q: Not these four accused?
A: No! Not these four accused. None of them were there.
Q: They were elsewhere?
A: They were elsewhere. Actually, at that time according to the police, Perarivalan [18th accused] was seeing a cinema at the Devi theatre.
Q: So your entire argument is that because the Supreme Court did not uphold the TADA act in this case, the entire case becomes invalid?
A: Not only that. There are other certain points.
Q: Please tell us.
A: There are so many contradictory statements in the confession. According to one, Sivarasan was taken to Bangalore from Madras on 28th June and he was left in Bangalore on the 29th morning.
Q: Inside a petrol tanker?
A: Yes. This is in the confession statement of three accused. Another statement says that on the 30th of June, Sivarasan asked Santhan to come over to the Ashok Nagar cinema theatre. They were staying with a party in Madras. Now which confession has to be relied on? The court says we believe both confessions. This is not proper or possible. Like this there are so many contradictions.
Q: There is Ranganath, your client, coming out with stories that the Special Investigation Team’s D.R.Kartikeyan says he never told him. In one of the affidavits before the Jain Commission he had said the same thing. Also, in one of your petitions before the trial court, he gave the same facts.
A: In this case we used the statement because Ranganath’s statement said only about this case.
Q: Apart from the LTTE, is there somebody else involved?
A: Already he has said that in an affidavit to the Jain Commission when he was in Poonamalle jail. We have filed many petitions too. Now he is revealing it to the press that Chandra Swami and others are involved. We do not know why the Jain Commission didn’t act.
Q: The Jain Commission did not say anything. It is Karthikeyan who is denying it now.
A: Even before, they were told that Sivarasan used to talk about Chandra Swami and help from some other quarters in Delhi. They were threatened by the investigating authorities and beaten up by the police. He has lost his front teeth because of that.
Q: Does it look like they were protecting somebody?
A: They want to throw the whole accusation against the LTTE only. They don’t want to see anything beyond that.
Q: Internationally, did somebody finance the LTTE?
A: We do not know if the LTTE was financed or where they picked up the people. They could have been engaged by the real conspirators, of course. That part we do not know.
Q: There are rumours that the LTTE is targeting Sonia Gandhi. Is there any substance to it?
A: Even the Supreme Court says the LTTE must have known that if they kill an Indian leader in India they will lose support of the people. Can we expect that at this stage they will do something like that? It is a rumour started by the CBI or some others who are frustrated because they lost in the Supreme Court.
Q: Rajiv Gandhi was killed. Seventeen others died. You feel you did justice by defending the accused?
A: Of course, I feel sorry. The real culprits should be punished.
Q: Not these people.
A: Definitely not.
Q: What was the public reaction like when you took up this case?
A: Everybody was afraid. All the advocates were scared. I did not find any reason not to appear for them. The public reaction was against me. There were so many threatening calls. Congressmen attacked my office, my house. Even then I did not ask for protection. Even now I do not ask for protection. I thought I will appear for the innocent. I have to defend the innocent.
Q: Guilty or innocent, everybody deserves a lawyer. What about your wife and children? Your child must have been in school then.
A: My family was proud of me.
Q: They supported you. So are all the people in your house members of the Dravida Kazhagam?
Q: Do you think this case will affect your future?
A: Yes! Definitely.
Q: All the ‘wrong’ cases will come to you.
A: Wrong cases or right cases, rowdies and goondas will not come to me. This kind of political cases will come. In the RSS office bomb blasts, I am defending some of the accused.
Q: We heard that P.Nedumaran of the Tamil Desiya Iyakam collected Rs. 3.4 crore [Rs.34 million] for this case. How come you are living in this house?
A: [Laughs] We did not collect so much. Of course, we had to spend a lot of money. The defence consists of a team of lawyers. We had to stay in Delhi.
Q: For that you got people. Juniors and seniors?
So nobody wanted to be the main defence counsel, but they didn’t mind
A: After two or three years everybody was willing to come out openly.
Q: Who is the senior advocate in Delhi?
Q: Anything you would like to tell us?
A: No.” [source: the website of Rediff on the Net, accessed on Nov.9, 2001]
Justice Wadhwa, towards the end of his lengthy verdict had identified the other lawyers of the defence team as follows:
“Mr.Natarajan, senior advocate, led the team for all the accused except one. He was ably assisted by Mr.Sunder Mohan, Mr.B.Gopikrishnan, Mr.S.Duraisamy, Mr.V.Elangovan, Mr.N.Chandrasekharan, Mr.T.Ramdass and Mr.R.Jayaseelan. A heavy burden lay on the shoulders of Mr.Natarajan. He carried it with aplomb. His presentation of the case showed his complete mastery on facts and law. It was a pleasure to hear him, not losing his poise even for once. He was fair in his submissions conceding where it was unnecessary to contest. Mr.Siva Subramanium, senior advocate assisted by Mr.Thanan, who represented the remaining one accused, rendered his bit to support Mr.Natarajan.” [p.201 of the verdict]
I mention that Mr. Siva Subramanium appeared for Shanmugavadivelu, the 15th accused. In his interview, the defense lawyer Duraisamy pointed out only one example of the contradiction, with an added note, “Like this, there are so many contradictions”. Having studied the verdicts of Justice Wadhwa and Justice Thomas, I present below two contradictions (relating to the arrest records of accused Ravi and Nalini) which puzzles me.
Contradiction 1: Puzzling arrest records of Ravi, the 16th Accused
Ravi, the 16th accused was identified as an Indian citizen. First I quote directly from the verdicts of Justice Wadhwa and Justice Thomas. Within parenthesis of each cited date, I cite the appropriate date with month noted in alphabetical form in italics.
“Ravi (A-16), Suseendran (A-17), Sivarasan, Subha, Kanthan and Murugesan collected at the seashore to take a boat for Sri Lanka. That was 10.6.1991 [i.e, June 10, 1991]. A message was, however received that the boat got hit in the sea near Jaffna and all 11 persons who were coming to India died.” [p.108 of Wadhwa’s verdict]
“In his confession Ravi (A-16) had shown his various attempts for him and others to leave the country and his being in constant touch with Pottu Amman through wireless set installed at Dindigul. On 28.7.1991 [i.e, July 28, 1991], Ravi (A-16) along with Kanthan and Ramanan went to Sri Lanka and met Pottu Amman.” [p.109 of Wadhwa’s verdict]
“Ultimately Ravi (A-16) stated that he returned to India. He left Sri Lanka on 10.8.1991 [i.e, Aug.10, 1991] with various weapons, 12 gold biscuits and 15 code sheets.” [p.109 of Wadhwa’s verdict]
“On 21.8.1991 [i.e, Aug.21, 1991] Ravi (A-16) was arrested by the police. [p.109 of Wadhwa’s verdict]
“In the confession made on 12.12.1991 [i.e, Dec.12, 1991] by Ravi (A-16) in that case, he said as under:… Then he again went to Sri Lanka on 23.8.1991 [i.e, Aug.23, 1991] when boat arrived from there. Suseendran (A-17) did not accompany him. He met Pottu Amman on 28.8.1991 [i.e,Aug.28, 1991]. He gave him further arms and ammunition and also 12 gold biscuits weighing 10 tolas each. He returned to India on 10.9.1991 [i.e, Sept.10, 1991]…He was arrested on 23.10.1991 [i.e, Oct.23, 1991] [pp.183-184 of Wadhwa’s verdict]
However, Justice Thomas in his verdict, makes Ravi as a Sri Lankan citizen, and records that, “A-16 (Ravichandran) is a Sri Lankan citizen. He was arrested on 20-10-1991 [i.e, Oct.20, 1991] in connection with Rajiv Gandhi murder case.” [p.49 of Thomas’s verdict]. The difference in this arrest date, Oct.20 or Oct.23, 1991, could be a legitimate clerical error. But, the table providing the dates of arrest, confession and nationality in Justice Wadhwa’s verdict, state,
“nationality Indian; date of arrest 6.1.92 [i.e, Jan.6, 1992]; date of confession 14.2.92 [i.e, Feb.14, 1992].” [pp.45-46 of Wadhwa’s verdict].
If these dates are to be believed, Jan.6, 1992 arrest was Ravi’s third arrest!
To chronologically recapitulate this messy schedule underwent by Ravi, the 16th accused: he left Sri Lanka on Aug.10, 1991. He was first arrested on Aug.21, 1991. Then, he went to Sri Lanka on Aug.23, 1991. He returned to India on Sept.10, 1991. He was arrested for the second time (?) on Oct.20, 1991 [according to Justice Thomas] or Oct.23, 1991 [according to Justice Wadhwa]. He made a confession on Dec.12, 1991.
Then, Ravi was arrested again on Jan.6, 1992. He made a second confession on Feb.14, 1992.
My opinion on Ravi’s arrest record
This postulation is derived from the travel records, as culled from the verdict of Justice Wadhwa. One wonders whether Ravi was released on bail after his first arrest on Aug.21, 1991? If not, how come he could move to Sri Lanka two days later on Aug.23, 1991? These two dates have some significance. Sivarasan, Subha and five other associates were reported committing suicide in Bangalore on Aug.20, 1991 [see below, the statement of S.B.Chavan, the then Minister of Home Affairs, in Lok Sabha on Aug.21, 1991]. Assuming Ravi was arrested on the following day, one can even postulate whether he was used by the Indian Intelligence wallahs as a ‘reluctant mole’ to receive ‘intelligence’ about the activities of LTTE leadership in Jaffna. Thus, he could have been requested to travel to Jaffna (with that purpose) on Aug.23, 1991, following his first arrest. Then, after Ravi’s return to India on Sept.10, 1991, he was arrested for the second time on Oct.20 or Oct.23, 1991. This postulation may become credible (I repeat, credible), if the dates of Ravi’s arrest recorded in the verdict of Justice Wadhwa are indeed true.
Contradiction 2: Puzzling arrest record of Nalini, the 1st accused
Justice Wadhwa’s descriptions on the arrest record of Nalini in one page of his verdict also contradict his own information presented in two other pages of his verdict.
In page 73 of his verdict, Justice Wadhwa has glaringly written as follows:
“There is a wireless message dated 12.6.1991 [i.e, June 12, 1991] sent by Sivarasan from Wireless Station 910 to Station 91 of Pottu Amman which reads ‘the brother of officer-girl, her mother were arrested’. Reference to office-girl is to Nalini (A-1).”
But four pages before that, in page 69, Justice Wadhwa has noted in one sentence,
“It was on 14.6.1991 [i.e, June 14, 1991] when they [referring to Nalini and Murugan] at Saidapet bus stand, Madras they were arrested.”
This information corroborates with the information he has provided in the table of arrest and confession record, in page 45, where it is recorded the date of arrest for Nalini was 14.6.91 [i.e, June 14, 1991].
My opinion on Nalini’s arrest record:
If information provided in page 45 and page 69 of Justice Wadhwa’s verdict is correct, Nalini was arrested on June 14, 1991. Then, the purported wireless message dated 12.6.1991 sent by Sivarasan from Wireless Station 910 to Pottu Amman in Station 91 has to be a fake. This purported message itself reads, ‘the brother of officer-girl, her mother were arrested’ and Justice Wadhwa had annotated that “reference to office-girl is to Nalini (A-1).” Isn’t it funny?
If the supreme court verdict itself is riddled with such consequential contradictions (unattributable to clerical error, which abounds in the spelling of names), what confidence one could have in the submitted confessions of accused and the recorded evidence during the hearing of the trial. My proposal is that, it becomes imperative that the impressions of defence lawyer Duraisamy on the contradictions which existed in Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial deserve to be recorded in full for posterity [in whatever means available such as videotape, audio tape, transcribed book] before his memory fails.
Untouched Jig-saw Puzzles
(1) Unusual Death of Shanmugam
If Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial, prosecuted by the SIT personnel with their Procrustean data-torturing mindset, is full of mysteries, the disappearance and unusual death of one of the deceased accused N.Shanmugam, aged 40, on the night of July 19, 1991 deserves an exceptional ranking. This tragedy occurred before the reported suicides of Sivarasan and Subha in Bangalore. In the original charge sheet prepared by the SIT in May 1992, Shanmugam was listed as the 35th accused. According to this charge sheet,
“Shanmugam (A-35) with long association with LTTE help to smuggle arms and explosives between Jaffna and Kodiakkarai. In the area around his house he had got buried under the sand 121 cases of high explosives, wireless communication equipment and petrol in cans for the use of the conspirators. He arranged for the reception of the group of nine persons and other and actively assisted them in carrying out the object of the conspiracy. When he was arrested and recoveries of the aforesaid materials were effected at his instance, he escaped from custody and committed suicide.” [source: Lanka Guardian, Nov.1, 1992, pp.21-22]
Some kind of suicide that should have been! Facts pertaining to the unusual death of Shanmugam remain hidden. But, for record, I would like to reproduce the impressions expressed by some of the Indian MPs in the floor of Lok Sabha, ten days following this unusual death. Though every one of them had their own perceptions and biases (Some criticising LTTE for their activities in the Indian soil), in retrospect, one can judge that in totality they doubted the credibility of the law enforcement personnel in India, even before the SIT prepared the original charge-sheet for the Rajiv assassination trial. I provide excerpts from the speeches made by four Tamil Nadu MPs in Lok Sabha on July 29, 1991. Among the four, Thangkabalu, Padma and Tindivanam Ramamurthee belonged to the Congress Party and Raja Ravivarma was from the Anna DMK Party.
Shri.K.V.Thangkabalu (representing Dharmapuri)
“…Today’s discussion is pertaining to the incident which had taken place in Tamil Nadu. We know that there was an announcement of the CBI’s investigation particularly under the dynamic leadership of Shri Kartikeyan, a well-known disciplined and outstanding officer of the police cadre. After his induction and stewardship, we heard and we are also knowing that effective steps are taken to get the culprits of the [Rajiv Gandhi] assassination. What was surprising Madam, with regard to Shanmugam’s case is that, as many honourable colleague also has said, a person was in police custody and he was allowed to go out and the next morning, he was seen hanging near the guest house where he was interrogated. This is a strange incident. Madam, I would ask the hon. Home Minister as to how was it possible for him to escape. We want to know whether the officers who were involved in this incident belong to the CBI or the State Police. Under whose custody was he able to go out of the tourist bungalow?
Secondly, the police and the CBI version say, that in the next 24 hours, they were searching for him. He had escaped and they were searching him. Who was on the search? Who is responsible for this and what was their responsibility? And they are saying that the next morning, he was found hanging near the same premises of 50 meters.
This is not only mysterious but the people who were having lot of hope in the CBI are now losing hope. That very hope is destroyed. I would like to know whether such kind of officers who were involved in the incident are a party to the conspirators or the persons who made Shanmugam to be killed. Who was the real instrumental behind this scenario? This is to be found out.
Madam, another point is that, which appeared in the press, Shanmugam was supposed to go out of the house to wash his hands after having food. When there was a wash basin within the guest house, where was the necessity for him to go out and wash his hands? It means that somebody, in connivance with the Police or the officers in charge, allowed him to go out of the guest house. This point is very clear. Only the Home Minister will be knowing as to what happened truly. The investigating agencies, the vigilance agencies and so many other officers are also trying to find out the truth. But so far no information is known to the public or the people concerned.
Another point is that he went out at night and in the next morning, he was hanged to death or supposed to be hanging. Everybody’s understanding is that while one is hanging to death, his feet will certainly be above the ground level. But Shanmugam’s feet was touching the ground. So, certainly he must not have hanged himself. Certainly, he was made to die and after he was dead he was brought to the tree and was hanged down. That must have happened. The common sense says that if someone hangs himself to death then his body will always be hanging above the earth. But the photo clearly shows that he was hanging with his feet touching the ground. I think the Home Minister knows it and we wish him to clarify this point.
Then there is another news in the Tamil Nadu newspaper. I would like to quote from a Tamil Nadu evening daily, the Makkal Kural. It says that one Superintendent of Police was not allowed to go inside the bungalow where the investigation was going on and also that the police authorities are supposed to help them to coordinate with the CBI. So, the S.P. was not allowed to go into the guest house. The CBI authorities now say that the two police constables who are now suspended clearly shows that they are responsible for the escape of Shri Shanmugam. If that is so then the action is right but the State Police says that the two constables were responsible to help the CBI and they were not responsible to guard Shri Shanmugam.
SIT, that is the Special Investigating Team, consisting of the CBI officers, the I.B. officer and the State Police. The Hon. Home Minister may be knowing the composition of this team exactly. Contradictory versions are being given to the press and public and this shows that they are not going in the right direction; that there is some confusion and they are thus accusing each other. It appears that they are not going in the right direction in which they are assigned to go.
I would like to ask the hon. Home Minister that if this is the fate of the case of a leader of the great stature like Shri Rajiv Gandhi then what will happen to the case of an ordinary common man of this country. I remember that when Shri Rajiv Gandhi died everybody in this country wept as if he was their own brother or a family member. The way this case is being handled, I very much doubt whether we will be able to do justice or whether we will be able to reach to the culprit who was behind his assassination. Whosoever he may be, whomsoever they may be supported by, the Government’s duty is to bring them to light and punish them. This is the duty of the Government.”
Shri B.Raja Ravivarma (representing Pollachi)
“Mr.Chairman, the statement of the hon. Home Minister made in the House on the issue of the death of Shri Shanmugam is totally unbelievable. Shanmugam, an accused in the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi and he surrendered voluntarily to the police on 17-7-1991 [i.e, July 17, 1991]. It was not that the CBI or SIT caught him. Therefore, it is not at all believable that he escaped on 19-7-1991 [i.e, July 19, 1991] and committed suicide just two days after surrender. If he wanted to escape from the issue, there was no question of his voluntary surrender and then escaping and committing suicide. So, we want to know whether it is a suicide or homicide.
When Shanmugam was washing his hands, the constables were not around him. They were supplying food for the CBI and SIT officials. I would like to know that the State Police who had been posted there were meant to keep a watch on Shanmugam or to serve food for the CBI and SIT officials. The services of our State Police had been misused by the CBI and SIT officials.
It is stated that Shanmugam escaped under the cover of darkness. The question of darkness could come only after Shanmugam escaping from the building. Therefore, I strongly suspect the role played by the CBI and SIT officials behind this issue. The Tourist Bungalow at Vedaranyam in Thanjavur district where the accused Shanmugam was under arrest is having all facilities like wash basin and bathrooms within the premises. Then, how had Shanmugam been allowed to go outside to wash his hands?
We feel surprised that how an accused under the custody could have a 15 feet rope with him with which he was reported to have hanged himself? By and by, he was not accustomed to wearing lungi, even then how lungi was found at the site? Sir, is it true that his feet were touching the ground while hanging? If so, how can anybody hang himself like that? I want to ask the hon. Home Minister, through you, why the postmortem was done at Nagapattinam General Hospital instead of teaching medical institution at the Tanjavur Medical College which is equidistant from Vedaranyam and where there are latest sophisticated instruments and forensic experts available to pronounce an expert opinion? Has the postmortem concluded that asphyxiation is due to hanging or otherwise? Moreover, is it true that the place in which he was found also belongs to a private individual who is in anyway connected with the smuggling activities? The Home Minister says that he himself is not satisfied with the replies and the reports furnished by the officials of SIT. What is the nature of the suspicion? Will you take this House in confidence by informing the same? The officials who are responsible for this incident should be identified and they must be enquired first, before Shivarajan. With this I conclude.”
Dr.(Smt) Padma (representing Nagapattinam)
“Mr.Chairman Sir, … As a doctor, I would like to say that it would have been better if the body of Shanmugam would have been sent to a teaching institution for post-mortem. So far as the post-mortem report is concerned, to know whether it is homicide or suicide, have they taken the X-ray of the hyoid bone or preserved the hyoid bone? These are the points on which I would like to know.”
Shri.K.Ramamurthee Tindivanam (representing Tindivanam)
“Sir, I will make a very brief speech… Shanmugam had surrendered himself through a lawyer in the High Court. When he had surrendered himself through a lawyer, it means that he wanted to live and he wanted protection also. The importance of Shanmugam was felt more by the investigation team than anybody else because when he was taken to Vedaranyam, he was not taken by road or rail but he was taken by a helicopter. And such a person, after reaching Vedaranyam, did not have that much of protection and was not guarded. He escaped from the place where he had been kept. And after the escape, a case was registered against him for escaping from police custody. Then suicide or murder, whatever it may be, came to the notice of the investigation team. After that, a case was registered against Shanmugam for suicide. But there is no case against the police for having allowed him to escape. There is no case against the police for having allowed him to commit suicide or for having allowed the murder to take place.
When he escaped a very few police men were guarding the place who say that they were not in a position to run after him to catch him or to find him out. But immediately after he escaped, within hours, several hundreds of men were put on duty to search him out. Wherever the person was kept, whether in Vedaranyam or Kodikarai, police should have been guarding the bungalow or the guest house where he was kept. I do not know as to why the investigation was not pushed in that direction and why action was not taken in that regard. Shanmugam, as is revealed by the SIT, was a very well-known smuggler in that very area and the sea coast is known for several smugglers. There must have been a competition among these smugglers. As my other friend had put it, there are other people in that area who are involved with the LTTE or the Sri Lankan terrorists who came there.
There was a report in the press also that there may be very many politicians there who were on the payrolls of Shanmugam. Who knows that they were not afraid of Shri Shanmugam’s revealing the facts which may give some new clues to Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case…”
The India Today magazine of Aug.15, 1991 carried a grotesque photo of Shanmugam’s body hanging by a rope, where his feet were almost touching the ground (page 28). Anirudhya Mitra reporting the story from Madras had observed:
“…The post-mortem was conducted the same day at Nagapatnam, 40 km from Vedaranyam. The report, taking note of the saliva, emission of semen and stools, declared it suicide. But the SIT story and post-mortem are riddled with loopholes that militate against forensic wisdom:
(a) There was no rope mark or bruise on the victim’s neck which the rope would have positively left if he was alive at the time of hanging.
(b) The tongue wasn’t protruding.
(c) The face was not congested with a rush of blood. And the eyes had not popped out if he was hanged.
(d) The saliva, stool and semen discharges could have happened in the event of his being strangulated too.
(e) No scratch marks on his thighs – for in the last minute struggle and pain, the hands, unless tied, instinctively scratch the thighs. If Shanmugam was tied up, how could he commit suicide? Neither were skin particles found in his nails.
(f) The only way he could have hanged himself was by climbing the tree, putting a noose around his neck and jumping. The impact would have broken the neck bones or ruptured the arteries which was not the case.
(g) The rope from which he was hanging was 14 feet long. Where did he get it in the dead of night?
These were clear pointers that Shanmugam’s death did not occur due to hanging. The evidence suggests the death took place in custody as even the escape story sounds dubious…” [excerpts from the feature: Assassination Probe – A dubious twist, India Today magazine, Aug.15, 1991, pp.27-28]
Even with all these contra-indications presented in the Lok Sabha and the news magazines of India within a month of the tragedy, for the SIT to record in its charge sheet, prepared in May 1992, that Shanmugam committed suicide was audacious indeed! Subramanian Swamy, in his 2000 book on Rajiv assassination, has reproduced a doctored version of the grotesque photo of Shanmugam’s body – where the feet touching the ground have been clipped off. If this doctoring of the photo was intentional, it provides a proof for Swamy’s perfidy. On the other hand, if Swamy had used the photo unintentionally (without checking the original photo, published in the India Today magazine in 1991), then it again proves Swamy’s lackadaisical research and care-free attitude for facts. Following a six page description of Shanmugam’s death, Swamy also evades this issue with a statement, “Mr.Shanmugam’s mysterious death, whether by suicide or murder is immaterial to the SIT’s case especially since even the LTTE defence counsel did not make an issue of it.” [Book: The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: Unanswered Questions and Unasked Queries, p.198]
(2) Unusual Death of Sivarasan
In the original charge sheet prepared by the SIT in May 1992, S.Packiachandran @ Raghuvaran @ Sivarasan was listed as the 4th accused. The then Minister of Home Affairs, Shri S.B.Chavan, presented the official version of the death of Sivarasan via a statement made at the floor of the Lok Sabha on Aug.21, 1991. First, I reproduce this statement, which was entitled as,
Encounter with LTTE militants on 20th August 1991 at Konanakunte near Bangalore
“I rise to apprise this August House on the details of the incident at Konanakunte near Bangalore in which Sivarasan, one of the main accused in Shri Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and six others were found dead.
In pursuance of the consent given by the Government of Tamil Nadu to investigate the case of Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, a Special Investigation Team was formed. The SIT has examined 346 witnesses and conducted searches at 49 places seizing incriminating material. 14 accused persons were also arrested. As you are all aware, the most important accused who had remained to be arrested were Sivarasan and Subha. A nation-wide manhunt was launched and efforts were being made to locate the hide-out of these main conspirators.
Suspecting that some LTTE militants were hiding in Muttati and Beroota villages of Madya District, raids, in all 12 LTTE cadres were taken by police on 17/18-8-91 [i.e, Aug.17-18, 1991]. In these raids, in all, 12 LTTE cadres were found dead after committing suicide by consuming cyanide and five suspect who were apprehended were admitted in Bowring Hospital, Bangalore.
During investigation, it was ascertained that a person by name Anjanappa of Puttenhalli had helped the LTTE militants to find houses in Muttati and Beroota. Further, a diary containing a list of 26 militants was also found at Muttati. Based on this information, another person by name Ranganath was also apprehended by Bangalore City Police. This person gave information about a house in Konanakunte which was arranged by him for six militants. The City Police along with SIT surrounded this house on the night of 18-8-1991 [i.e, Aug.18, 1991] and kept a continuous watch on the house. Further, one person by name Prem Kumar was apprehended at Konanakunte crossing. He was the man who was supplying food etc. to the LTTE militants hiding in Konanakunte house. Further enquiries revealed the presence of LTTE militants including Sivarasan and perhaps Subha in the above house.
To try and capture Sivarasan and others alive, watch was continued throughout the 19th and the entire area was encircled and guarded by plain clothes men and NSG commando positioned strategically. Additional reinforcement of NSG commandos and medical expert with latest anticyanide antidote were requisitioned from Delhi. It was decided not to storm the place as similar action earlier on several occasions had resulted in even minor LTTE functionaries committing suicide. On 19th, around 7:00 pm, the LTTE militants holed up inside the house, opened fire indiscriminately without any apparent reason. The NSG returned the fire. This exchange of fire continued for about 30 minutes and three police personnel (one of NSG and two of Karnataka Police) sustained injuries. The injured are out of danger. The militants opened fire either because they were wanting to escape under the cover of fire or because of some movements close to the house where local residents were trying to move a broken down lorry. Two militants who came out, perhaps in a bid to escape ran back inside the house. Later at around 8:00 pm, about 7-8 more rounds were fired by the militants for about half a minute.
After the arrival of the additional reinforcements and the medical team with the latest anticyanide antidote from Delhi, in the early house of 20th August, the house was stormed at about 6:30 am. The NSG commandos blasted the door and entered the house. They found the dead bodies of 7 LTTE militants. They included the wanted Sivarasan and a woman who is obviously Subha but whose identity requires evidential confirmation. Efforts are on to identify all the other bodies. One AK 47 rifle and a 9 mm pistol and several rounds of ammunition were recovered. Sivarasan was found with a bullet injury in the temple of his head. All others obviously died due to cyanide poisoning. It is being ascertained whether Sivarasan also consumed cyanide capsule. The bodies were shifted to Victoria Hospital for post-mortem examination. The whole operation was supervised by CBI Director, SIT Chief and the City Police Commissioner of Bangalore and the NSG officers.
Meanwhile, the SIT will continue investigation of case relentlessly with the objective of unraveling the entire conspiracy behind the assassination, identifying and arresting the remaining accused person and eventually charge sheeting the case in court.”
Criticism of Subramanian Swamy
Subramanian Swamy is not a credible politician in India. However, he becomes quotable, considering the fact that he is currently one of the voluble anti-LTTE campaigners who barks frequently to hog the limelight, and he scores a point for LTTE. Even Swamy has raised doubts about the death of Sivarasan, in his recent book. To quote,
“Sivarasan, for whom a massive manhunt was mounted by SIT, was finally tracked down to a house on the outskirts of Bangalore. He was admittedly the leader of the killer squad and should have been aware of the highlights of the conspiracy. But the intriguing point was that, while eight others of the squad were found dead by consuming cyanide (in accordance with the LTTE dictum) Sivarasan was found dead with bullet injuries. Sivarasan’s mortal remains were quickly cremated, while belt-bomb girl Dhanu’s remains had been preserved in Chennai as a prosecution exhibit. Why the difference?” [Book: The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: Unanswered Questions and Unasked Queries, 2000, p.198]
One cannot accuse Swamy to be a sympathizer of Pirabhakaran. Thus, even Swamy finds it difficult to gulp the presented official version of Sivarasan’s death and the quick cremation of his mortal remains. Question arises that if there was no hanky-panky on Sivarasan’s death, why were his mortal remains were hurriedly cremated? Rajeev Sharma, the journalist who wrote another book on the assassination, informs that
“Sivarasan and Subha were cremated amid tight security at Bangalore’s Wilon Garden crematorium on September 3, 1991” [Book: Beyond the Tigers, 1998, p.104]
As informed by defence lawyer Duraisamy, what Sivarasan revealed to Ranganath, the 26th accused who harbored him during the final three weeks of fugitive’s life, about his links to controversial Chandra Swamy falls into the espionage angle of the Rajiv assassination. [Continued].