It is increasingly evident that Ms. Priyanka Vadra'sunrecorded visit to the Vellore Jail to meet convict Nalini Sriharan had more to do with the politics of the Gandhi family than with forgiveness and the quest for personal closure. The most disturbing aspect of the meeting is that, though both parties have admitted that it took place, it is unrecorded in the register of the Vellore Jail.
This is literally a can of worms; and it has come to light only on account of the RTI application filed by lawyer D Raj Kumar. This calls for an enquiry as it raises the possibility of Nalini having been illegally secreted out of the jail and taken to meet Ms. Vadra somewhere else. As the golden temple was one place visited by Ms. Vadra during her brief stay in Vellore, it is the natural place to begin such investigations.
A second fact that has come to light, which perhaps explains the mysterious air dash from Delhi, is the fact that Nalini'shusband, Murugan, who received the death penalty in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, is reportedly bringing out his autobiography. While it would be premature to speculate about its contents, the possibility that it may contain something that a political family may want excised cannot be ruled out.
Intimately related to this possibility are press reports suggesting that Nalini has crossed the life sentence of 14 years, and has been in jail for 17 years. There is speculation that Priyanka'smeeting was a prelude to moving a petition for her release, failing which she would have to wait another three years in order to be released under the statutory provision of maximum detention for 20 years. It was under this provision that Gopal Godse was released from prison after the Gandhi murder.
This opens another line of thought. As Nalini can easily wait for another three years to be released, we may legitimately ask if the conversation veered around Murugan, who is sentenced to death but has spent 17 years in prison, waiting for the lengthy judicial process to exhaust itself. This is well past the normal life sentence, and just three years short of the statutory 20 years jail for life imprisonment.
The question arises: has Murugan'scase reached nearer to the execution of the death sentence, and is there a covert move to make a case for commuting this to life imprisonment, with release just three years away? Is that why the friendly media has been asked to wax eloquent on the forgiving nature of the Gandhi women (first Sonia, now Priyanka), when the fact remains that they have no locus standi to meddle in these matters in the first place? Was the Murugan family being prodded to move a mercy petition before the President, which could then be tackled through the Congress-dominated UPA government, which has to advise the President how to deal with it? If yes, what is the quid pro quo?
Murugan, who met his wife Nalini on March 22, 2008, just three days after her meeting with Priyanka, has since avoided two scheduled meetings with here, triggering speculation that he was unhappy with the discussions between the two women. Thereafter, Nalini also refused to meet the members of Murugan'sfamily who came to visit her, pleading a stomach pain. It is pertinent that the alleged Nalini-Murugan differences have surfaced at a time when the Intelligence Bureau has received warnings of the possible threat to Nalini'slife inside the Vellore Central Prison, where other convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case are also lodged. This suggests that it may not be easy for the Rajiv case conspirators to break ranks by cutting private deals.
What is more, with the initial shock regarding the Priyanka-Nalini meeting wearing off, reactions have begun coming in from the families of the fellow-victims of the bomb blast at Sriperumbudur. As many as 15 others died with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, including 9 police personnel and a child, Kokilavani, who minutes before the blast was busy rehearsing a poem in praise of him. The little girl and her mother died when human bomb ?Dhanu? blew herself up.
The families of these and other victims have begun to speak up, presenting a more real, but unflattering, picture of the Gandhi family. Javid Iqbal was only 17 when he and his mother, Nazeem Banu, found the body of his father, Mohamed Iqbal, shattered below the waist on the night of 21 May 1991. Mr. Iqbal, Superintendent of Police, Chengai West, was blown up when he and other policeman tried stopping Dhanu from entering the security cordon around Rajiv Gandhi. They are bitter at the thought of pardoning anyone connected with the bombing. The family of freedom fighter ?League? Munnusamy, the only Congressman to die in the bombing, feels that the Priyanka-Nalini meeting has only reopened old wounds. Most of the families of victims did not get any compensation, help with jobs, education of children, or medical assistance. Many persons were grievously injured in the blast, and have to continue to pay for the medical problems.
These families, which did not receive even a letter from the Congress or the Gandhi family acknowledging their loss and offering condolences, are unimpressed by their publicity-oriented magnanimity towards Nalini. They point out that the memorial at Sriperumbudur does not even mention the other persons who died along with Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. This is a national shame, and should even now be rectified with a plaque bearing the names of all who died that day. It bears mentioning that the Gandhi family makes annual visits to Sriperumbudur, yet in all these 17 years it has not thought fit to remember and visit the families shattered by the blast.