'If my son had political links, he wouldn't have been implicated'

'If my son had political links, he wouldn't have been implicated'

'If my son had political links, he wouldn't have been implicated'

She now sees renewed hope in the Madras high court staying the execution of the three convicts in the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination case facing death row — Perarivalan Arivu, Santhan and Sriharan Murugan — for eight weeks.

Arputhammal, mother of Perarivalan, could hardly control her emotions as she spoke to M R Venkatesh of Deccan Herald. The high court’s breather for her son and two others, no longer remains something personal.

It has turned the spotlight on the inhumanness of the death penalty, more so in this case when the accused persons have already spent close to two decades in prison and their mercy pleas had been rejected by President of India 11 years ago. Excerpts:
Has the Madras high court decision come as a sign of hope?  
We had lost all hopes (since hanging was fixed for September 9), but the court’s verdict has come as a great solace. It has been brought about by the efforts of many people; For 20 years, we lived even without an identity.

Seeing the groundswell of sympathy from all over Tamil Nadu and outside and the Jayalalitha government’s resolution in the Assembly (urging the president to commute the death sentence of all three to life) it is in harmony (‘Anusaranai’) with people’s sentiments; I see new avenues of hope that all the three would be released from jail.
Has this development personally strengthened your belief in God?
It is really the people’s good wishes and pure intent. Why drag in God into this context? My family, Perarivalan and me, have been influenced by the Dravidian leader Periyar’s principles. It has shaped our lives. If God really existed, my son should have been released long ago for he is innocent. So, I do not wish to rationalise in terms of God now.
Has the young Tamil girl Sengodi’s suicide in Kancheepuram, protesting the death penalty, also helped to stop the hanging for now?
I had been to Sengodi’s funeral on Wednesday. This tragedy has pained me. For over 20 years, I have been battling for my son’s cause. This girl impulsively taking her life, I feel, is wrong. There are so many other ways to protest against death sentence. Suicide is not the way.

Our campaign against death penalty is based on the premise that no man’s life should be taken by force. Death should come naturally to every human being. Yet, I respect the girl’s sacrifice.
Will more pleas go to the Centre in the wake of the high court ruling?
The legal issues, I have left it to my lawyer. But the (clemency) issue on hand is no longer about freeing some individuals. ‘Idhu Ulaga Tamizhar Prachannai Aagivittathu.’ (It has become a Tamils issue the world-over). Lots of people want me to go to places and talk, write about my experiences and so on. The irony is all these years, nobody heard us. I feel a non-violent struggle would take us to our goal-post, that is release of the prisoners.

What about your son’s background and the CBI’s charges against him?
My son can’t even think of harming anyone. He is such an empathetic soul. He would not even watch a film with violent scenes. In the village near Jolarpettai where he grew up, he would rather sit at home than come with us to a movie.

After his 10th state board exam, he did a diploma in electronics and communications (EC) engineering at Krishnagiri. There was not even a scratch in his records, until the CBI picked him up (on June 10, 1991 after Rajiv’s killing on May 21, 1991).

They said they were taking all pro-LTTE sympathisers for just a formal questioning and that’s how he went. Arivu was just 19 years then. The CBI falsely charged him with being part of the belt-bomb conspiracy, merely because he studied ‘EC’.

The conviction later ruined 20 years of his youthful life. He is innocent. He became a victim, as Arivu had no political backing then. I am sure my son would not have been implicated in the Rajiv Gandhi case if only he had been the son of even a district secretary of a political party.

Several such persons with political clout were not included in the case. They spread all kinds of false stories about my son and since it was a trial under TADA Act, we could not even speak out. I hope Justice will prevail now, with commutation of their sentence leading to discharge.
How do you see the road winding from here?
As a Mother, I have suffered agony and privation for long years and I can’t just give up my son like that. All these years, for some political reason or other, everyone shirked this case. I am extremely thankful to Jayalalitha Amma for taking up this resolution when others backed out in the past.

I have full faith she will take this forward. And with the efforts of people like MDMK chief, Vaiko, Tamil film director Seeman and dalit leader K Krishnasamy, I am hopeful the lives of all three (convicts) would be saved. I am hopeful that the people would continue to stand by us.

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