How Isro case ruined Nambi Narayanan's life

Former Isro scientist, a liquid propulsion specialist then heading Isro’s cryogenic project, was in custody for about 50 days, and was “harassed and physically abused”

The starting point of the Isro “spy case” came in October 1994, when a Maldivian woman, Mariam Rasheeda, was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for staying beyond the period stipulated in her visa.

Based on details sourced from her diary, the Kerala Police arrested S Nambi Narayanan and D Sasikumaran, both Isro scientists, K Chandrasekhar who represented a Russian space agency, S K Sharma, a labour contractor, and Fauziya Hassan, another Maldivian national.

The charge against the scientists was that they leaked out “official secrets and documents” of Isro.

Narayanan, a liquid propulsion specialist then heading Isro’s cryogenic project, was in custody for about 50 days, and was “harassed and physically abused”.

The case took a political turn after the A K Antony faction of the then ruling Congress party used the scandal to hit out at IG Raman Srivastava, an officer considered close to then chief minister K Karunakaran. The rebellion, laced with sensational media reportage about the “espionage case”, led to Karunakaran’s resignation, in 1995.

Nambi Narayanan has mentioned the possibility of a conspiracy outside of the political theatre. Since the early 1990s, a future with cryogenic engine-powered launches was actively discussed. Those who see a conspiracy that involves foreign elements point to the damage the false case did to India’s cryogenic project.

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How Isro case ruined Nambi Narayanan's life

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