Not many would recall the infamous 1994 Isro spy case where ace scientist Nambi Narayanan was made a scapegoat by power-hungry politicians.
Thiruvananthapuram: Not many of this generation would know the case of an honest and upright Isro scientist called Nambi Narayanan. In happened in 1994 when there was no eardrum shattering ‘breaking news’ phenomena.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court exonerated Narayanan and asked the Kerala Government to pay him Rs 50 lakh compensation for the torture and ignominy he had to undergo.
Rs 50 lakh is nothing for the former scientist who lost his reputation, was tortured for no fault of his.
Narayanan was arrested in 1994 for allegedly selling India’s cryogenic rocket technology to ‘enemies.’ He was arrested, chained, tortured. His beard was pulled by intelligence sleuths. He was made to stand for days so that he was denied sleep. Select ‘leaks’ by the Kerala police linked him to a sex racket too.
The two leading Malayalam newspapers competed with one another to dish out false and cooked up stories against Narayanan. He soon became a much-hated figure, thanks to the police propaganda and the media.
At the time of arrest, the scientist had just a black and white TV, no fridge and led a spartan life. And he is supposed to have made money by selling frontline technology.
There are two reasons behind his arrest. The CIA reportedly planted two semi-literate Maldivian women who knew nothing on rockets or science and had nothing to do with Narayanan. They were the so-called spies who were trying to get details of rocket fuel technology! The CIA was reportedly worried at India developing the liquid cryogenic engine technology for space and for defence.
Narayanan’s arrest successfully put the cryogenic technology back by two decades. The US won.
The second is a more sinister one involving none other than AK Antony and his gang and the CPI(M)-led state government that vigorously pursued the case trying to protect senior police officials.
The Supreme Court has constituted a judicial commission to inquire into the role of police in Kerala in Narayanan’s arrest and this will open up a pandora’s box.
Narayanan was used as a pawn by the Antony group in Kerala to unseat the then powerful CM K Karunakaran.
Soon after the verdict, Karunakaran’s daughter Padmaja Venugopal said the conspiracy against her father was hatched by five political leaders and claimed their roles will come out in the course of the judicial probe. She also said she will reveal their names if the commission calls her to depose before it.
“Let the truth come out. My father did not get justice. Former PM Narasimha Rao cheated my father. He took undue haste in seeking his resignation,” her brother K Muralidharan, who is a Congress MLA, said.
At that time, the gang against Karunakaran was led by Oommen Chandy. Karunakaran had to quit and AK Antony became the CM.
Yesterday’s verdict and the commission appointed by the Supreme Court would could create tension in the state Congress and many questions will crop up against senior leaders like Antony and Oommen Chandy.
Also in the firing line would be former DGP Siby Mathews and former SPs K K Joshua and S Vijayan. It was Vijayan and his gang who leaked ‘sex’ details of Narayanan and the Maldivian women to the hungry and salivating Malayalam media.
All the officers have retired. Narayanan has sought action against police officers who probed the espionage case against him. These policemen should receive exemplary punishment.
Many books have been written about the case and a Bollywood director had even announced a biopic on the scientist, who had to pay a heavy price along with former chief minister K Karunakaran in the sordid drama.
Narayanan had introduced liquid fuel propulsion technology in the country in the late 1970s when his senior APJ Abdul Kalam was the head of the solid propulsion system. Kalam rose to great heights while Narayanan’s world crashed when he was arrested with another scientist D Sasikumar on charges of allegedly selling space secrets to two semi-literate Maldivian women in 1994.
“When humiliation was heaped from all sides at one point I thought of ending my life. But later I thought I shouldn’t go down as a traitor. I lived my life for the truth to emerge,” he said while speaking to the media.
Interestingly, the then deputy inspector general of police in the eye of the storm Raman Srivastava, was vociferously defended by Karunakaran. Today, he is the police advisor to the current Pinarayi Vijayan government. Communists had held a series of protest against Srivastava then, but he later made Kerala his home