It has been four years since the Supreme Court said that a decision on the release should be taken within 3 months.

27 years and no justice Rajiv Gandhi case accused Perarivalans mother is still waiting
news Justice Monday, June 11, 2018 - 18:35

At 70, Arputham Ammal finds it difficult to vacillate between hope and despair. “It is telling on my health. One moment, I feel Arivu will come home anytime soon and the next, I lose all the hopes.” 

The vacillation began twenty seven years ago. The moments became days, months, years and now decades. On June 11, Arputham Ammal’s struggle to secure the release of her son Perarivalan – incarcerated in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case – turns 27. “I have all along been saying he was taken away on the pretext of minor interrogation. His father and I sent him believing that. To this day, no investigating officer has disputed it.”

After twenty seven years of relentless struggles, Arputham Ammal and Perarivalan, have managed to make it to the mainstream, to earn some kind of respect for their struggles. In a recent episode of a hugely popular Tamil serial Priyamanaval aired on Sun TV, Arputham Ammal is spoken about in the context of a good-hearted man wrongfully arrested. 

When the protagonist is worried about her son in jail and the long struggle ahead, the daughter-in-law gives her hope, citing the example of Arputham Ammal. Such mainstreaming of the struggle was next to impossible a few years ago. 

“In a way, it is good to have so much solidarity but sometimes, I also think if only this had happened a few years ago, things would have been so different. If only Thiyagarajan had spoken about not recording Arivu’s statement fully some ten years ago, if only Justice KT Thomas had spoken about the flawed investigation some years ago, things would have been so different. My son would have been out by now, married and with kids probably. If only...” Arputham Ammal says.

She knows that 'if only' still hangs like a sword over her head. If only Arivu comes out anytime soon, Arputham Ammal’s only desire to see him leading a normal life could still be fulfilled. “Like any other mother, I want him to get married, to have kids and lead a normal, peaceful life. I spoke to him about marriage last year when he was out on parole. But Arivu said he cannot get married till he knows that he will be permanently released. He said he didn't want to stake the life of another individual. What do I say for that?” she asks.

“Every moment, he grows old. As a mother, it breaks my heart to see him grow old and ailing. After all that had happened in this case, after the statements made by K Ragothaman, Thiyagarajan and then justice KT Thomas,  nothing seems to be moving. It has been four years since the Supreme Court said a decision should be taken in three months” she rues. 

She points out that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi has not yet publicly responded to the letter by Justice Thomas. “Her children have said they have forgiven. Maybe Sonia should try and empathise with me as a mother. Maybe then there will be some reprieve for all those wallowing in jail, including my son.”

Perarivalan’s is now largely a name no longer feared or stigmatised. His name, along with his mother's, has now come to be associated with relentless struggle for justice. “When he came out on parole, there were streams of visitors. His friends from school and college came with their families. There were two blind men who had come all the way from Pudukottai to meet him. He was so overwhelmed, he couldn’t speak. About 40 conservancy workers came in batches of 20 each to meet him,” Arputham ammal recounts. “They don’t think my son is guilty.”

That’s some solace for her, but Arputham ammal’s exhausting journey is far from home. Her long walk towards Arivu’s freedom is still not over.

 “I have visited many places across the country; I have knocked every possible door. Everyone I meet agrees Arivu has been confined for too long yet no one knows when he will be out," she rues.

When he finally comes out, Arivu merely hopes to settle down peacefully. He has plans to do organic farming in some ‘remote, peaceful village.’  

“The only thing he thinks he would need is some light, away from all the darkness he was confined to all his life. Everything else will be a luxury," the mother says.

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