30 years ago, on June 11, 1991, 19-year-old Perarivalan was picked up by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Sleuths informed his family members that they were taking him for an interrogation, leaving the family awaiting his return. 30 years later, on June 11, 2020, Arputham Ammal, Perarivalan’s mother, waits with tears for her son to return home. Perarivalan is among the convicts in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Fighting for the release of her son, Arputham Ammal organised a social media campaign on Thursday with the hashtag #IStandWithArputhamAmmal. The Twitter trend was endorsed by personalities including VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan, film directors Pa Ranjith, Karthik Subburaj, Leena Manimekalai, actor Vijay Sethupathi and environmentalist G Sundarrajan.
ஜுன்-11, 30வது ஆண்டு தொடங்கிடுச்சு. விசாரிச்சுட்டு காலை அனுப்பிடறோம்னு இதே நாள் இரவு 10.30க்கு கூட்டிட்டு போனாங்க. புள்ளைய நாங்கதான் ஒப்படைச்சோம். 8 நாள் சட்டவிரோதமா வச்சிருந்துட்டு; வேப்பேரியில சுத்திவளைச்சு பிடிச்சதா கதை சொன்னாங்க. அங்க ஆரம்பிச்ச அநீதி இன்னும் முடியல. விடியல ! pic.twitter.com/QrdfLXagPM— Arputham Ammal (@ArputhamAmmal) June 11, 2020
“I just want the government and the Governor to release him and help me live with my son for a few more years till I am alive. When parents are ready to accept their children who are at fault, my son did not do anything and why should I stay away from him?” asks Arputham Ammal, weeping quietly, her voice cracking.
Even amid the pandemic, she has written letters to the Chief Minister, bureaucrats and lawmakers. “Perarivalan has health issues and he often contracts urinary tract infection. Hence, I wrote to the government to at least release him on parole so that I can keep him safely. However, I did not receive any reply. I am worried about his health and I don’t even know what I should do,” she says.
The main charge against Perarivalan, who is fondly called Arivu in his neighbourhood, is that he bought two nine-volt batteries which were allegedly used to make the bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi. However, the CBI officer who took his statement at the time, V Thiagarajan, admitted to making omissions in recording Perarivalan's statement. He had told the officer that he was unaware as to the purpose of the batteries he was asked to buy.
Arivu had handed over the battery “without knowing the intention for which the battery was later used.” This line is the reason why Arivu continues to be in prison, says his lawyer.
In 2010, advocate Sivakumar took up the case, following which Perarivalan’s death sentence was repealed. The case was heard and argued for a long time in court.
In 2018, the case was transferred to the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide on the matter. The Supreme Court disposed of a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government on the proposal to release Perarivalan and the SC told the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide.
“The Supreme Court told Tamil Nadu government to consider Perarivalan’s petition for release two years back. However, the Governor has not decided yet. The state government should put pressure on the Governor to take immediate decision,” says Perarivalan’s lawyer Sivakumar.
Arputham Ammal says, “Amma Jayalalithaa (late Chief Minister) told me my son will be released soon. However, this government is not even considering their own Amma’s promise to release my son.”
“We have received an overwhelming response and every time the people support Arivu and even petitioned the Governor, seeking Arivu's release. Likewise, this time too, we have received a lot of support from the people,” says the mother.