In an exclusive interview to TNM’s Shabbir Ahmed, Perarivalan talks about life in prison, his mother's role in his freedom, and more.

Perarivalan with TNM's Shabbir Ahmed
news AG Perarivalan Case Friday, May 20, 2022 - 20:47

AG Perarivalan, who was convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and given a life sentence, walked out a free man after 31 years of imprisonment. The Supreme Court on Wednesday, May 18, suspended his life sentence and ordered his release. Scores of mercy petitions were filed and government resolutions were passed in these 31 years, seeking his release.

In an exclusive interview to TNM’s Shabbir Ahmed, Perarivalan talked about his struggles in prison. “It is impossible to describe that pain of 31 years in jail. [Justice] Krishna Iyer used to say that a person can become a vegetable even in eight years inside prison. That was my struggle. People think that Perarivalan fought legal battles, that during his incarceration he fought law enforcement or prison systems, or like you said, he fought for RTI rights. But that wasn't the real struggle. My internal struggle, to hold on to myself, that was the real battle. There is a fight, isn't there, for me to not lose myself?" he said. 

He also expressed his gratitude to his mother, Arputham Ammal, who has fought relentlessly over the years to free her son. Calling her his “fundamental lifeline”, Perarivalan said, “She was like the engine of a train. The carriages may be changed in due course, two might be removed or added, but the engine remains. Similarly, in these 31 years, she has been that engine. That engine has brought me across the distance to this point."

However, the road to freedom has not been easy for Perarivalan and those close to him. He shared that the Right To Information (RTI) Act was an important tool that he and his team used. “In 2005, the RTI Act was brought in, and the very next year we started [using it]. I didn't have in-depth knowledge about the law at the time. I started in a small way. After that, when I had to [fight the] death penalty, from 2010-2011 Prabhu (lawyer), advocate Ramasubrmaniam, Pari Vendan — all these people gave me legal direction,” he said, adding that RTIs were especially helpful in commuting his death sentence.  

Perarivalan also told TNM about the contribution of late Supreme Court Justice Krishna Iyer, who had opposed the death penalty given to the convicts. “[Justice Krishna Iyer] saw the entire case from a human rights angle, he has given many historic verdicts. He is one of the faces of human rights in India,” Perarivalan said. 

“His involvement in this case has been very important. I had a chance to speak to him over a phonecall in 2014. His assistant Ramanathan picked the call first. Later, Krishna Iyer talked with me and blessed me. It is an unforgettable moment,” Perarivalan told TNM. 

Watch the full interview on TNM Tamil: 

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