On November 20, several notable Tamil cinema personalities tweeted demanding Perarivalan’s release with the hashtag ‘Release Perarivalan’ trending during the day.

Vijay Sethupathi Meena Kandasamy Prakash Raj and others demand Release Perarivalan
news Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case Saturday, November 21, 2020 - 13:44

The name AG Perarivalan is a significant one in Tamil Nadu. One among the life convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, Perarivalan has served 30 years of prison sentence after being convicted along with six others in 1991. His mother Arputhammal, has been a key figure in demanding the release of Perarivalan, who was 20 years old at the time of his arrest. On November 20, several notable Tamil cinema personalities tweeted demanding Perarivalan’s release with the hashtag ‘Release Perarivalan’ trending during the day. The trend began on Arputhammal’s Twitter page.

This included actor Vijay Sethupathi who shared a video message. “I request Governor to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling and release Perarivalan. Arputhammal’s 29 year old fight, we request an innocent man to be released,” he said. Actor Arya wrote, “Look at the suffering of a mother who has been fighting with tears for over a quarter of a century. It is not just Perarivalan who is suffering inside the jail. It is Arupthammal too.”

Composer and actor G V Prakash Kumar demanded not just for Perarivalan’s release but the six others convicted in the case.

Why many in TN rally for Perarivalan Perarivalan or Arivu

Perarivalan or Arivu, the son of a Tamil poet named Kuyildasan and Arputhamal was 20 years old when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. He was arrested on 18 June 1991. He was primarily charged with taking LTTE leader Sivarasan to a motor shop on 4 May 1991 and buying a motorcycle in his own name but giving a wrong address. Perarivalan also bought two batteries (9-Volt Golden Power Battery) and handed them over to Sivarasan, this battery was used in the belt bomb that Dhanu used to kill Rajiv Gandhi.

In May 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed TADA court's death sentence for Perarivalan and six others, however these sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in 2014.

In Perarivalan's case, it was his 'confessional statement' that led Justices KT Thomas, DP Wadhwa and SSM Quadri to conclude that Perarivalan was aware that Rajiv Gandhi was the target of the attack. However, in 2017, V Thiagarajan, former CBI Officer who was a part of the team that investigated Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination told the court that he had omitted a crucial part of Perarivalan’s statement. In an affidavit, Thiagarajan, who had recorded Perarivalan’s confession, stated that he had failed to record that Perarivalan was unaware of the purpose of the two nine volt batteries he was asked to buy.

Thiagarajan also stated that in the investigation after the confession, it was found that Perarivalan did not know the purpose of the batteries he was asked to buy. Expressing remorse for Perarivalan losing two decades of his life, languishing in prison, Thiagarajan also said that he came out with his statement to clear his conscience.  

The CBI which investigated Rajiv Gandhi's assassination also said that Perarivalan was an LTTE supporter who even met Velupillai Prabhakaran and was selling LTTE publications in Tamil Nadu. However, Perarivalan's lawyers have consistently pointed out that many people in Tamil Nadu were aligned with the LTTE and especially prior to Rajiv assassination and there was nothing surprising about it.

Perarivalan was also found to have accompanied LTTE cadres Subha, Dhanu, Nalini and Murugan to Nandanam in Chennai, to recce a programme of former Prime Minister VP Singh, a few days before Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. However, according to his lawyers, since Perarivalan was not aware of who the target was, he was merely accompanying friends.

Justice KT Thomas in 2017 said that using a confession as substantive evidence was a wrong call.

Actor Prakash Raj tweeted a video of Thiagarajan who wrote down Perarivalan’s statement talking, recalling the time he took down the latter’s statement. He also added in the message, “Justice delayed is justice denied… If we had post-conviction exoneration laws, Perarivalan would have been absolved legally after this officer’s interview. Sadly, we still rely on the existing laws for his release. (sic)”

Others who tweeted in support include filmmakers Pa Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj, writer Meena Kandasamy, music composer Santhosh Narayanan and more. 

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