CHENNAI: Nalini Sriharan is one of the longest serving women prisoners in the world. Accused of hosting two female suicide bombers, Suba and Dhanu from Sri Lanka, along with her husband Sriharan alias Murugan, another convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Nalini has been languishing in Vellore jail for 25 years now.
In a recently released book, Rajiv Kolai: Maraikkapatta Unmaigalum, Priyanka-Nalini Santhippum (Rajiv assassination: Suppressed facts and Priyanka-Nalini meeting), compiled by journalist Ekalaivan, Nalini opens up on what transpired in the meeting between her and the slain prime minister’s daughter. The book includes three chapters on how Sriharan became his own counsel.
We were the only ‘family’ who were accused in this case. The CBI arrested six of us—my husband, mother, younger sister, brother and maternal uncle. Advocates visited other accused, but none came for us or those from Sri Lanka.
Around May 19, 1992, four of them from the Saidapet camp were added as accused in the case. Only after that did the court bother to look if we had an advocate. Two years later, we received in writing from the courts that “we can appoint an advocate for us”. Senior advocate Duraisamy agreed to be my counsel. Sriharan, however, declined to seek a counsel.
An advocate, Chandrasekaran, lent two law books to my husband. He started poring over the books, sometimes over 18 hours a day. It was around the beginning of 1995, I think. First witness was Sriperumbudur Police Inspector Madhuram, the officer who had filed the FIR.
My husband got a chance only after nine advocates finished cross-examining the police inspector. He got up and prepared. There was an important thing to be cross-examined with the Inspector. Army’s Major Sabarwal, an explosives expert, had filed a report on the Sriperumbudur blast. The major in his report had mentioned that the site where the explosion happened had a ‘Tigers’ training camp, adding, “This is one of the reasons why I conclude they are behind the bombings.”