Tamil Nadu

Meeting with Priyanka life-changing: Nalini

: Nalini, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case who has been behind bars for the last 26 years, has many bitter memories that she would not want to talk about. Though she considers every day of her long incarceration a nightmare, there is still one day—March 18, 2008, to be precise—that she considers special, for it brought a ray of hope that the family of Rajiv Gandhi would, some day, believe in her “innocence”.

Recalling the day when she met Rajiv’s daughter Priyanka in the Special Prison for Women, Vellore, Nalini says she found solace in the encounter as it “cleansed” her of the insults and accusations targeted at her.

Responding to questions sent by The Hindu through her lawyer P. Pugalenthi, the 51-year-old Nalini touched upon various subjects including her meeting with Priyanka and her struggles as a mother, including her desperation to meet her daughter Megara.

Meeting with Priyanka

When Priyanka first arrived at the Vellore prison in 2008 to meet Nalini, the latter apparently was in a state of disbelief. “It was only after she repeated twice that she was Priyanka [Gandhi] that I recovered from the shock,” Nalini, who faces charges of knowing the conspiracy to kill Rajiv Gandhi, said.

And, “Ennakku onrum theriyadhamma,” (I do not know anything) was among the first few sentences that Nalini spoke soon after recovering from the initial shock.

After a few seconds, Priyanka reportedly asked Nalini, “My father was a good person. He was very soft. Why did you do this? Whatever was the reason, it could have been resolved with dialogue.” Immediately after that, Priyanka broke into tears, and so did Nalini.

“It was so unbearable that I started to cry,” Nalini wrote. “At that moment and place, I felt like dying, so much was the pain,” Nalini said in her reply.

The meeting, according to Nalini, was also life-changing for her. “Meeting a person from the family of Rajiv Gandhi was no ordinary thing. I felt that it cleansed me off the insults and accusations cast on me due to the circumstances,” she said.

The meeting instilled a sense of confidence in her that the family would believe that she was innocent one day, she said, adding, “I saw in person and understood the pain and anger Priyanka felt on the loss of her father. I fear that no one should politicise this feeling.”

Nalini was pregnant when she was imprisoned in 1991 and delivered a girl baby in the prison. “Will any woman bearing her first child be involved in such a heinous act?” she questioned. “When the police started to suspect my family, we attempted suicide but were rescued by my husband in the last second,” she added.

Yearning for her daughter

Nalini, prisoner number 801, is also desperate to meet her daughter, Megara, who is living in the UK. “As a mother, I have not given even 10 per cent to my child. This has been tormenting both me and her,” she said.

“I met her last in 2005. She had applied for visa and the Madras High Court in 2007 had ordered that it should be granted in 15 days. She tried twice for a visa but was not granted,” she said.

Megara, too, is desperate to meet her mother, and Nalini wondered why they have been put through such hardship. “My daughter has been through plenty of difficulties and agony due to this separation. It is only when I get the opportunity to help her overcome the pain will my duty as a mother be fulfilled to an extent. All that I want is to see her get married and to play with my grandchildren,” she said.

Life behind the walls of the prison has had its effect on her health too, she added. “How can a woman be of good health when her husband has also been imprisoned and she has not met her daughter for 11 years. Prayer and meditation are my sole consolation. I have lost everything in these 26 years. What else is left to lose? I am living to grant a sense of feeling to my daughter that her father and mother are alive,” she said.

Nalini feels that she has not been given the benefit of doubt in the case. The original death sentence was commuted to life in 2000. “But life imprisonment does not mean that the person should be imprisoned till death. The governments have been following the practice of prematurely releasing prisoners. In 2008, at least 2,400 persons were released in Tamil Nadu after spending seven years in prisons, while women have been released after five years’ imprisonment,” she stated.

“I have spent 26 years in prison. Why cannot the government look at my case on humanitarian grounds? Why cannot the government show mercy on me as I have to fulfil my duty as a mother as my daughter has reached marriageable age?” she asked.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2020 5:12:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Meeting-with-Priyanka-life-changing-Nalini/article14628898.ece

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