Tamil Nadu

Ex-DGP recalls the travails of Arputham Ammal

Nearly three decades ago, as 26 accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 15 others were lodged at the high security sub-jail in Poonamallee, all roads leading to the fortified prison were barricaded. The security was intense following a threat of a storming operation by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to rescue their cadre.

The security protocol was intimidating and rarely anyone ventured near the sub-jail, let alone go inside to meet the under-trial prisoners. However, Arputham Ammal, then in her late 30s, would make regular visits to meet her son A.G. Perarivalan, a co-accused in the case.

Jagan M. Seshadri

Jagan M. Seshadri

Jagan M. Seshadri, former DGP of Tamil Nadu, recalls Arputham Ammal would reach the nearest location by bus and walk under the scorching sun to the prison complex every week. Even with no hope then of her son’s immediate release in the sensational case, she would never miss the visit. Each time, Arputham Ammal would come with a petition to be filed in court or sent to government, claiming her son was innocent and should be released.

Arputham Ammal 

Arputham Ammal 

Mr. Seshadri was designated DIG/Chief of Operations in 1994, three years after the assassination, and entrusted with the task of preventing a jail break or attack from outside. While some of the remand prisoners were agitated and often created a riot-like situation, there were regular inputs from Central/State intelligence agencies that the LTTE was planning to storm the sub-jail and rescue their cadre/supporters.

Prison fortified

“After taking charge as Chief of Operations, we fortified the prison complex. All roads leading to the jail were closed to public and trenches were dug to prevent unauthorised vehicles. Security personnel were even authorised to open fire on vehicles trying to cross the trench. Despite many such access-control measures, Arputham Ammal used to make it to the prison every week” Mr. Seshadri told The Hindu on Thursday.

Since the case was investigated by a Special Investigation Team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headed by D.R. Kaarthikeyan, a contingent of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was also deployed to provide external security along with the Tamil Nadu police.

Rare order

In a rare order, the Tamil Nadu government had then brought all agencies, including the CRPF, working at the sub-jail under the control of Mr. Seshadri. “We got a notification issued declaring the Poonamalee sub-jail as a prohibited area. My instruction to the armed guards was that in the event of an attack on the jail, no outsider or remand prisoner should escape alive. We amended the jail manual and installed surveillance cameras. Then Union Home Secretary visited the prison and appreciated the foolproof security arrangements,” he said.

It was under such intensified security arrangements and trial under way at the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act special court that Arputham Ammal, the lone weekly visitor, turned up without fail to give confidence to her son that he would be released soon.

“I used to see Perarivalan during my routine inspections and also peruse reports on the behaviour of inmates. He used to be very quiet. There was never a complaint about his conduct in the sub-jail. He was very cooperative. I don’t want to go into the merits of the case. But I think Arputham Ammal’s untiring and relentless efforts have brought her son back home,” Mr. Seshadri said.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2022 9:00:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ex-dgp-recalls-the-travails-of-arputhammal/article65430389.ece