Branded a spy, ISRO scientist gets compensation after 26 years
Nambi Narayanan deserved respect for emboldening India's space dreams by working on the liquid propulsion system at ISRO. Instead in the 90s, he spent all his resources to prove himself innocent after being falsely implicated as a spy. Yesterday, after a long battle, Narayanan, now a Padma Bhushan awardee, received additional compensation. But money can't undo the damage, he feels. Here's his stranger-than-fiction story.
The arrests of two Maldivian women got a sinister twist
The unbelievable story of the ISRO scientist started with the arrest of Maldivian woman, Mariam Rashida in 1994, for allegedly overstaying her visa. Soon, Rashida's friend Fauzia Hassan was held. In no time, the usual arrests of two women caught national headlines after Narayana and his aides were involved. It was claimed that they gave ISRO secrets to the women in lieu of sexual favors.
In 1994, scientist, who should have been celebrated, was held
On November 30, that year, an unassuming Narayanan was picked up from his house in Trivandrum, Kerala. The police officers that came to escort him said their boss, the DIG, wanted to see him. He waited for hours but the officer never turned up. The next morning, the scientist, who led the cryogenic rocket engine project, was told he was under arrest.
Narayanan spent 50 days in police captivity before getting bail
Narayanan was produced before a judge and asked if he accepted his "crime." "What crime?" he replied, only to get 11 days of police custody. Eventually, he spent almost 50 days in captivity before getting bail. In prison, Narayanan was handcuffed to a bed and made to respond to questions while standing for 30 hours. As he suffered, he remained oblivious to his "crime."
He was accused of revealing secrets to enemy countries
While he fought the state machinery, media spun a sensational story about Narayanan. It was told that he and his deputy D. Sasikumaran were trapped by the Maldivian women and released secret ISRO documents to support enemy countries. Naturally, they were labeled as traitors. Narayanan tried telling police officials that rocket secrets can't be leaked on a "paper" but no one listened to him.
A CBI investigation revealed that case was fabricated
It was only after CBI took over that it became crystal clear how flimsy the case really was. In May 1996, the apex investigating body submitted before a chief judicial magistrate that the entire case was fabricated. Narayanan revealed that once a federal detective apologized. "I don't know how this whole thing has come to this stage. We are terribly sorry," the agent said.
Reportedly, politics in Kerala led to this sinister plot
Narayanan and others like him suffered because of the devious politics in Kerala. Decades ago, the Southern state witnessed infighting between Congress leaders K Karunakaran and AK Antony. The former held the CM post several times and the latter, eyeing the powerful position, reportedly hatched a plan to demean his government. In this pursuit, Antony's loyalists weaved the spy story, political pundits say.
Narayanan is of the opinion that foreign powers were involved
Antony's faction wanted to embarrass IG Police Raman Srivastava, seen close to Karunakaran in the 1990s. Hence, the top cop's name was also dragged. He was also questioned by CBI but was vindicated. However, Narayanan feels there was a larger foreign power at play as the espionage case badly affected India's space technology. "It was born out of one conspiracy," he said once.
SC noted his arrest was "unnecessary," green-lit compensation
In 1998, the Supreme Court quashed the case. In 2015, Narayanan approached the top court seeking action against the cops who framed him. Three years later, a SC bench, headed by former CJI Dipak Misra said the arrest was needless and ordered the Kerala government to give him Rs. 50 lakh as compensation. He was also allowed to approach the lower court for more compensation.
Narayanan received Rs. 1.3 crore from Kerala government yesterday
Thereafter, Kerala government ordered former chief secretary K Jayakumar to look into the matter and come up with suitable compensation. An amount of Rs. 1.3 crore was fixed which Narayanan received this week. As he accepted the money, Narayanan, now 79, said he didn't want money but justice. He never imagined to be labeled as a "spy" and fought just to remove the tag.