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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

In the assassin’s mind

‘Satanic Force’ contained over 1,000 names of women raped, men butchered by IPKF

Jaya Menon,
Material Objects (MO) 124 and 125 are now just piles of paper gathering dust in a court vault. But they helped enlist an army of fighters, and assassins, for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. ‘Satanic Force’, two large volumes of Tiger propaganda seized by CBI investigators soon after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi gives an insight into the harsh indoctrination that LTTE cadres were put through.

“There were more than 1,000 affidavits, mostly in Tamil, with names and addresses, narrations of cases of women raped and killed by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), of men tortured and butchered. It would make anyone shed tears,” says K Ragothaman, the CBI’s chief investigating officer who interrogated the three Rajiv assassins, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, for more than a month.

So was this literature enough motivation for the dastardly act that changed India’s history forever? “It seems so. When I first met Murugan, he told me, ‘Sir, don’t beat and torture us like petty criminals. We are a part of a freedom movement. Of course, if we go back Prabahakaran (LTTE chief) will kill us. So please treat us with dignity.’ They did not think they were criminals or had committed a ghastly act. They believe, I am sure even today, that they killed Rajiv Gandhi for a cause and it was not a crime,” Ragothaman says.

Murugan, the sharpest of the lot, enrolled into the movement while barely in his teens. He was given the charge, as ‘Indu Master’, of ‘questioning’ IPKF detainees. Santhan, another Lankan Tamil, was believed to be capable of ingratiating himself into anyone’s favour. He was a key operative in the killing of K Padmanabhan, leader of the EPRLF, another Sri Lankan Tamil group, in Chennai in June 1990. Perarivalan, an Indian Tamil, had a late indoctrination. At 18, he was taken to meet Prabhakaran and briefly inducted into the movement.

The Supreme Court called Rajiv’s assassination “a diabolical crime”. The men and women who played a role in it had been ready to lay down their lives for the LTTE cause. But even the ‘Satanic Force’, it seems, cannot change human nature.

After years on death row, the killers may just have mellowed somewhat. “Murugan’s voice turns soft when he mentions his daughter Harithra,” says a lawyer who visited the trio on August 29, a day before the high court stayed their execution. “He would ask me if I had spoken to her, how her voice sounded – young or mature,” says the lawyer, asking not to be named.

“All through, the three men were confident that they would be released. They believed they were innocent as there were bigger players behind the assassination,” says V Kannadasan, an advocate and longtime associate of the convicts. “When I last met Murugan on August 29, he said, ‘Are you letting go of us?’ But he said it jokingly. He is not scared of death.” Close associates, however, say that Santhan, who has turned almost ascetic, is a worried man. “He meditates five times a day, reads spiritual books and is constantly anxious about his fate,” says a well-wisher.

Arputhammal Gnansekaran believes her son Perarivalan is innocent. “We supported the Eelam cause and loved and respected Prabhakaran. But Arivu (Perarivalan) never knew there was a plot to kill Rajiv Gandhi. He is such a soft boy that he would put his head down during violent scenes in films. How can such a person put together explosives to kill a person?” When she met her son last week, he assured her he would be out soon and that justice would prevail.


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