Monday, October 8, 2012

Will Public Apology be enough requite for Prof Nambi Narayanan !!


For some medical affliction, there can be a cure, putting an end of the medical condition and in some ways possibly restoring to the original situation. Can there ever be a ‘righting a wrong’ – can it be done by money or anything else; can years be restored to the disgraced ? – can it ever be honest method of accepting the crime or is it simply empty rhetoric aimed at buying the silence of the victim !!!!  Sure you have read of the famous actor, director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan ~ he is directing a bio-pic with Mohanlal in the cast. 

The sad story is about a man who had the ignominy after doing much for the Nation but once shunned by everyone by some sinister designs.  At the time of fall to disgrace, he was the project director of the prestigious cryogenic system project and was working on developing an Indian cryoengine for the third stage of the GSLV.  He was credited to have introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the early 1970s, when Hon’ble  A. P. J. Abdul Kalam’s team was working on solid motors. He foresaw the need for liquid fuelled engines for ISRO’s future civilian space programmes. He was personally mentored and encouraged by the then ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan.  Informed people suggest that he developed liquid propellant motors, first building the successful 600-kg thrust engine in the mid-1970s and thereafter moving on to bigger engines; it was he, they add, who was mostly responsible in learning the complex configurations that helped the Indians to later develop the Vikas engine, an improved version of the Viking.  That took India to an elite club

~~ but … then came the fall to disgrace, he was arrested on espionage charges, people spat at him, stones were thrown at his family and they suffered for years since.  The arrest of this scientist on false charges set our space program back by many years. It crushed the morale of ISRO scientists.

The real story of Prof. S. Nambi Narayanan is  really heart-breaking. As a senior official at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), he was in-charge of the cryogenics division. In 1994, he was falsely charged with espionage and arrested. The charges against him were dismissed by the CBI in 1996, and the Supreme Court declared him not guilty in 1998.  That is what is written – it can never be as simple – the pain and agony that he and his family underwent from that bad day in 1994 could never be expressed in words.  

In 1992, India had signed an agreement with Russia for transfer of technology to develop cryogenic-based fuels. The agreement was signed for Rs 235 crore,when the US and France were offering the same technology for Rs 950 crore and Rs 650 crore respectively.  It is stated that  US president George H. W. Bush wrote to Russia, raising objections against this agreement and even threatening to blacklist the country from the select-five club. Russia,under Boris Yeltsin,succumbed to the pressure and denied cryogenic technology to India. .To bypass this monopoly, India signed a new agreement with Russia to fabricate four cryogenic engines after floating a global tender without a formal transfer of technology. Prof Nambi;s  team developed the Vikas engine used by several ISRO rockets including the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV) that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008.

In 1994, Narayanan was falsely charged with leaking vital defense secrets to two alleged Maldivian intelligence officers, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan. Defense officials said the secrets pertained to highly confidential "flight test data" from experiments with rocket and satellite launches. Nambi Narayanan, was among two scientists (the other being D Sasikumaran) that were accused of selling ISRO secrets for millions. However, his house seemed nothing of the ordinary and did not show signs of the opulence he was accused of stolen. Narayanan was arrested and spent 50 days in jail.

He says that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials who interrogated him wanted him to make false accusations against the top brass of ISRO. He alleges that two IB officials had asked him to implicate A E Muthunayakom, his boss and then Director of the Liquid Propulsion System Centre (LPSC). When he refused to comply, he was tortured until he collapsed and was hospitalised. He says his main complaint against ISRO is that it did not support him.

In May 1996, the charges were dismissed as phony by the Central Bureau of Investigation. They were also dismissed by the Supreme Court of India in April 1998. In September 1999, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) passed strictures against the government of Kerala for having damaged Narayanan’s distinguished career in space research along with the physical and mental torture to which he and his family were subjected. In 2001, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered the Kerala State Government to pay him a compensation of   1 crore (10 million). He retired in 2001. The Kerala High Court ordered a compensation amount of Rs 10 lakhs to be paid to Nambi Narayanan based on a appeal from NHRC India in September 2012.

On October 3, 2012, The Hindu Reported that Kerala Government has dropped charges against police officials who were alleged to have falsely implicated Nambi Narayanan in the espionage case on the grounds that over 15 years had passed since the case was initiated. The top officer involved in the case, Siby Mathews is currently the Chief Information Commissioner in Kerala. 

He may have been awarded Rs10 lakh by a court as damages but an embittered former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Nambi Narayanan says no amount of money can compensate the loss suffered by him for being falsely implicated in the sensational 1994 'ISRO espionage case'.  This judicial relief itself took 18 years long.  "How could we have illegally transferred a technology developed with the dedication and hard work of a large number of scientists for several years through two women of mere school education? When the scandal broke out in mid-1990s, no one had bothered to ask this question to us," he said. Narayanan said the whole scandal appeared to be the result of a "conspiracy" to demoralise Indian scientists. Along with this, so many external factors, including political developments took place in Kerala at the time and served as catalysts to transform into a full-blown scandal, he added. 

Though there cannot be ‘righting a wrong’ - a function was organised by the Samoohya Samrakshana Samithi offering him a symbolic apology.  Politicians, activists and journalists on Sunday [7th Oct 2012] offered a public apology to former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist S Nambi Narayanan.  Nambi Narayanan said that after the CBI investigated the case and found it to be fabricated, they were hesitant to submit a report to the higher-ups. So, 12 senior CBI officers including the agency’s director Vijayarama Rao took up the case. “They probed the case independently. And all the 12 categorically stated that it was a false case,” he is quoted as saying. Writer Zacharia accused a section of the politicians and the media of betraying the people of Kerala. He demanded that the compensation to Nambi Narayanan should be paid not from the treasury, but from the pockets of the police officers, media owners and reporters who erred. Journalist B R P Bhaskar welcomed the initiative to offer Nambi Narayanan an apology, but expressed his doubt as to whether it will come to anything in a society which lacks the tradition of admitting its own mistakes. There are reports that Mr. Muraleedharan, a former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president and now a Congress MLA,  also spoke at the function tendering a ‘public apology’. 

Reparation in legal parlance is the  making of amends for wrong or injury done.  In jurisprudence, reparation is replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim. Monetary restitution is a common form of reparation. Reparation through community service is based on the collectivist notion of society as a singular entity that is capable of being victimized, or on the notion of the State as the victim of all crime. Dating back to ancient times, reparations are broadly understood as compensation given for an abuse or injury.  The right of the victim of an injury to receive reparations and the duty of the part responsible to provide them has been secured by the United Nations. Reparations can be symbolic as well as material. They can be in the form of public acknowledgement of or apology for past violations, indicating state and social commitment to respond to former abuses. 

Director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan who has completed two outstanding biopics about unsung heroes Sindhutai Sapkal and Gaur Hari Prasad, is all set tell the tale of the trauma and agony of  the national hero who fell from grace, fought back and redeemed his tarnished reputation – yes the story of Nambi Narayanan.   There are reports that Mahadevan  flew down to Trivandrum and  returned laden with 8 hours of recorded interviews with the exiled scientist. Happily, Malayali legend Mohanal has agreed to play Nambi Narayanan in the film titled ‘witch hunt’. Apparently Ananth Mahadevan is keen to shoot at ISRO where the scientist was disgraced. The Organization has understandably demurred at the director's request.

Sad that while the honoured Scientist underwent harrowing times, those who tried to falsely implicate him and did damage to the Nation are at large, without a scratch……

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th October 2012.

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