A group of former scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) have come out against their former colleague Nambi Narayanan, who had been implicated in a false spy case of 1994 but was later exonerated by the CBI.
The scientists said Narayanan has been making false claims about his role in Isro, particularly regarding the development of cryogenics. This comes at a time when a biographical drama film based on his life, titled ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’, has hit the screens.
Addressing the media Wednesday, the scientists, led by founder director of LPSC at Isro Dr A E Muthunayagam said Narayanan has been making false claims over the years. Public seemed to be misled based on the input from Narayanan and the film. “We are forced to disclose certain things because Narayanan had insulted Isro and the scientists by making false claims in the movie and before the media,” he said.
Muthunayagam was accompanied by D Sasikumaran, who too was falsely implicated in the spy case, Prof EVS Namboothiri, Sreedharan Das, Dr Adi Murthy and George Koshy, who were associated with the cryogenic project and LPSC at Isro.
Muthunayagam said Narayanan’s propaganda that his arrest delayed the development of cryogenics and caused a huge financial loss to the country is false. “Isro began the task of developing its own cryogenic engine in the mid-1980s. It was headed by EVS Namboothiri. The 12 volume was developed by a group led by Namboothiri. Narayanan had nothing to do with the development of cryogenics, which started under the leadership of Gnana Gandhi. He was not a part of the team behind cryogenics,” he said.
Muthunayagam added when the Cryogenic Propulsion System Project was started at LPSC in 1990, a project management board was formed. “I was the chairman and was assigned to discuss cryogenics with Russia. I made Narayanan the project director. In 1993, an agreement was signed with Russia regarding the transfer of the cryogenic technology. Later, Russia withdrew from the technology transfer agreement. The contract with Russia was renewed in December 1993 but it was for the transfer of cryogenic engines, instead of the technology. In November 1994, Narayanan wanted to take VRS from Isro. He sent his application to the authorities and he was relieved from the cryogenic programme in the same month in which he was arrested in the spy case. He was back in Isro after the case was over but was not given any special duties. After leaving the LPSC in 1994, Narayanan had nothing to do with the development of cryogenics. I don’t know why he is making claims of a cryogenic programme,” said Muthunayagam.
He further said it was another false claim that Narayanan was behind the Vikas engine, which was in fact developed from France’s Viking engine. “The agreement was signed with French firm SEP in 1974. I was the project director. Three teams were formed with K Kashi Viswanathan, Nambi Narayanan and R Karunanidhi as leaders of each group. Viswanathan was in charge of making Vikas Engine’s hardware in India. Narayanan, as the manager of the group, went to France but he did logistics and management work there. Technical works were done by others,” he revealed.
“In 1985, we successfully tested the Vikas engine. It was the success of a large group of scientists who worked in three groups. Isro is a mega organisation employing more than 21,000 people. All the successes of Isro are not due to the superhuman ability of one or two individuals as wrongly depicted in the movie on Narayanan,” he said.
In 2018, the Supreme court had directed the state to award Narayanan a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the “ignominy” and “immense humiliation” he suffered. Later, the state government paid the compensation. The apex court also set up a committee to “find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring” police personnel who allegedly framed Narayanan.
In April 2021, the Supreme Court had forwarded the Jain committee report to the CBI and had directed the agency to probe the alleged framing of Narayanan and directed it to file a report in three months. Former Gujarat DGP R Sreekumar, who had served in the intelligence bureau in Kerala, former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews, and a few other former officials of the state police and the IB were arraigned as accused.
All of them got anticipatory bail from various courts in Kerala. The CBI had approached the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the anticipatory bail. While granting anticipatory bail to Sreekumar, the Kerala high court had last year said, “There is not even a scintilla of evidence regarding the petitioners being influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the scientists of the Isro with the intention to stall the activities of the Isro with regard to the development of cryogenic engine.”