Updated: May 20, 2022 12:17:44 pm
When the Supreme Court ordered my release around 10.40 am, I was waiting at a public hall near my uncle’s house with a friend. Of course, I was waiting for the report from Delhi. And when the news finally came, I went home. My mother (Arputammal) who fought for me all these years was crying. My elder sister was too. In fact, I have never seen her cry so much. I had to struggle to calm her. My younger sister who reached home a little late, and my father, a retired Tamil teacher, were visibly happy.
My mother didn’t speak to me today, she just kept crying. I don’t remember if I tried to comfort her. But yes, I have to sit with Amma and talk to her.
It is just a few hours since the SC order came. I feel very tired, after taking so many calls from relatives and friends.
I couldn’t think of anything now, maybe except a few names who I miss badly this day, who I wish were alive, or here with me at this moment.
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It has been a long legal battle for me. But I wasn’t tired as I knew how much my mother was fighting for me. I spent around 11 years inside a 6×9 feet cell in solitary confinement. It was in those days I started becoming aware of my senses — actually my diminishing senses. A room in which I had nothing but empty walls to look at. I told someone earlier how I used to obsessively count the bricks on the wall, take measures of the door and bolts and imagine the smells I craved.
There were days when I was desperate to see a baby in prison. And all those babies at home, who were born in the early part of my imprisonment, have now become adults. Sencholai, my sister’s teenage daughter, is with me now. She was very frank — she wanted me to give her a treat, buy her sweets. I am yet to make arrangements for that. I badly miss Agaran and Inimai, children of my sisters — Agaran is in the US, Inimai is on her way home from college.
I miss Selva anna (Selvaraj), who has been abroad for the past few months. He was one selfless person who helped Amma to lead an anti-death penalty campaign. I miss my lawyer, S Prabu Ramasubramanian, in Delhi, who was there all along with me in the fight. I did ask him to come to Chennai today but he has many more battles to fight.
My friend and brother, Sekar, an accused who was released in the case, is abroad now. I badly miss him when I recall the gift he gave me when he was released in 1999 — his shoes, a shirt and a pair of trousers — insisting that I wear them on the day I get released. I am 50 now, and have outgrown those clothes. But I still treasure them.
I remember one Thenmozhi akka who sent me her gold thaali (necklace) for my legal expenses after learning that I had been sentenced to death. She died of cancer later, I never got a chance to meet her.
I can’t forget the late Mukundan C Menon, a journalist and activist, who visited me in the Salem prison in 1997 to share a note that read, “I am always with you”. I cannot describe the impact his words had on me. It was Justice V R Krishna Iyer, who stood like a pillar of support in my fight. Many times, the limited number of phone calls I was allowed to make from the prison were to Justice Iyer, one of the few people who believed me, in my fight for justice and inspired me a lot in my fight for survival. I paid my respects before photographs of Justice Iyer and P Senkodi, who was 20 when she self-immolated in 2011 to protest the death sentence awarded to us.
Thirukkural says,Avviya Nenjaththan Aakkamum Sevviyan Ketum Ninaikkappatum (The unexpected rise of a dishonest person and distress of an honest person are worthy of public scrutiny as they are against the law of nature).
Similarly, my anguish that stretched for 32 years was shared by millions across the world with empathy, affection and care. My hope was my mother. Her stupendous efforts and incredible steadfastness were life-saving planks in an arduous journey through a hurricane infested ocean.
I thank everyone. I wish my story gives hope to everyone who is forced to fight a mighty system for justice.
I am reminded of the wonderful days I spent as a young boy in my hometown, Jolarpet. I find a huge gap between then and now – I am now a middle-aged man, more mature and with life experience. How am I going to bridge the gap? I don’t know. My hometown is not the little nest I had left over three decades ago.
Perarivalan was taken into CBI custody from Periyar Thidal, the headquarters of Dravidar Kazhagam in Chennai, in connection with the Rajiv Gandhi assassination on June 11, 1991. In 1998, a TADA court convicted him and sentenced him to death, which the SC confirmed in 1999. The Supreme Court revisited the case in 2014 and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. He was out on parole for the first time in 2017. He spoke with Arun Janardhanan
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