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25 October, 2011

An Appeal to the nation's conscience from the Death Row

Arputham Kuyildasan of Jolarpettai, mother of A. G. Perarivalan (picture on the right), who was convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and has been under the shadow of the gallows for many years, was in Thiruvananthapuram recently to present before the public her son’s case for mercy.

Speaking at the Kesari Memorial Hall, she said the members of her family were followers of EVR’s Dravida Kazhagam. Perarivalan, who had a diploma in Electronics and Communications Engineering, was working with the DK paper Viduthalai when he was arrested on June 11, 1991. He was actually handed over to the CBI investigators by his parents on learning that they were looking for him in connection with the case. That was before his 19th birthday.

In the 20 years he has spent in jail, Perarivalan has acquired new educational qualifications.

Earlier Arputham had called on Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer at Kochi.

Arputham Kuyildasan, mother of Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict Perarivalan, with former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer in Kochi. —Photo:Deccan Chronicle

The charge against Perarivalan was that he had made the belt bomb that the LTTE suicide attacker Dhanu wore. In the mercy petition sent to the President, he cites a 2005 interview to the Tamil weekly Kumudam in which Raghothaman, who was the chief investigating officer of the case, said: “We don’t know who made the belt bomb which was worn by the human bomb Dhanu.”

The text of the mercy petition and some other documents relating to the case are included in Perarivalan’s book “An Appeal from The Death Row”, published by Thruvalluvar Periyar Maanuda Ondriyan, Jolarpettai. It is, in fact, an appeal to the nation's conscience.

In a foreword, Justice Krishna Iyer writes, “Perarivalan is now under sentence of death in the Vellore Jail. His soul is precious, his values noble, his jail life has not made him a criminal. Indeed, he redeems his colleagues and his book is evidence of the noble work of the man.”

Arputham’s was the plea of a mother. Many political parties in Tamil Nadu have asked that the lives of the Tamils who have been sentenced to death be spared. They are essentially voicing Tamil sentiments. Similarly, in Kashmir, there are sentiments in favout of Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death in the Parliament assault case.

Perarivalan and Afzal Guru were not present at the scenes of the crimes. On the basis of this fact and other circumstances relating to the two cases many have expressed the view that they did not deserve the extreme penalty.

Cases in which persons were wrongly convicted are not unknown. There have been instances in which courts in many lands acknowledged the mistake and reversed their decisions in the light of fresh material which came to light after the conviction. The problem with the death penalty is that it does not leave room for correction if the conviction is subsequently found to have been wrong.

The cases of Perarivalan, Guru and others in the Death Row need to be viewed in the light of widely accepted human rights ideals. Capital punishment is an extension of the primitive concept oi a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye and a life for a life. It is actually not a punishment at all. It is an act of revenge perpetrated by the state in the name of the society. Many countries have abolished capital punishment or at least stopped awarding it. It is time India did the same.

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