In part I and II of this article, I had described the key role played by IPS officer Shreekumar in sabotaging ISRO’s satellite program allegedly at the behest of the CIA. In recent years, Shreekumar became a hatchet man for the Congress party as a quid pro quo deal since he was facing serious enquiries following CBI’s indictment of his mischievous role in fabricating the ISRO spy case.(Read article: https://www.manushi.in/science--technology/rb-shreekumar-hero-no-2-of-secular-brigade---part-i-the-man-who-sabotaged-isro--wrecked-scientists-at-the-behest-of-cia)In Part II of the article, Nambi Narayanan had described the patently bizarre charges on which he and others were framed to sabotage ISRO’s space program. (See: https://www.manushi.in/science--technology/how-indias-space-program-was-sabotaged---part-ii-nambi-narayanan-describes-the-targeting-of-isro-by-shreekumar-masterminded-team-of-ib-officials)
UPA government closed enquiries against Shreekumar in violation of all rules and regulations in return for his launching a tirade against Narendra Modi in collaboration with Teesta Setalvad’s NGO which he joined formally after his retirement. It is noteworthy that SIT report has rubbished Shreekumar’s allegations against Modi.
In the final part of this three part series, ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan describes how he and others were subjected to third degree torture at the behest of State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) team in Trivandrum masterminded by Shreekumar.
I don’t want to recall that torture because I really collapsed from it. I will break down reliving that torture it even though it happened 18 years ago. They inflicted physical, mental, every kind of torture that you can imagine. They threatened that they will bring my son, my wife, my daughter and beat them up unless I accept what they are saying. Only recently I have begun writing my book in which I have taken the pain of explaining what all I went through during the torturous period. You can read the CBI report which clearly mentions that I and the Maldivian women were tortured. They have said Nambi Narayanan had to be given medical treatment because he was found to be in a precarious state. The arrest really terrorized the entire ISRO community which was the primary purpose of those who had manufactured a false case against us.
I was in jail for 50 days. I came out on bail on January 19th 1995.
And among the IB officers named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), your famous hero Shreekumar is also included. He was the Deputy Director of IB in Trivandrum at that time while one Matthew John was the Joint Director. These two were directly responsible for booking us and ordering the interrogation. But they didn’t directly come in to the picture. Instead they sent their “boys”, real goondas who did all the dirty work. Even the top police officers did not come directly to arrest or question us. I asked for them. But nobody came
When they took me for interrogation, they didn’t give me a seat. They asked me to keep standing. They didn’t give me water when I asked for water. They said you don’t deserve water. And slowly I became rigid. I said why the hell should I bother? Why should I succumb to their pressure? So I refused to obey their orders. Afterwards one old man, seemed like a good fellow, I think he was from RAW -- he came and asked me “Mr Nambi Narayanan, please be seated.’ I said I don’t want to be seated. He said, why? I said, because I don’t deserve a seat according to your people. He said, ‘Have some water.’ I said I don’t want water. Why? Again the same answer. The old man was very disturbed. That is when I understood the power of Satyagraha. And I kept on standing.
After about 3-4 hours, this man came and asked ‘How long will you stand like this?’ I said as long as my physique permits. I think it went for more than 24 hours without sleep, without water, without food. [CBI report says Narayanan went without sleep for two days] So I collapsed and fell down. Then all of a sudden, I saw people running here and there. They lifted me physically and put me on a cot. I could vaguely hear them talk among themselves. This old man was saying, “This man if he dies, we had it. You people are not listening to me. Why are we doing this? This is nonsense. I am going to leave.” I saw some faces hovering over me. I was conscious but not fit enough to stand. Then all of a sudden a doctor began examining me. I could understand he was a doctor because he had a stethoscope and all. He had a long face, wore spectacles and had a bald head. I guessed his age was around 50 years. And he was asking me questions but I was not able to talk to him. However, I could observe and record all those things in my mind.
The doctor told the interrogators, ‘Look here, this gentleman is on a knife’s edge. If you apply more pressure, he could fall either side. All I can say is just stop this nonsense.” Then he gave some tablets and left. Later when I was released from the Torture Sessions with the IB, I don’t want to call it an interrogation-- I recalled that incident and then located the doctor. He is Dr.Sukumaran of Krishna Clinic at Poojapura. I sent my brother to meet him. He was so great that he immediately took out a sheet of paper and wrote in his own handwriting exactly what had happened on that day. He said I was picked up by such and such policemen and was taken in such and such jeep at such and such time and described my condition when he came to examine me.
He told my brother, “Sir I am giving you all these statements only because I alone know the facts of this case. But I am also a human being. Tomorrow, for some reason I may be pressured to give a different version. I don’t want to take that chance. I want to ensure that the truth is with you and in my own handwriting. And nobody can say that you pressured me to give a paper like this.”
I can never forget that doctor. He came to give his testimony in the court also.
This is how Rajshekhar Nair’s book ‘Spies in Space’, describes the torture meted out to ISRO scientist, Chandrashekhar(http://www.scribd.com/doc/180238344/SPIES-FROM-SPACE-THE-ISRO-FRAME-UP):
Standing almost naked in front of his interrogators, Chandrashekhar too didn’t know what was happening to him. He only knew they were plucking his beard with pliers and raining blows on his face. He heard them cracking a joke that blows won’t leave any marks thanks to his beard. (SIS Page 106)
Chandrashekhar looked at the three member team (of the Kerala police) in utter disbelief. Am I seeing things? Am I losing my mental balance? Who are these men staring at me? Will I ever see Vijayamma (his wife) and my mother? Oh I have to attend her 84th birthday…
In the next moment he heard two shrill cries. His wife and his mother, he thought.
Unless you tell the story (fabricated and tutored), we shall torture your wife and mother. They are in the next room. Your mother now can celebrate your death. Or you can celebrate hers. If you are interested in seeing your wife being raped in front you and your mother, we can do it for you. We want to keep you spies in good humour.”(Page 107)]
The CBI report says that Babu Raj, S R, CID who was a part of the investigating team stated that “Accused Chadrashekhar was kept in the Latex Guest House. When he visited the Guest House to question Chandrashekhar, he observed a bunch of hair lying in the bathroom and felt like vomiting. These were obviously plucked from Chandrashekhar’s head or other body during his torture.
In its Closure Report CBI records the torture meted out to Maldivian woman Rasheeda as follows:
Smt. Ammini Kutty Amma, SI, who was on security duty of accused Rasheeda has stated that Rasheeda was not allowed to sleep during the interrogation which continued round the clock for about a week and she (Rasheeda) was kept standing. This SI has also stated that Rasheeda was threatened by IB officers that she would be stripped naked and made to lie on ice blocks and insects would be thrown on her body and it is only after the torture and threats that Rasheeda identified the photograph of Raman Srivastava as being the person who had met her and Fauzia at Army Club, Bangalore, as desired by IB officers… (Page 83)
Absurd Charges of Monetary Gains
The NHRC debunks charges of “selling” ISRO secrets to Pakistan saying, …”In fact, the standard of living of Nambi Narayanan who is a very senior scientist and has made a great contribution in the development of Vikas Engine, is very modest qua his rank. (p.8)
CBI also found Nambi Narayanan’s standard of living almost embarrassingly modest—lower than that of lowly government employees, considering he was a leading senior scientist in the country's premier space research institution. The panchnama recoveries from his house listed six cane chairs, two tables, a couple of lamps etc. He had recently sold his car and refrigerator.
Each of the Accused Proved Innocent
CBI Closure report says: “Investigation has established that the accused persons including Rasheeda, Nambi Narayanan and Chandrashekhar were harassed and physically abused. It is curious that while the IB had all the six accused persons in their custody, they recorded the statements of only Sasikumaran, Chandrashekhar, Fauzia and Rasheeda and not of Nambi Narayanan and S K Sharma. There is reason to believe that the interrogators forced the accused persons to make statements on suggested lines.” (Page.102)
Narayanan says, his statements were not recorded because he did not yield even under torture by the IB. Babu Raj SR, CID had also told the CBI since the IB had already come to the conclusion regarding the involvement of Srivastava in the espionage case even before the case was registered and therefore he did not feel it necessary to verify the facts. He has also stated that “It was difficult on our part to digest the above conclusion of the IB but we were helpless”.
Regarding the suspension and hounding of Inspector General of Police, Raman Srivastava, CBI closure report says: Shri Raman Srivastava who was the Zonal IG, Trivandrum, at the relevant time…was not known to any of the accused persons from before. Fauzia and Rasheeda have also stated so before the CBI. ..It is strange that when Raman Srivastava was very much in Trivandrum holding a sensitive position and being very much in public eye, his presence was sought to be shown in Madras and Bangalore, without any verification about his movements which are well documented. (Page.101).
Nambi Narayanan says,
It was a joint operation of the IB as well as Kerala police. The top people knew that they are fabricating the case. That is why they didn’t come in the picture. Very low level functionaries of the police came to arrest and “investigate” the matter. So clearly the masterminds were in the IB. It was such an important case. They should have been the ones investigating.
By contrast, when the case was taken over by the CBI, seven or eight top level senior most IPS officers took charge of the case. Each and every officer in this team was in his fifties and sixties -- Dr Kartikeyan, Vijay Ramarao, PC Sharma -- they were officers of known credibility and competence. They individually interrogated all of us. They completely debunked the case built by the IB. On the other hand in the Kerala police and the IB, no man worth his designation came into the picture. They were only sending some lowly minions…I don’t even know whether they were Kerala Police or IB or just hired goondas .
I have sued IB officers Shreekumar as well as Matthew John in my compensation case. And they have come to the witness box and swore by their honesty. But I tell you that the truth shall finally win. They say we have not tortured him. We have never interrogated Nambi Narayanan.
In fact, as recently as 10 November, 2013, when the ISRO case was taken up by Arnab Goswami on the News Hour, Shreekumar showed not the slightest sign of regret for what he had done. He was brazen enough to say Narayanan got into trouble because he is corrupt and a debauch! Such callousness is possible only in a hardened criminal. If this is how Shreekumar could treat a foremost scientist of India one wonders how he dealt with ordinary people who came in contact with him during tenure as IPS officer.]
It also speaks volumes for our free and independent media that they swallowed all the lies fed to them and published all manners of defamatory stories about ISRO scientists without bothering to check their antecedents, without bothering to find out if the charges made any sense. Barring The Hindu and Asianet most others, lapped up the story without raising basic questions. The Kerala newspapers were the worst in this regard. To quote Narayanan,
The media not only bought the story, it was biting and chewing and publishing all that they were spoon fed. But the entire story died all of a sudden as soon as the CBI took over the case. Why? Because the CBI was not feeding information to the press on a daily basis the way IB was doing. Till the 5th of December, 1994 the case was with the police and IB. And newspapers were publishing spoon fed writing about it daily. After the 5th of December, the moment it went to the CBI the news stopped abruptly. Now what else can you conclude?
Narayanan’s Battle Far From Over
The tragedy is that Narayanan’s battle is far from over. Nambi has thus far even been denied the compensation of Rs 1 crore ordered by the National Human Rights Commission. After a long battle, he was given Rs 10 lakhs by way of interim relief. But the bulk of compensation has been denied to him by Kerala Government challenging the orders of the Supreme Court, NHRC and CJM court. He describes the endless battle he continues to wage:
The Chief Judicial Magistrate’s (CJM) Court accepted the CBI closure after one year that is on 2nd May 1996. Then the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval on 29th April 1998. Through these 4 years, I had to travel in unreserved compartments to Delhi, I had to fight the case in the Trivandrum and Ernakulam High Courts and then in the Supreme Court. I had to employ a lawyer and you can well understand what kind of financial difficulties I would have been put into. After all I am a government employee. I was not making money doing spy work. And I was fighting the mighty Government with all the powers at its command.
It is truly bizarre that even after the CBI gives a report stating that it is a false and fabricated case, even after the CJM”s court accepted CBI findings, even after the Supreme Court endorses CBI’s findings and gives a final order, the Government of Kerala went on to appeal against the Chief Magistrate’s order saying they dismiss the CBI’s findings and want to do further investigation. This when the National Human Rights Commission which also investigated the case has ordered that I be paid a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the wrongs having been done to me. At that time Chief Minister was EK Nayanar of the CPM. Why are they dragging it still?
The CBI report has passed serious strictures against the unethical conduct of these officers. But the CBI did not specify what action should be taken against these rogue officers. They just recommended appropriate action. IB just sent Shreekumar back to Gujarat. But that is not exactly a punishment! The CBI also recommended action against the erring officers of the Kerala Police. But what the Kerala Police did was truly brazen and shameless -- not only did they drop charges against the guilty policemen, they issued an order saying that they will not take any action against those named by the CBI. Now that is what I am challenging in the court of law .
This has been done by the present Congress-UDF government under chief minister Oomen Chandy. They issued an order saying that we will not take action against officials named in CBI report.
Chandy says it happened so many years ago that it would be illegal to take action now. My question is what is illegal about taking action against criminals? Secondly, who was responsible for the delay? The state government had kept the file under its carpet. The government was the custodian of the file. Now you cite that as the reason for not taking action! Your officers have committed a crime. You have protected them by delaying action and then say the delay is the reason for not taking action. What kind of perverse logic is this?
I have challenged it in the High Court. I hope the Kerala High Court will quash the order of state government refusing action against the guilty policemen. Now that is only for Kerala Police, not the IB officers.
The argument put forward for non-action against IB officials was that it would demoralize the entire IB. What the hell! If they have behaved like criminals, they better be demoralized! The most treacherous part is that these people who committed those crimes by implicating honest people in false cases in their bid to destroy ISRO have been elevated, promoted and given medals of meritorious service. What has this country come to?
Long Term Damage to ISRO
The irreparable harm done to ISRO by the CIA masterminded IB executed spy scandal is evident from the fact that the cryogenic launch has been indefinitely derailed. Nambi says:
Originally we were supposed to get these flights tested by the year 1999 or 2000. I would have launched it positively, if not by 2000, then latest by 2001. Now it is 12 years since then! Even today you don’t have that technology.
Ajay Lele, author of the book “Mission Mars” confirmed this in The Indian Express Op-Ed page of 12 November, 2013. To quote him: The rocket used for the Mars Mission was the PSLV ( Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). “It has been argued that India should have used the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle), which is capable of carrying more weight and hence more sensors. It is known that GSLV is under construction and ISRO is struggling with this technology.” Hence ISRO’s had no choice but to make do with what they had available since GSLV is not likely to be ready before 2016.
Allegations of CIA Role Never Probed
Through these 18 years, either Congress led UDF or the Communist Part Marxist (CPM) led LDF was in power. Neither the Congress nor the CPM thought it fit to investigate allegations regarding CIA’s role:
The CBI has closed the case in 1996. They said ordering an investigation into the alleged role of the CIA was not in our terms of reference. In 1998, the Supreme Court closed the case. But the very next year, in 1999, J Rajashekar Nair wrote a book by the name ‘Spies from Space’ about CIA’s role in this entire tragic episode. And in 2000, well known space scientist, Brian Harvey writes a book saying it clearly that the CIA was involved.
You can’t find a single copy of the book by Rajshekar Nair in any store in India. It is because the IB is supposed to have forced Konarak Publishers to withdraw all the copies of the book on the very second day of its release. Apparently, they purchased all the copies and destroyed them. The publisher has been forbidden from bringing out another edition of the book. The publisher pretends the book is out of stock. But they say they don’t even have a sample copy of the book. If a book is sold out, you should bring out more. The truth is that the publisher has been barred from printing it anymore.
I confirmed this personally by calling Konarak Publishers. The moment I asked for a copy of this book, the manager who answered the phone said nervously, “You can’t get a single copy of the book anywhere in the world. It is all over. I said, ‘surely some library has it or maybe you have a copy, I can come and read in your office’. He said a curt ‘No’ and put down the phone.
Since there is good reason to believe that there was a foreign hand in this, I want it to be investigated. Despite all the evidence of mischief by the CIA produced by known specialists, the government has put the issue under the carpet and has blocked all investigations into the role of CIA in derailing our satellite launch.
Today I am the only guy who is fighting this case. Infact, former President and ISRO chairman A J Kalam told me why are you fighting this case? You leave it to God. He will take care of it. I am a God believing person and go to the temple regularly. I believe the entire case came in my favour because God was with me. But I told Mr Kalam, ‘No sir I want to fight this case to the finish.’ All the 5 other people have left the scene. They don’t want to spend another life time fighting the government. Imagine, I’ve fought a lone battle for 18 long years. I had to sell my property and borrow money on heavy interest. How many people can survive such an ordeal?
This country certainly owes something to me. They have to investigate this whole affair. I am not asking them to shoot this or that person but simply find out whether there is any truth in what I am saying. And if there is some amount of truth in it, then we are heading for a catastrophe. This is compromising national interest, national security. If they can do to this to ISRO—a premier institution of India, they can do it to anything, anybody. Whatever I have told you was not found out overnight. It is 18 years of painstaking work born out of anguish, out of the misery I have gone through. I had to find out why it has happened. I am happy you are willing to cooperate with me in taking this case to its logical conclusion.
After having proved his innocence, Narayanan has taken on a bigger fight against the Government of India, the Government of Kerala and all other vested interests. But the battle is demoralizing.
Yes, I continue fighting but sometimes one feels ‘why should I do all these things?’ Look at what is happening all around me? So many scams after scams! It is difficult to stomach this situation. But I will not leave my fight mid-way. I want these people to be punished for what they have done, not only to me but to India, to the country!
Career and Personal Life Destroyed Beyond Repair
It was really spine chilling as well as depressing to hear how the most productive years of one of our best scientists was destroyed beyond repair at the peak of his career. Is Nambi at all involved with ISRO now? He says,
I do not have the mental ability for scientific work anymore. I am tired. I retired about 12 years back. When this happened ISRO did not come to my help. The only thing ISRO did to help me was to reinstate me immediately after the Supreme Court judgment. They also promoted me as director of advanced technology and planning. They gave me a good position at the headquarters. But the dare devil and go getter -- that is what people used to call me -- was dead, was killed.
I had to fight this case all by myself. Later, one by one people came to help me in my fight for justice. Even you didn’t even visit me during that time!
Slowly, I am building the momentum of people joining me, calling me and listening to my version of this episode. But I am really tired. I couldn’t have become part of ISRO team by the time I was exonerated. Before it all hit me, I was in a commanding position. I was project director, second stage of PSLV, fourth stage of PSLV, project director cryogenic stage, deputy director liquid systems and member associate project director for PSLV, GSLV. And yet I was arrested and dragged to the roads like a third rate criminal . It cast a shadow on my whole career. How could I go back to command the program? Now everything is clear but it is too late to go back.
I am an ordinary individual. My income is very meagre. I am living just on my pension. Now I have my own small family—my son, my daughter, my wife. We have our own set of problems. In the process of dedicated service to ISRO, I did not take care of the family. Now how long can I go on with this fight given my meagre resources?
My wife was so upset that she doesn’t speak to anyone now. You are watching her today. Compare it with her photograph there on the shelf. She was such an active lady. She would have sat with you and helped me talk to you. But since then she is so shattered, so upset that she doesn’t talk to anyone. You saw she just came and gave us a cup of tea and left without saying a word. I have not just lost my professional life but also my personal life. I have also lost my health. I have lost my money. At one point of time I was even thinking of taking my life. But I didn’t because if I had died without fighting this case, I would have died as a spy. I have already proved my innocence. Now I am fighting this case only to show that you guys can’t get away with whatever you want.
The only moral force with me was that I was winning. I did not lose even one case in court.
I will be grateful if you can highlight this in some place. My wife is an innocent lady. She keeps asking me, “Why is this case continuing? Is there anything more to it?” She is not able to make sense of it. Her question is an innocent question. but I have no answer. Now I am asking this question to you as well as to the common public.