Spare my son, don’t hang him, pleads father

August 29th, 2011 - 10:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) As politics builds up around the three men sentenced to death in the assasination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, all that the septugenarian father of one of those on the death row can do is to plead for mercy.

Seventy-year-old Gnanasekharan, father of A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivy, is literally running from pillar to post in an effort to somehow avert the Sep 9 execution and save his son’s life.

“It is a situation that even an enemy should not be in,” Gnanasekharan told IANS in a phone interview. “We are counting days of my son’s life here and just cannot bear the thought of a noose around his neck.”

His throat turns lumpy with grief.

“He was in no way part of the conspiracy to kill Rajiv Gandhi and does not deserve a death penalty,” Gnanasekharan said.

Perarivalan, Murugan alias Sriharan and T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan are from Chennai, and after President Pratibha Patil turned down their mercy petitions are to be hanged to death on Sep 9 in the jail at Vellore.

“He was 19 when arrested and now he is 37,” Gnanasekharan said. “Even though he has been in jail all these years, we are happy that he is at least alive. But now we really do not know what to do.”

He was confident of help from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. “Our biggest hope was shattered when she said she had no power to alter sentence, now that the president has rejected the mercy petition,” he said.

“If President K.R. Nayaranan could commute the sentence of Nalini, the first accused, why could the (present) president not do the same for my son, the 18th accused?” he asked.

A few years ago, the death sentence of Nalini was commuted to life imprisonment at the instance of Gandhi’s widow and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

According to the charge sheet, Perarivalan’s role in the assassination was helping another accused, Sivarjan, by purchasing two battery cells for the “human bomb” Dhanu who killed Gandhi.

A woman suicide bomber blew up herself and Gandhi, who was the prime minister of India from 1984 to 1989, at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai May 21, 1991.

On Aug 11, President Pratibha Patil rejected the mercy petitions of the three men linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ordered Gandhi’s killing.

In 1998, all 26 accused in the case - including the three - were sentenced to death by a special trial court.

“I met him 15 days ago and even then he was confident he will be free at some point,” Gnanasekharan said of his son. “He told me that he will be there for us in the late hours of our life. But now I cannot go and talk to him. What do I tell someone on the verge of execution?”

According to Vellore jail superintendent, the three men on the death row have been informed about the date of hanging. The execution will be carried out early morning Sep 9.

As a father grieved for his son’s return, Arithra, the 20-year-old daughter of Murugan, begged for mercy for her father in a phone interview to news channels.

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