Even after the Supreme Court ruling that the Kerala Government must raise money to pay compensation to former scientist at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, S Nambi Narayanan for falsely framing him in ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) espionage case, several questions remain unanswered.
There are three prominent sets of people arguing this case in public- a group of social activists, journalists and cultural leaders who says Nambi Narayanan and his colleagues were victimised by a villainous police. The other group whose voice is not that vociferous but believes that espionage indeed had taken place. The third set of people who may be knowing better than others what might have happened in this case is maintaining a guarded ‘silence’.
As a scribe who was just freelancing at a time when this case was first reported and following the developments over the past 24 years, I would borrow from Arnab Goswami to put on record ‘what the nation wants to know’
1)We are told by a group of leaders in Congress that there was strong group rivalry within the party at that point of time. There was a move to oust K Karnukaran (affectionately called the Leader) from Chief Ministership and also indict Raman Srivastava, then Inspector General Police in the affair. Now Late Karunakaran’s son K Muralidharan, MLA and his daughter Padmaja Venugopal have alleged that five prominent people who are still in active politics were behind this case which was cooked up to oust Karunakaran. It is true that Karunakaran resigned over this issue and Antony became Chief Minister and later on he became the Defence Minister too. Should the nation believe that the whole story was cooked up by ‘A’ faction in Congress influencing the senior police officials to arrest the senior scientists and to oust K Karunakaran? Should we believe that the arrest of the scientists were made without consulting the Chief Minister who seems to have held the Home portfolio too? Was it ever safe for the nation to have such public men holding senior positions later on, who never seemed to have nation’s interest above that of their own selfish power struggles? Will there be any enquiry on the role of the ‘A’ group functionaries in the Congress who allegedly masterminded the whole ‘espionage case’?
2)Nambi Narayanan has repeatedly said that his fight was not for compensation but to punish the three police officers who arrested him on false charges. The Kerala High Court had ruled that the officials can’t be blamed for the arrest while the Supreme Court has ruled that Nambi Naryanan was a victim of ‘malicious prosecution’. If so, was the Mens Rea (intention to do crime) established in the case of the three police officers? What was their motive in framing the senior scientist? Was it to settle personal scores, or for fame or acting on higher authority (Union Government)?
3) Some social activists such as Madhu Nair (a familiar figure in talk shows and former NASA official I suppose) alleged that NASA, US Administration and several other advanced nations may have been behind the espionage case because they wanted to scuttle the ‘cryogenic engine’ project. After the victimisation of the senior scientists and loss of morale in the organisation, India was let back two decades in developing cryogenic technology. So USA and other nations achieved their objective. But G Madhavan Nair former Chairman of ISRO was quoted as saying that there was no scientist in VSSC who knew about cryogenic technology. That goes on to prove that these scientists were not experts in cryogenic technologies but only students. Did the CBI or any other agency probe the international nexus in this case- since one of the accused is a Maldivian and allegations about US or other nations involved in the case is still being talked about?
4) ISRO is a multi divisional organisation with some of the best scientists, technologists and engineers working for them. However, since the case surfaced there was no voice from with in VSSC or ISRO in support of the scientists who were victimised. Don’t they have a right and obligation to support their colleagues in their darkest hour when the reputation and integrity of the organisation was at stake? Or should we assume that their silence was out of fear or that they believed these scientists could have done this mischief?
5)We have scientists from ISRO one of whom went on to become the President, honored with the highest civilian honor, we also have several others leading retired lives after spending a career for the advancement of space science and technology in India. What was the relationship between the two top scientists of ISRO and the two Maldivian women? Did the investigating agencies probe what was going in between these scientists and the women?
6)Why was Kerala Government keen on going ahead with the case where allegations of ‘espionage’ was involved and not within the capabilty of a state police to investigate? Why did it suddenly refer the case to CBI? Was there any political pressure on CBI from the Centre to wind up the case? Did CBI investigate the case fresh or just went by the information or evidence collected the Kerala Police? According to KK Joshua, one of the Kerala police officials involved, they conducted investigations only for 15 days in which case it was not a complete investigation before handing over to CBI.
7) Apart from Nambi Narayanan, the other scientist D Sasikumar or K Chandrasekhar, the Bangalore based agent of Glavkosmos or S K Sharma, a labour contractor arrested in the case haven’t filed any case against the police officials. Is it because they have no complaints against them or not willing to purse a case despite the harassment they suffered?
The Supreme Court has appointed a judicial commission headed by Justice D K Jain to look in to complaint against the three police officers who allegedly framed a case against Nambi Narayanan. We can only hope that Judicial Commission may probe deeper and unearth the mystery behind this ‘espionage’ story.
What the nation wants to know is what are the real incidents that lead to the ‘Espionage’ case? If the three police officers were guilty of wrongly framing Nambi Narayanan, the CBI and the courts should specify what was the motive behind it? Nambi Narayanan has also alleged in his book that it was part of a CIA conspiracy hatched through Indian intelligence officers and police officials to scuttle the cryogenic engine project. The Nation Wants to Know if CIA had an objective to scuttle the cryogenic engine programme and whether IB and the police officials were part of that conspiracy. Is the nation safe under when political leaders hatch a conspiracy to oust their political opponent and in the process tarnish the impeccable track record of scientists in India’s premier space research organisation?