A G Perarivalan alias Arivu, one of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, was released from Chennai’s Puzhal prison on Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court granted him bail.
As he stepped out of the jail, his mother Arputham Ammal thanked the judiciary and the well-wishers for support in her long fight to see this day. Perarivalan spent 31 years in prison, 26 of which without parole.
She, however, said actual freedom was yet to come. “I request everyone to be aware of this. We need your support until my son gets complete freedom,” she said, thanking a number of people, including Chief Minister M K Stalin, opposition leader Edappadi K Palaniswami and all parties in the state who supported her.
It was for the first time in 31 years that Perarivalan stepped out of the prison without armed police personnel. The last day he could recall himself a ‘free bird’ was in June 1991, at the age of 19, when he was taken into custody by the CBI for questioning a few weeks after the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
Even though he was out on parole for the past nine months, but strict restrictions and security outside his Jolarpet house prevented his mobility.
After years-long solitary confinement as a death convict, Perarivalan’s death sentence was commuted to life term by the Supreme Court in 2014 on a review petition pointing out the long delay in his execution. It took him another three years to get his first-ever parole. Over the years, his mother, who is in her 70s, has emerged as the face of a nationwide movement against capital punishment.
During his first parole in 2017, he spoke about how his senses had started diminishing from years of seeing nothing but walls, about obsessively counting the bricks, estimating the size of the door, the bolts, the 6×9 feet cell he spent 11 years of his initial prison term in, in solitary confinement.
Even as he was fighting all along, the worst years have been the last eight years, after his death sentence was commuted to life term, with hopes of a release rising and often fighting anxiety about his aged mother and father, a retired teacher and a Tamil poet.
When he was asked once about his prime wish if he was ever released from prison, he said it was to meet the former Supreme Court Justice V R Krishna Iyer, who has been a pillar of support in his legal fight from the 1990s. “Even though his wish to meet Justice Iyer wasn’t fulfilled (as he died in 2014), Perarivalan is still waiting for the day to visit his memorial in Kerala,” said a source close to him.
However, the current bail conditions restrict his travel outside Tamil Nadu. The SC bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai granted him bail last week considering his conduct during the long incarceration, completion of many educational degrees and ill-health, despite strong objections by the Centre.