by A. Vijayanand
25 years have passed since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. Murugan, Shantan, Perarivalan, Nalini, Jayakumar, Robert Pious, and Ravichandran, the persons identified by the CBI as responsible for the ruthless assassination, are waiting to be released from prison.
Among the most important documentary evidences named by the Jain Commission and the Varma Commission inquiries were the photographs shot by a photographer named Haribabu at Ground Zero. The brutality captured in the pictures stirred the conscience of the entire world. “Haribabu may have died at Sriperumbudur in the bomb explosion, but the pictures shot by him survived, and helped us identify the culprits,” Mr. Karthikeyan, the former director of the CBI, proudly said.
Meanwhile, all these years later, new theory has surfaced that Haribabu, who was declared dead in the explosion, could be very much alive. The theory claims that the officials had intentionally helped Haribabu escape from the explosion site; that the camera allegedly recovered at the site did not even belong to him; and that it was all an elaborate cover up.
The persons behind the controversial theory are two doctors. They have been working on it for eight years and the doctors say that their findings are based on valid documents like the forensic reports, the Post Mortem Report of Haribabu, and evidences presented in the court.
The doctors are planning to release their findings in the form of a documentary film named ‘By Pass.’ The film will be released on May 21, Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary. The doctors in question are Dr. Ramesh from Coimbatore, and Dr. Pughazendhi from Kalpakkam.
We spoke to Dr. Pughazendhi.
How did your quest for the truth about Haribabu begin?
From the very beginning, we had our doubts about the forensic reports, the Post Mortem Report, and the documents related to the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. My friend from Coimbatore, Dr. Ramesh began searching for documents that were presented in the case. Finding them was very tough. Both the Varma Commission and Jain Commission inquiries had cited the photographs allegedly taken by Haribabu as the most crucial evidence in deciding the case.
Our question was – if Haribabu was killed in the explosion, how did his camera survive the impact? The forensic report said that the bomb had exploded in a lotus pattern. We suspected that the camera could not have escaped the impact undamaged. We couldn’t find answers to our questions.
The forensic investigations in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were conducted by Professor Chandrashekhar, of the Department of Forensic Sciences. He wrote about his experiences and the findings of the case in a book named ‘First Human Bomb,’ released in the year 2008. The book had answers to many of our questions.
On how the camera had survived the impact of the explosion, Chandrashekhar wrote, “Sometimes during devastating earthquakes, you hear stories about people who had miraculously survived in the midst of all the debris. That was the case with the camera too.”
But such explanations cannot be accepted in a crime scene investigation. ‘Explanations must be provided based on the facts at the scene of the crime,’ says the rules of criminal investigation laid down by the U.S Supreme Court in the Daubert case, commonly known all over the world as Daubert standard. Had the Daubert guidelines been strictly adhered to in the investigations into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, the entire case would have proceeded along a very different course. The forensic department did no such thing. We began our investigations with strict adherence to the Daubert guidelines.
How did you conclude that Haribabu was not killed in the explosion?
We looked for Haribabu’s Post Mortem Report. The report said that Sunnat was performed on the deceased. Haribabu belongs to the Hindu Vanniyar community. Why would he undergo Sunnat? The report also said that the deceased must be around the age of 30. Haribabu was only 22 at the time of the incident. When the bomb exploded, he was standing at the left hand side corner of the carpet that was laid out for Rajiv Gandhi, and shooting the photographs. But, according to the reports, his body was recovered from the right hand side of the carpet. There was no way his body could have landed on the right side of the carpet due to the impact of the explosion.
Haribabu’s father, Sundaramani, accepted the body that was handed over to him by the police. The cops had instructed him to not cremate the remains. They told him to bury the remains. The family however cremated it on the very same day. Forensic experts had removed the head from the body. The face was completely damaged beyond recognition. The experts took the fingerprints of the deceased, but failed to gather and preserve any DNA samples from the body. The doctors also did not raise any questions as to why Sunnat was performed. According to Haribabu’s elder sister, Vijayarevathy, he had worn a cream-coloured shirt that day, but the police report mentioned that he was wearing a green full-sleeved shirt. It is surprising that nobody raised any questions about these discrepancies.
So, whose body was handed over to Haribabu’s father by the police?
We have answers to that question. There was a person in Sriperumbudur, named Sulaiman Seth. He was given the task of showering flowers along the route that Rajiv Gandhi walked. He had arranged for two men to do the task. Both of them were Muslims. We suspect that one of those two men was wrongly identified as Haribabu. According to the forensic report, two flower baskets were recovered at the scene of crime. Dr. Subramanian Swamy too confirms that there were two flower baskets.
Who, do you think, made the mistakes?
We think that the rules of crime scene investigation were blatantly violated in this case. Forensic science Professor Chandrashekhar himself had provided self-contradictory information. He said that he had arrived at the scene at 11 AM the next day. But, K. Ramasundaran, a freelance reporter, wrote in his blog that he had interviewed Chandrashekhar on May 22. ‘He (Chandrashekhar) pointed out to me the shoe worn by Rajiv Gandhi, the Crossandra (Kanakambaram) flowers that human bomb Dhanu had worn in her hair, the green kameez and the orange salwar that she had worn that day, and the switch used to explode the bomb that was strapped on her. I videographed them all. Chandrashekhar had arrived at the spot the night before. The video films were released by Los Angeles Times and Canada’s Toronto Star.’
What was the need for this deliberate error?
This is the most important question in this case. They had rescued an injured but alive Haribabu and let him escape. There are lots of mysteries behind it.
Where is Haribabu now?
He is now living in one of the neighbouring states in the guise of a Swamiji. He has answers to a number of questions, including the persons who let him escape. His family used to live in Chennai. They have now relocated.
When are you releasing the documentary film?
“We have planned to release the film on Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary. We have shot the film in the region where the events of Silappadhikaram took place, as a reminder of the consequences of the miscarriage of justice. The hour-long documentary film will be very helpful in unravelling the dark secrets of the case,” Dr. Pughazendhi said.
Whenever references are made to the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, there is always an uneasy feeling that those who were actually responsible for it had got away with the crime and were sitting in high offices. The small fishes and those who probably had nothing to do with it had spent the best part of their years languishing in prison.
Is there some truth in it after all?