Nalini Sriharan’s release was cleared by the Supreme Court this week.
Nalini Sriharan, one of the six convicts in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination who were released a day ago following a Supreme Court order, on Sunday said she had no role in the plot and was jailed because of her acquaintance with her husband’s friends.
Asked if she regretted her role in the killing and that of others in the bombing, she maintained her innocence.
“I don’t have any role at all, really. I know I’m convicted. But to my heart, and to my conscience… it knows what happened,” Ms Sriharan told NDTV in an interview.
She said she was not involved in the conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister, but was charged because she was part of the group that plotted it.
“They were my husband’s friends. So, I got acquainted with them. I’m a very reserved person. I don’t talk to them. I helped when they need it, like going to shops or theatres or hotels or temples. I used to go with them. That’s it. Other than that, I don’t have any personal contact, or I don’t know their family, where they belong,” she said.
Before her death sentence was commuted in 2001, Ms Sriharan said, she expected to be executed any time and prepared seven times to be hanged.
“Seven times they put up black warrant (order for execution) they used to wait for me,” she said.
But she recalled her meeting in jail with Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra fondly.
“She is a very kind person. She was an angel. And she made me respect myself because… we were not treated properly in jail,” Ms Sriharan said.
“We were not even allowed to sit in front of officers. We had to stand and talk. But when she came to meet me, she made me sit next to her. It was a very different experience for me,” she said.
Ms Sriharan said Ms Gandhi Vadra questioned her about the killing of her father when they met. She got emotional and cried as well.
“She asked me about her father’s killing. She got emotional for her father. She cried too,” she said at a news conference.
Ms Sriharan also told NDTV about reconnecting with her daughter Harithra, a doctor in London, who was born to her in 1992 in prison and then raised outside. In 2019, when she was married, Ms Srihararan was granted parole for a month to attend it.
“She has forgotten me totally. I was the one who gave birth to her, but I got separated from her after two years of age. So, after giving her outside, she totally forgot who I am. Now we are trying to recover what happened,” she said.
“It’s a very difficult situation for me and her. We are mature. We can understand things, but she’s very young. She couldn’t understand what is happening. Which is why she is suffering like that. So, it’s very difficult for my daughter,” she added.
Ms Sriharan was sentenced to death for her role in the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.
The sentence was reduced to a life term on the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi’s wife, Sonia Gandhi. Years later, the Supreme Court commuted the sentence of six more convicts in the case.
The decision was welcomed by many in Tamil Nadu, where their incarceration has been an emotive issue, given many believe that the seven locals convicted were part of the plot without knowing its extent.