Nalini, “accused no. 1” in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, will soon be an MCA, most probably with a First Class. Serving a life term in a prison in Vellore, Nalini has just completed her three-year-long Master’s in Computer Applications from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), and could well be among the first batch of convicts to receive a post-graduate degree, possibly even at a convocation function.
Nalini’s husband, Sriharan alias Murugan, and Perarivalan — both sentenced to death in the case — have two more semesters to complete before they receive their post-graduation degrees. As both were under-graduates, they had enrolled for the integrated computer course which includes three years of BCA and two years of MCA.
In between serving a prison term and fighting a legal battle for an entry permit into India for her daughter, Megara (15), Nalini, a graduate before she was convicted as the back-up human bomb in the event of Dhanu failing in her mission, has been pursuing her MCA studies at the special camp for women in the Vellore prison.
This month, Nalini completed her last semester. “She is likely to get first division,” said Dr T R Srinivasan, Regional Director, IGNOU. However, the marks for the “take-home” assignments have to be updated in Delhi. Once this procedure is completed, then Nalini would be eligible to receive her PG certificate.
Vellore-based academic counselor N G Karthikeyan, who visited special camps and tutored the convicts, is all praise for his students. “Given the circumstances and the situation, with little access to study materials and libraries, their achievement is really good.”
The convict-students also complained that they did not get to see their tutors enough, to clarify doubts and seek more information on a subject. The tutor, on his part, lamented that Nalini was always “a very talkative student in class.”
The counselor rated Murugan, “accused no. 3” and a member of the LTTE who had, along with Sivarasan, made preparations for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, as the “most brilliant” student. “He did not understand English and spoke Tamil in the Jaffna dialect. But he would insist on my explaining the English terms in Tamil,” said Karthikeyan. And when the concepts were explained in Tamil, it was all the more difficult to write in English, he pointed out.
“But Murugan has got very high scores so far. I have not seen such high scores even in the case of students outside,” said Srinivasan, running his eyes through the mark sheet available on the IGNOU website. He pointed out that the examination papers of the convicts, just as in the case of other students, could be evaluated anywhere in the country and it was difficult to trace or influence the examiners.
A G Perarivalan, charged with supplying batteries for the belt bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi, was also faring well, said Srinivasan. Both Murugan and he have managed to grasp the intricacies of Advanced Internet Technologies, Principle of Management System, Computer Graphics and Multimedia with ease.
The Vellore prison had installed six newly-configured computer systems that have helped the convicts in their computer education. By next June, both would have completed their post-graduation courses.
While Nalini, Murugan, Perarivalan and M T Santhan were sentenced to death, three others, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and Ravichandran were sentenced to life in the Rajiv assassination case. But following her mercy plea, Nalini’s death sentence was later commuted to life. The mercy pleas of the other three were rejected and they await the gallows.
Nalini and Murugan fell in love with each other during the run-up to the assassination and got married while a manhunt was on for them. Nalini delivered her baby while in prison. Her daughter, Megara, was brought up by Murugan’s mother in Sri Lanka. Recently, the girl sought a student visa to study in India, on the ground that there was danger to her life in Lanka. Following a petition by Nalini, the Madras High Court directed the Centre to grant entry permit to Megara, on the grounds that she was an Indian just like her mother.