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Nalini - India’s Longest Serving Female Prisoner

The mother of Nalini Sriharan, the sole surviving member of the supposed five-team squad behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, has requested the detainee be moved from Vellore to Puzhal near Chennai, citing mistreatment and threats to her safety.

“Since my daughter wanted me to take immediate action to get her transferred to Puzhal prison, and since her life is in danger, I once again made a representation on July 21 seeking her transfer to Puzhal on humanitarian grounds,” Nalini’s mother said.

“My representation has not been considered so far and decided on by the respondents. Hence, I was constrained to move the present habeas corpus petition”.

Nalini is currently being detained without being able to contact her lawyers, while equally positioned prisoners are allowed to do so. She was moved to Vellore Prison from Puzhal Prison on September 7, 2011, after the execution of the convicts was delayed.

Another petition to allow Murugan, her husband, to call his mother and offer his condolences for the death of his father is pending in the High Court. Under humanitarian grounds, the Court has requested the Centre for permission for Nalini and Murugan to make one call.

Nalini was arrested on June 14, 1991, in relation to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. She was sentenced to death with 25 others accused. However, the court later confirmed after appeal that only four convicts would be receiving the death sentence, including Nalini, on May 11, 1999. Her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after Rajiv Gandhi’s widow and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi appealed for clemency on the grounds of Nalini becoming a mother whilst in jail. Nalini is India’s longest serving female prisoner.

Over the last 29 years in jail, her struggles and plight in prison have been briefly captured in the book Rajiv Assassination: Hidden truths and the meeting between Nalini and Priyanka. Written by journalist Ekalaivan for Yaazh Pathippakam, the book sheds light on the torture Nalini had endured:

“Disrobed, punched in the chest, asked to make love with her husband in front of others, threatened with gang-rape by policemen, chained and kept in a 5X5 room for weeks and going through every possible third-degree torture in custody. Her pregnancy survived all this.”

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