THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The infamous spy scandal, which marks the blackest moment in the history of the Indian space programme and a period of intrigue in Kerala politics, began rolling with the arrest of Mariam Rasheeda, a Maldivian woman, on October 20, 1994, for overstaying her visa period.
Nambi Narayanan was arrested on November 30 the same year. The arrest, in fact, marked the premature end to an illustrious career which had begun at the time of stalwarts such as Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan.
At the time of the arrest, Nambi Narayanan was holding several crucial posts in ISRO: He was, among other things, project director for the cryogenic project and for the second and fourth stages of PSLV, associate project director for GSLV and for PSLV and deputy director of LPSC.
For his family, what followed was a period of unparalleled misery. “They suffered. We were all silently suffering. They couldn’t go out or attend any social functions. People don’t understand the magnitude of that suffering. That’s the whole problem,” he remembers. Added to all this was his financial problems.
But he also remembers the kindness showered upon by his neighbours during that tragic period. “They were very kind. In fact, they were actually guarding my house, coming and staying with my wife Meena,” he recalls.
Narayanan’s misfortunes did not end even after his acquittal and reinstatement at ISRO. Before his arrest, he had been holding what he describes as “commanding positions, responsible positions”.
His return to ISRO was in a much weaker state. Rather than suffering all that, he chose a desk job at ISRO headquarters in Bangalore. That was in 1996. He retired from ISRO five years later in 2001. But that was also the beginning of a real battle which has now climaxed with Friday’s Supreme Court verdict.