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Ex-ISRO spy accused Nambi Narayanan wants fresh probe into 1994 case; questions Vikram Sarabhai's 'mysterious death'

Ex-ISRO scientist Nmabi Narayanan talked about Vikram Sarabhai's strange death and also requested Shashi Tharoor, who released the book, to help launch a fresh probe into the 1994 spy case.

Published: 27th October 2017 12:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2017 03:29 AM   |  A+A-

Nambi Narayanan. (Express Photo | Kaviyoor Santhosh)

Express News Service

On December 30, 1971, Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India's space programme, was found dead in a hotel room at the Halcyon Castle in Kovalam. He had shown no signs of illness the previous evening. Rather, he had been meeting scientists and holding discussions with them. The next morning, however, he was dead.

'Ormakalude Bhramanapatham' (orbit of memories), the autobiography of former space scientist and ISRO spy case accused S Nambi Narayanan, released here on Thursday evening, seeks to reopen the debate into the mystery that shrouded the death of one of India's top scientists.

''The challenges and questions raised by his death are many. If he was eliminated, it is likely there was an international conspiracy behind it. Or else, how did such a scientific talent like him die in such an unnatural manner?'' Nambi Narayanan, who had closely worked with Sarabhai as a junior at ISRO, writes in his biography whose Malayalam version was released on Thursday.

Nambi Narayanan, who was acquitted in the spy case in 1998, remembers Sarabhai as a man who was careful with his health. ''A man who had never smoked in his life, a teetotaler,'' he writes. ''Then how was he led to such a death? Why was the cremation performed without even an autopsy despite the fact that the dead man was such a great scientist? All these remained questions,'' says Nambi Narayanan.

He dedicates a whole chapter in his book to the mysterious death of Sarabhai, who, he says, offered unstinting support to his push to popularise the idea of liquid propulsion in ISRO.

Nambi Narayanan says Sarabhai's death should be read along with that of celebrated nuclear physicist Homi J Bhabha, who died in the 1966 air crash in the Mont Blanc region. He cites 'Conversation with the Crow,' by journalist Gregory Douglas in which CIA officer Robert Crowley which alleges that the CIA had a hand in Bhabha's death.

''In it, Crowley is quoted as saying that the Indian victory in the 1965 India-Pakistan war made America uncomfortable and that it viewed with concern the emergence of India as a nuclear power. The book says India's nuclear dreams were wiped out over Mont Blanc without leaving even a trace of evidence. Read together with it, Sarabhai's death and the (ISRO) spy case will leave us uncomfortable,'' he writes.

Spy case: Ex-ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan calls for fresh probe

At the launch of his book, Narayanan, who faced an espionage case in 1994 and had to spend close to two months in jail before being discharged, said the CBI had stated very clearly it was a "false" case.

Narayanan said, "The ISRO spy case is a false case as found out by the CBI and accepted by the Supreme Court as well as the National Human Rights Commission."

"This makes it clear that the somebody fabricated the case. Who is that somebody and what was their motive. I suspect that there are players outside the country," 76-year- old Narayanan said.

He said there are people who played a major role in "fabricating" this particular case. "I do not want them to go scot-free. Let us have a fresh investigation...to find those behind it," he said.

An emotional Narayanan requested Shashi Tharoor, the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram who released the book, to initiate steps to launch a fresh probe to find out who "fabricated" the case.

Tharoor said Narayanan might have become the head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) or a figure of fame in the country (if such a case had not cropped up).

"He might have been remembered today as the father of space technology... instead, (now) he has to cope with indignity, pain and false accusations," he said.

Tharoor, a former union minister, also said somebody might have planted the story and there was even a possibility that a foreign country that did not want India to progress on a certain path under the leadership of Narayanan, was behind it.

The espionage case, which hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India's space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.

The case was first investigated by the state police and later handed over to the CBI, which found no espionage as was alleged to have taken place.

Narayanan's petition seeking Rs 1 crore compensation for the damage suffered to his reputation and career is pending in a court here.

The scam had also its political fallout with a section in the Congress targeting then chief minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, that eventually led to his resignation.

(With PTI inputs)



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