THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: 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,’ the biography 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, who had closely worked with Sarabhai as a junior at ISRO, writes in his biography whose Malayalam version was released on Thursday.
Nambi, who was fully 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 the dead man was such a great scientist? All these remained questions,’’ says Nambi. 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 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 ‘Conversations with the Crow’, by journalist Gregory Douglas in which CIA officer Robert Crowley hints 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.