10 Sep 2023  |   06:03am IST


Agnelo Furtado

The soft landing of Chandrayan-3 has catapulted India into an exclusive league of high-tech nations comprising USA, Russia, China and India being the fourth. Landing of Chandrayan-3 on the south pole of the moon which is the dark side, where sun’s rays hardly reach and temperatures fall to minus 232 degrees Celsius --a no man’s land where India is the first country to soft land. I am given to understand that there were 15 failed attempts by developed nations including recently by Israel to lqand on the south pole. 

India’s prowess was applauded by many nations. Elon Musk pioneer in electric mobility and space exploration, praised ISRO as the whole project was done on an economical budget of just Rs 650 crore equivalent to outlays of a medium Bollywood movie. India’s space programme has come a long way pioneered by renowned space scientist Vikram Sarabai in the era of Jawaharlal Nehru and Homi Bhabha. It all began in a remote place in Kerala called Thumba where the premises of an old church served as a launch pad, a cow shed as an assembly line and rocket parts were carried on cycles and bullock carts in a rock-n-roll to the launch pad. 

All the handicaps and hamstrings were supplanted by the brilliant minds of our Indian scientists. Chandrayan-2 crash landed, from its ashes like a Phoenix rose Chandrayan 3, that made a perfect landing on stronger feet and shock absorbers made by a company called Turbocam based in Goa founded by Marian Noronha. Goa can now claim that it has a finger in the pie of Chandrayan-3. ISRO has successfully launched a total of 150 satellites belonging to 34 countries, this year itself it has launched 7 satellites belonging to Singapore. With the launch of Aditya L-1 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India is heading for the Sun.

Let us do a little time travel and rewind the lunar clock back to 1994-95, when a sensational story broke out in the press that rocked India, called the ISRO Spy Scandal. The story had all the trappings of a spy thriller, attractive women, sex, exchange of money for rocket technology, political intrigue and international ramifications. The whole episode centred around, top ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who was the deputy director-in-charge of liquid (cryogenic) propulsion centre and another scientist D Sasikumaran both of ISRO. 

Two Maldivian ladies Mariam Rasheeda and Fauziyya Hassan (Maldivian actress), were arrested on charges of espionage, stating they honey trapped Nambi Narayanan in exchange for sex and large sums of money and in return, drawings of the cryogenic rocket engines were supplied to the Pakistani ISI secret service. To make the plot appear more realistic a fictitious lady Zohera (ISI) based in Colombo, was named as the handler of Mariam and Fauziyya.  Two more persons were implicated in the plot K Chandrasekar the Indian representative of the Russian space agency’ Glavkosmos’ and a code-named ‘Brigadier’ who turned out to be DIG of Kerala Raman Srivastava. Implicating Srivastava appeared to be departmental police rivalry. 

It was alleged that all the conspirators, met in a hotel called Madras International Hotel in Chennai between January 24-26, 1994. All the conspirators were arrested one by one. Mariam Rasheeda, Fauziyya Hassan were arrested, a confessional statement and video was extracted under duress from them, implicating the ISRO scientists Nambi Narayanan and D Shashi Kumaran, both were arrested and tortured in prison. Both stood their ground and said they were framed, protested and cried aloud for their innocence. We cannot deal with this spy thriller in detail as it is complex and long, we shall deal with only Nambi Narayanan’s case for the sake of brevity. 

The press at that time believed the story to be true, Nambi was considered a traitor to the nation and languished in jail for 51 days. The poor Maldivian ladies continued in jail as no one was willing to bail them out. Karunakaran’s left centre government fell after being hounded by his adversary A K Anthony, as it was thought the government was going soft on the probe. To make the long story short, a CBI probe was ordered and it was revealed that the whole plot was fabricated by the Kerala Police and the IB. Nambi Narayan challenged the case, went to the High Court and finally to the Supreme Court who acquitted Nabi Narayan of all charges after 10 long years and ordered him a compensation of Rs 1.30 crore to be paid to Nabi in addition to Rs 10 lakhs awarded by the Human Rights Commission and Rs 50 lakh ordered to be paid by the High Court. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2019, a film was recently made on his life ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect,’ and won awards. 

My simple question -- can money restore a man’s honour, reputation, health and mental torture, his career lost and the chance to become the Director of ISRO like APJ Kalam, who became the president of India? It is said that this false case, setback India’s space program by 10 years as it depended on the cryogenic engines to power the PSLV and GSLV rockets. 

Who was the final loser in this police intrigue? India and its people. The errant police need to be criminally prosecuted and jailed and taught a lesson. Fabricating evidence and arresting innocent persons is a very serious crime, that too using government machinery to ruin a person’s career. Fabrication of evidence is already taking place in Goa in drug cases, accident cases, murder cases etc. The Sachin Vazes need to be purged and flushed out. There should be no nexus between the politicians and the police. ‘Satyameva Jayate’. 


Idhar Udhar