The fabricated tale of ISRO ‘spy’ case and the ‘original’ Nambi Effect

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How different would ISRO have been, if the best minds wouldn’t be left out? The despairing tale of Nambi Narayan takes us through the story of ISRO’s “spy” scandalous case that left audiences with two impressions- a malign man or a refuting government?

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced a compensation of INR 10 lakh to the former ISRO scientist, Nambi Narayan. A man whose life has been turned into a constant misery with no significant villain. Nambi Narayan was framed into an espionage case of selling vital documents to Pakistan. He was the head of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s cryogenics division at the time he was arrested. In November 1994, Nambi was charged with an espionage case of leaking confidential files about India’s development to foreign agents. Since then, his life has changed miserably.

Nambi Narayanan was the only son in the family of five daughters. His father was a businessman and his mother was a housewife. Young Nambi was a good student and topped his school. He went to an engineering school, got a degree, and worked in a sugar factory for a while, before joining the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Nambi Narayan And the Struggle For Justice

The 79 years old former Indian scientist was accused in 1994 of selling confidential “flight test data” for millions to two alleged Maldivian women. It all started when Nambi was leading the cryogenics departments and together with his team developed ‘Vikas’ engines that are today used by several rockets. Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan were two Maldivian women who were alleged as foreign spy agents and had a deal with Nambi over India’s major development process, according to the Kerala Police. Narayan along with his colleague D. Sasikumaran and five others was accused of leaking the files.

The former scientists recall that when the two officers first came to his house, they found nothing out of ordinary and very politely asked Nambi to come to the police station with them. At the police station, Nambi waited for the senior officer, however, nobody showed up and he dozed off on the bench. When Nambi woke up the next day he was shocked on seeing several cameras pointed at him. The police station was filled with news reporters asking him several questions which were without context according to the former scientist. During his custody, he requested help from his friends at ISRO, A. E. Muthunayagam, his boss, and the then Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, yet all in vain.

He also narrates that he was held captive for 49 days and was abused by the officers on several occasions. His interrogators beat him up and handcuffed him to the bed. Nambi was forced to stand and answer questions for almost 30 hours! In one incident he describes that he was beaten so hard that he collapsed and was later hospitalized. He also reveals that his s co-prisoner was a serial killer. In 1996 the charges against him were dismissed as being phony by the CBI. The Supreme Court also dismissed the allegations in 1998. He finally got bail on 19 January 1995. Later, Sasikumaran and Narayan were transferred out of Thiruvananthapuram and were given desk jobs. Their distinguished career as space scientists was terribly damaged along with the mental and physical strain they felt.

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In 2001, the NHRC requested the Kerala government to pay him a compensation of INR 1 crore. But this compensation meant nothing to Nambi when the court dropped charges against the two officers who implicated the fake case and were responsible for the scientist’s illegal arrest. Moreover, in 2012 it was reported that the Kerala government never paid him any compensation as requested by the Kerala high court.

The original Nambi Effect

Was it a personal dispute? A rival space force or government’s incompetency? The motive for the conspired case against him and the five others remains a mystery to date.  

In November 2013, Narayan pushed for justice and asked the court to expose those conspired fabricated cases on him. The three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Deepak Mishra, in 2018 awarded Narayan with the compensation of INR 50 lakh for the mental torture he faced while being in custody. In January 2019, he was conferred the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India.

The horrifying tale of Narayan Nambi takes us through the dark tour of corruption, slow legislation, and incomplete justice of India. Brilliant space scientists lost their honour, dignity, and even their passion in the lapse of legal consequences and inquest search for justice.  His autobiography titled “Ormakalude bhramanapadham” hold accounts of the ISRO espionage case against him. In October 2018, a biographical film titled Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, written and co-directed by R. Madhavan was announced and earlier this month the trailer was launched. The trailer received mixed reactions so far and awaits the final riposte.     


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