Woman torches herself to save Rajiv killers


Chennai : The campaign to seek commutation of the death sentences of three convicts in former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination turned tragic Sunday with a woman setting herself afire to allegedly press for the demand, according to a letter recovered from her.

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Senkodi, 27, died on her way to hospital after her self-immolation outside a government office in Kanchipuram, police said.

Speaking to IANS. a police official in Kanchipuram said Senkodi immolated herself around 5.45 p.m. and investigations are on to ascertain the reason for her to commit the act.

Police said members of Makkal Mandram have said Senkodi is a member of their organisation.

A letter purported to be written by Senkodi has been obtained by police in which she had requested cancellation of the death sentence of Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan – set to be hanged Sep 9.

Senkodi, in her letter, also urged Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa to intervene in the matter.

On Aug 11, President Pratibha Patil rejected the mercy petitions of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan – all linked to LTTE and sentenced to death for involvement in the 1991 assassination.

Leaders of various political parties, including Congress ally DMK, have demanded that the death sentences be overturned.

A woman suicide bomber blew herself up killing Gandhi, prime minister of India from 1984 to 1989, at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai May 21, 1991.

In 1998, all the 26 accused in the case – including the three – were sentenced to die by a special trial court for Gandhi’s killing.

In 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of four: Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan and Nalini, an Indian woman who had assisted the killer squad. The capital punishment of the others was reduced to varying terms of imprisonment.

The death sentence of Nalini, who became a mother in prison, was commuted to life imprisonment after her mercy petition was accepted. The petition had the recommendation of Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s widow.

Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan and the others were charged with criminal conspiracy that led to the killing.

Soon after the confirmation of their sentence, they made a mercy plea to the Indian president, which was rejected.