Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#PENANCE: UK-based daughter of Rajiv Gandhi assassins begs for forgiveness

The London-based daughter of a couple jailed for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has sought forgiveness for her parents from Mr Gandhi's son Rahul..

Harithra Sriharan, 22, told NDTV that her parents Murugan and Nalini "deserved" forgiveness having spent more than 23 years in prison.

"I'm really sorry for Rahul Gandhi. My parents have regretted enough, they deserve forgiveness. I can understand losing someone you love," Harithra said.

"I have suffered the same punishment.  I deserve to be with my parents. Though I have parents who are alive, I have never had them. Even if they had done the crime they've suffered enough," she said. 

Harithra's parents were among some 25 people arrested days after the killing of Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide bombing at an election rally near Chennai in May 1991.

Murugan and Nalini were both sentenced to death but the latter's sentence was later commuted to life in prison after the intervention of Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia.

Earlier this week, the powerful Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha, announced that all of the convicts in the case would be released from Prison after the Indian Supreme Court commuted their death sentences.

"I'm thankful to Ms Jayalalithaa. She made it possible. I can't express how happy I am. I always knew one day my parents would walk free. They are innocent," Harithra said.

The decision to free the convicts caused anger in New Delhi with Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi - vice president of India's ruling Congress Party - saying he was "saddened" by the decision.

"Rajiv Gandhi's killers are being set free.  I am personally against the death penalty but this is not about my father.  If a Prime Minister's killers are being released, what kind of justice should the common man expect?" 

Rajiv Gandhi was killed after an LTTE operative named Dhanu ignited her suicide vest at the rally in Sriperumbudur on 21 May.  Mr Gandhi had been targeted by the LTTE in retaliation for his sending an Indian peace keeping force to Sri Lanka. 

Years later, the LTTE itself said it "regretted" the attack with the organization's political supremo Anton Balasingham calling it a "monumental historical tragedy".

Harithra Sriharan, a bio-medical sciences student in London, was born in Vellore jail in Tamil Nadu in January 1992 and spent the first two years of her life in prison.  She was later sent to live with a grandmother in Coimbatore before being taken to Sri Lanka by Murugan's mother when she was six years old.

At the age of 14, they left for the UK, where she lives with her grandmother and Murugan's three uncles.

Harithra, who first met her parents in 2005 when she was 13, told the Times of India last year: "Both of them used to write letters to me regularly.

They always wrote that they would come to me soon and that we would lead a happy and peaceful life after that.  They said this in every letter they wrote from the year 2000."

Chief Minister Jayalalitha's decision to free the killers is widely seen as a political move in the run up to General Elections later this year, a way of tapping into the nationalist Tamil vote in southern India with the ruling Congress Party lagging behind opposition parties in the polls.



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