We all know the jaw-dropping stories of the Indian space agency “ISRO” about its achievements and numerous success that has been achieved in the past few decades. ISRO and its scientists have always been fantastically and dedicatedly working towards its goal irrespective of mission type and this perseverance is something that has bought us the value and the fame that waves now across the world but success doesn’t come without pain and sometimes, it comes without any reason at all.
This article is about a well-known personality who has given his entire life to rocket science, to make his country stand among the world’s best space agencies and not stay behind in this space exploration. The story is about “Mr. Nambi Narayanan” whose life story was recently shown in the movie “Rocketry-The Nambi effect”. His journey in this industry is probably the hardest and the most heart-wrenching one which I would be telling you here.
Nambi Narayanan was born on 12th December 1941 in Nagercoil, in the erstwhile Kanyakumari district, and completed his bachelor of technology in Mechanical engineering from Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai. After finishing the degree, he started his career as a technical assistant at Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, ISRO. Soon, he earned a NASA fellowship and joined Princeton university for his master’s where he completed his master’s program in Chemical rocket propulsion.
He was the probably first person from India to learn about liquid propellants and become an expert on them while the country was still learning about solid propellants. He returned to India to develop new technology for rocket propulsion. Everything was going straight but one situation turned his life upside down. This former rocket scientist S. Nambi Narayanan has not only lost his career but reputation, life savings, honor, self-esteem, and whatnot.
The fake spy scandal that blew up a rocket ISRO scientist’s career
Nambi Narayanan along with his fellow ISRO scientist D. Sasikumaran, and two Maldivian women — Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan were trapped in a Spy case in 1994. This was a famous ISRO spy case which R. Madhavan nicely showed in his recent movie “Rocketry-Nambi effect”. Both Nambi sir and Madhavan worked together at every stage even while scripting as well. The film took almost five years to make.
Nambi stated that the film almost had everything and nothing to cut down and add. The film had straight-to-the-point facts. Certain portions were, even more, worst in real life such as police torture. His life story was so tragic that this left him in tears, He added. Nambi was leading the cryogenic liquid propulsion team and was accused of transferring the technology to Pakistan. After he got arrested, Kerala government handover the case to the central team.
Nambi stayed in a jail for 2 months and was granted bail in January 1995, the case went on for another 2.5 years , after that CBI submitted a 104-long page report that entire case was false and fabricated with no-base of evidence.
Basically the entire story was built around a technology which was just an infant at that time, it was the time when ISRO used to send satellite using it’s PSLV rocket which was a huge success but we had no technology to send heavy satellites for which we needed cryogenic technology and for this ISRO approached Russia and signed a deal with them but the USA was against this and did not allow Russia to provide the technology.
Let’s try to unfold and see bit by bit – Timeline of 27-years battle.
1. 1994: The case started taking its shape in October of this year when Mariam Rasheeda was arrested by the Kerala police for overstaying her visa, on investigation, the police found that she did not had any reason to stay for extra days in india and after 10 days, on 30th October, Mr. Nambi Narayan was arrested for the brutal and false allegations of transferring the rocket technology to Pakistan.
2. 1995: Rasheeda and Hassan were given bail but continued to stay in jail because they had no one to support them. Over this year, the issue took a political turn and the Kerala court started re-investigation.
3. 1996: On 13th January, the CBI made the supreme court against govt. the decision to start the investigation again which Nambi challenged in the high court.
4. 1998: The supreme court overcomes the Kerala government’s order to re-investigate on 29 april. All accused were free of charges and soon, Rashida was released.
5. 1999: Nambi looked for compensation and took action against those who did the entire plotting.
6. 2001: The year when national human right commission ordered a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh which was way too less than what Nambi Narayanan had expected because the situation that he was put into was in-comparable in front of this compensation.
7. 2012: It’s been more than a decade since this all happened and he still hadn’t received what he deserved; the high court ordered the state govt to pay interim relief to Nambi Narayanan within three weeks.
8. 2018: Subsequently, in September 2018, the court awarded him Rs. 50 Lakhs, as compensation for harassing him and mental torture.
9. 2021: A FIR was filed against IB and 18 former police officers but the case is still pending in court.
There were so many loopholes in the case such as whoever got trapped in the case was in fact nowhere related to what IB claimed. As per CBI, even Mariam and Fauzia were unable to identify Nambi or anyone in the picture or in person. Even they didn’t find any connection between Nambi Narayanan with these persons.
In fact, as per the source, the kind of lifestyle which he was living was way lower than what they had expected from a government employee with basic pay of Rs. 7300. The case was nothing but a trap for him and others. Now some say that it was political warfare while some say that it was an international glitch.
Finally, Nambi Narayan received Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award for developing the cryogenic engine “Vikas” using which ISRO has been able to send spacecraft to mars and we all owe him.