Padma Bhushan award winning forensics expert Prof Chandra Sekharan remembers his friend Radha Vinod Raju, founder director of NIA, who passed away on June 21 in Kochi.
I was really shocked to know that my good friend Radha Vinod Raju is no more. He was deeply associated with me while solving the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. He passed away during the wee hours of Thursday at Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi.
Raju is widely known as the real life 'Sethurama Iyer CBI' in Kerala, as the many murder and corruption cases he solved during his spell in CBI formed the foundation of many films. No wonder Mammooty and SN Swamy of the Mollywood paid homage to Raju at his residence in Cochin.
Raju continued to have links with me on many matters related to forensics until a few weeks before his demise.
It is worth reproducing what I wrote about him in my book "The First Human Bomb". I quote: "Radah Vinod Raju, the second in command of the SIT, with whom I interacted more intimately throughout the one year period of rigorous investigation of this case, is one of the best brains ever produced in this country. He was the quintessential investigator with a natural talent for it. Raju led the hunt-team engaged in tracking down the LTTE squad.
Our association right from initially preparing and supplying the antidotes for cyanide, investigating Shanmugam's death in the right perspective, travelling to Trichy to inspect the Navalappattu crime scene, visiting Thanjavur to prepare head models of Gundu Santhan, wading through deep flood waters on our return from Thanjavur, air-dashing to Bangalore to identify the bodies of Sivarasan and Suba, has many interesting anecdotes to tell".
Our friendship continued even after this case was over, when Raju invited me to Srinagar to spend a few weeks with him to smoothen out some kinks at the Forensic Science Laboratory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Raju was staying alone in a small house at an inconspicuous locality in Srinagar mainly due to security reasons even though he was eligible to occupy a posh bungalow. He insisted that I should stay with him for reasons of safety.
He looked after me as a son would care for his father. He kept my visit to Srinagar a secret and each day he will choose different routes to take me to my work spot where I was engaged with the secret assignment given to me.
In spite of the tight security he has provided, one day an explosion had occurred en route to my work spot, and our car escaped as it just crossed the site of explosion. They told me that the explosions are daily occurrences and the Kashmiris are accustomed to them.
Raju knew that I was in constant fear and therefore was keen in organising frequently an evening meet and dinner in rotation with his colleagues in their secured residences.
Mr Vijakumar, the present director general of police, was then in-charge of the Central Reserve Police Force unit in Srinagar and his batch mate Mr Raman was in-charge of the Border Security Fource. Four of us used to meet almost every day and spend the time nicely.
When I finished my work and drafted my report in my handwriting, Raju himself typed the whole report in order to maintain secrecy. We both went to the then Chief Minister Sheik Abdullah and submitted the report. The chief minister, making us to sit, went through the report fully and passed orders by noting the same in the vey report given to him.
Raju was happy and I was really overwhelmed with the courtesy extended to me by the CM.
Raju came with me to Jammu and arranged for a few days' stay including a special meeting organised by the J&K Branch of the Indian Institute of Public Administration.
I spoke on "The Forensic Aspects of Rajiv Gandhi Assassination". The next day the local news papers covered my speech with photographs. Raju was worried about my safety because of the newspaper publicity.
He shifted the place of my stay and it became handy for him to utilise my services to visit the crime scene of a railway accident. I detected that the accident was caused by a booby trap explosion on the railway track causing derailment of the engine and a few bogies.
Raju took me back to Srinagar and put me on Srinagar-Delhi flight along with a security officer. There was another police officer waiting for me in Delhi airport who has organised for a day's stay in the national capital and then put me on a Bangalore flight.
His arrangements were so meticulous that nothing untoward had happened till I reached home.
It was since then Raju and I were invited by the Police Academy, Hyderabad to handle a combined session on the investigation of the case of Rajiv Gandhi assassination.
We were in constant touch and even a few months before his demise I had a telephonic call from him asking some details about the improvised explosive devices.
Raju was thrilled to know about the release of my book titled "Lip Forensics" at Colombo. I sent a copy to him. His valuable comments are appended below: "Lip forensics is a science that was not known to me earlier! From the account, it appears that Dr Regina Kumari did the most extensive research along with you on this subject in India, and that though the external examiner of her PhD thesis was keen that the work is mature enough for publication, the two of you waited for twenty years to prove some of your suspicions about the stability of certain lip characteristics though this was assumed by earlier researchers abroad!
It speaks volumes for the integrity of your research. I wish some more details of the cases referred to in the book could have been provided for better appreciation of the science by not only police investigators but also by laymen interested in such writings. Similarly, I, for one would have liked to know the fate of the Q Branch case (mentioned in the book) that relied on lip forensics.
You must forward copies to all the police training institutes and the DGPs for creating awareness among police professionals on this subject.
Sd RV Raju."
Raju's mother tongue is Konkani and he used to enjoy my Tamilised Malayalam songs. After he became the first director general of the National Investigation Agency, I met him in his office a few times. To celebrate his elevation, the dinner he gave exclusively to me in his Delhi residence was indeed fantastic.
Mrs Raju is a wonderful host. Raju mentioned to her about the dishes he used to prepare for me during my stay at Srinagar, She asked me whether I had really liked his preparations. When I said in the negative, one must have seen how Raju was chasing me round the dining table like a small boy to catch hold of me and to give a punch.
He left only when I said that I was joking and that I enjoyed his preparations. It is true that I enjoyed his preparations, especially the small bites he used to prepare when I used to have my drinks.
When my book "The First Human Bomb" was released in Delhi, he came to the book release function, but couldn't wait till the end but quietly purchased a book and left.
Raju was a good friend and a great human being, difficult to forget.