So why did Amit Verma die so young?

Published: July 30, 2010 - 17:25 Updated: July 30, 2010 - 17:27

I am not the person you need to speak with, but him," guided my police source to his uniformed superior sitting bemused in front of an old lawyer enjoying his lunch during a short recess. The lawyer seemed a fastidious gastronome as he picked different portions of food from different pieces of cutlery carefully lifted from an elaborate box held obsequiously by his junior. The uniformed superior caught my eye. He sensed an opportunity to extricate himself from the lawyer with whom he seemed stuck, during a break in the proceedings of the Justice MC Jain Commission, which was investigating the conspiracy behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the annex of Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan.

 "My name is Amit Verma and I am the security advisor of Jain Commission," he introduced himself with a smile. Despite his starched uniform, it was clear that he had more to him than being an ordinary cop chasing criminals. I got a feeling as if I had known him for many years. Since that day I remained in touch with him. As I interacted with him, I realised the kind of intellectual muscle he brought to his job. A brilliant JNU product, he was an officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, Amit had acquired specialisation in Tamil chauvinism and undertaken investigations on LTTE and its activities. He was also in the special investigation team (SIT) which was constituted by the CBI to investigate the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. A little into the probe, he found that the SIT was following a pre-determined thesis about the identity of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and rejecting all the clues and information that went contrary to it. His opposition to SIT's dominant narrative of LTTE killing Rajiv Gandhi without local support was strengthened by the manner in which some of the key witnesses were killed or forced to commit suicide. Also, crucial evidence was squandered away by a SIT official during a trip to London. His opposition to the manner in which the case was handled ran foul with the views of SIT chief DR Karkitheyan. 

Hence, when he joined the Jain Commission as Security Secretary, he had a clear idea about the gaps in the SIT probe and how the dots could be linked. After assuming his new charge, he began to ask for crucial IB, RAW intelligence during the run up to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. His efforts revealed that there was plenty of information about killers enjoying local support homing in on the Congress leader, but it seemed no one wanted to act on it. At times it seemed as if Rajiv Gandhi was driven to his death. In fact, Admiral Ramdas had given a report about the threat to Rajiv Gandhi to the then prime minister, Chandrashekhar, but the report remained buried. 

Due to all these reasons and more, Amit Verma's presence was resented by a section of the establishment that was sold on the thesis: 'LTTE - killer of Rajiv Gandhi'. These were powerful vested interests that made life hell for Amit. After the term of Jain Commission came to an end, he was thrown out of his official house in Delhi. For many months, he did not get his salary. It seemed he had become an enemy of the State. 

Despite the strain, he never lost faith in the system and the fact that truth would triumph. During these troubled times, he immersed himself in his guitar, reading and pop astrology.

His fortunes looked up for a short while when Jayalalitha came to power. During this time, he brought his astute understanding about the Tamil chauvanist network to establish their links with sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, and how it was responsible for the kidnapping of Kannada film star Rajkumar. His study about this network, Veerappan and the Rajkumar saga, was nuanced and deep. In some ways, all of them had some links with those who were involved in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. 

Many of those whom he targeted during his investigations went after him when he happened to be on the wrong side of politics with the return of DMK to power in Chennai. He was tossed around from one job to another and implicated in the Telgi counterfeit stamp paper scam. He was devastated by anyone questioning his integrity. He soldiered on for a while, but misery never left him. In his last days, he contributed in establishing a top class police academy in Chennai. A man of pride, he believed that the system would grant him justice. He was wrong. On June 27, Amit, 55, breathed his last.

Editor of Delhi's Hardnews magazine and author of Bad Money Bad Politics- the untold story of Hawala scandal.

Read more stories by Sanjay Kapoor

This story is from print issue of HardNews