Rocketry – the movie and the genesis of the fake ISRO espionage case

Lalit Shastri

D Sasikumar was working with ISRO as deputy Director Cryogenic Engine Fabrication when he was arrested in the false ISRO spy case and he remained in police custody for 12 days, whereas another ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan, who was later arrested in the same case was in custody for 2 or 3 days.

Dr A E Muthunayagam

Many years after the Court accepted the closure report by CBI and all the accused in the ISRO spy case were acquitted, Sasikumar now has joined his boss Dr A E Muthunayagam, Founder Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), ISRO, in refuting claims made by Nambi Narayanan, more particularly through in the film Rocketry, and also the attempt by a section of mainstream media to project him (Nambi) as the “Father of Indian cryogenic technology” .

What came as a blow to Sasikumar was the FIR lodged by the Kerala Police, and his subsequent arrest in the espionage case, The main accused in the FIR was Fausiya and Mariam was named as the second accused. Besides him, the others also named as accused were S Nambi Narayanan, Glavkosmos representative K Chandrashekhar and Sudhir Kumar Sharma, a businessman from Bangalore. Sasikumar said that Nambi was also named in the FIR along with him as both of them regularly shared a ride from home to office and were constantly in touch over phone.

The CBI took over the investigation in December 4, 1994 and the closure report of India’s premier investigation agency says that the statements by the accused were made as directed and under duress. The CBI also noted that no evidence had come to light to prove that the accused were involved in espionage.

The closure report in this case was filed by the CBI on 30 April 1996. In April 2021, the Supreme Court of India asked the CBI to look into the former Supreme Court judge Justice DK Jain report on the alleged framing of space scientists and others by the former police officials in the ISRO spy case.

The Kerala High Court on 13 August 2021 granted anticipatory bail to former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar, along with two former police officers of Kerala – S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt. CBI has also sought action against the now-retired IPS officer Siby Mathews in the case.

Before the false espionage case was built, the US had proposed a $24 Billion aid package for Russia when it’s economy had gone into a spin. US President Joe Biden, in his capacity as a Democrat Senator at that time, had put in an amendment to the effect that if Russia sold the cryogenic engine to India, the US aid package would be buried.

In May 1992, a key Senate committee had voted to block further U.S. economic aid to Russia if Moscow went ahead with the rocket sale to India.

Joe Biden, who had started the amendment, had gone on record stating: “I am confident that the Russian leaders will recognize the wisdom of stopping this sale once they see the risk of losing their economic aid.” This is no minor sale; this is dangerous, he had added.

The amendment in question was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by unanimous 19-0 vote by adding several new conditions to the then US President Bush’s proposal for $24 billion in international assistance to Russia.

Los Angeles Times had reported in 1992 that due to Russia’s rocket deal with India, in which Moscow’s state-owned space firm, Glavkosmos, was selling a long-range rocket to the Indian Space Research Organization, the US State Department banned U.S. dealings with both the Russian firm and ISRO.

In this backdrop, notwithstanding the contents of the Justice D K Jain Committee report, which is not in the public domain,  there is need for the Government to investigate the IB (Intelligence Bureau) officers in the false espionage case to find out whether or not any foreign powers’ hand was there in attempting to demoralize ISRO and scuttle the future cryogenic engine program. It seems everybody had their own agenda and script ranging from the Kerala police, the political parties, the foreign powers. the IB and even the top ISRO management. And each put it to their own use for their own ends and agenda. Indeed a sordid tale.

Download What ails ISRO and India’s Space Programme


Founder Director of LPSC-ISRO calls Nambi’s bluff and challenges Rocketry claims

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