The Rasheed murder case was one big black mark on an otherwise decent government provided by Ramakrishna Hegde in Karnataka (1983-88) and still stands out as a prime example of political corruption, police excesses and the unholy nexus between ruling politicians and twisted cops.
The death of MA Rasheed - a little known lawyer from Kerala – who volunteered to help a businessman take back control of his college, and was brutally beaten to death and his body unceremoniously dumped near railway tracks in Tamil Nadu, remained an intriguing tale of mystery. Till a dedicated CBI officer decided to unravel it – layer after layer.
Journalist V Sudarshan retells the dogged investigation of the murder by CBI DSP Kuppuswamy Ragothaman in his book Dead End: The Minister, the CBI and the Murder that Wasn’t with unsparing detail. The little support Ragothaman gets from his superiors, the creaky infrastructure available to a CBI officer (like the van that breaks down whenever he had to rush to the Madras airport) and the indifferent legal backing he gets to prosecute the accused show how unglamorous a CBI’s officer job can be.
And yet Ragothaman (who later becomes the Investigating Officer of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination in 1991) soldiers on, refusing to succumb to political pressure and uncooperative judges. His ploy to have the case registered at Salem in Tamil Nadu (since the body was found there) rather than in the hostile environs of Karnataka (where the actual murder took place) and the way he ropes in the support of a Tamil Nadu Minister to neutralise a rowdy brought by the perpetrators to scare off witnesses show how nimble footed Ragothaman was.
In spite of these odds, Ragothaman manages to get the police officials involved in the murder convicted by the trial court though the Education Minister, K. Jalappa, manages to go scot free. Even that conviction gets overturned by the Madras High Court thanks to an inept prosecution lawyer and a collusive judge.
Less than 200 pages, the book makes for gripping reading though populated with over two dozen characters and can be finished in one sitting – like I did. Thanks to Ragothaman’s painstaking detailing in his monograph, which Sudarshan relies upon, and by jogging the CBI officer’s memory during interviews, Sudarshan spins a compulsive web that shows that truth is any day stranger than fiction.
The reviewer is a senior Chennai-based journalist.
Check it out on Amazon.