Relieved families

Published : Nov 19, 2004 00:00 IST

DISBELIEF, relief and satisfaction - that is how the families who had lost their loved ones to the bullets or explosives of Veerappan reacted to his bloody end. Without doubt one of the happiest persons was Abdul Karim, the retired Deputy Superintendent of Police whose son, Sub-Inspector Shakeel Ahmed, was killed by the bandit in August 1992. Calling the killing of Veerappan a "relief for humanity", Karim who in 2000 had successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments from accepting Veerappan's demand for the release of those detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, said that it was "too good to be true". Karim, who had consistently opposed any dilution in the efforts to apprehend Veerappan and his gang, told Frontline that the sacrifice made by his son did not go in vain.

Recalling proudly the stealth operations launched in the early 1990s by Shakeel Ahmed and his senior officer, District Superintendent of Police, Mysore, T. Harikrishna against the gang, Abdul Karim said that the duo had become a "two-man army", which established a brilliant intelligence network in the area, ferreted out credible information about Veerappan, and helped paralyse conduits who were supplying arms and ammunition to the gang. They had also gained access to key members of the gang such as Ayyandurai and Veerappan's brother Arjunan.

Shakeel Ahmed's brother Jamil Ahmed, a Professor in the Political Science Department of the University of Mysore, added: "It is to the credit of Shakeel (Ahmed) that he met Veerappan incognito in the forests, convinced him (Veerappan) of his credentials as an arms dealer who would supply automatic guns in return for ivory, and enticed the bandit's strategist and arms supplier Gurunathan into a trap. In the series of operations that followed, Gurunathan was flushed out of his hideout by Shakeel and Harikrishna and shot dead in an encounter near Dinahalli. This operation could not have been possible by men of straw."

Both Shakeel Ahmed and Harikrishna paid for their bravery with their lives. Along with four other policemen, they were ambushed in a retaliatory strike by Veerappan between Ramapura and the Meenyam forests on August 14, 1992. Said Jamil Ahmed: "Yes, it would have been better if he had been caught alive. Now lots of secrets and untold truths have been carried to the grave."

Preetha, the widow of Harikrishna, said she was glad that the police had finally caught up with the brigand.

The November 1991 beheading of Pandillapalli Srinivas, an Indian Forest Service officer, was gruesome even by Veerappan's tyrannical standards. Srinivas, both as the Deputy Conservator of Forests and as the head of the operations to catch Veerappan, had undertaken a number of welfare measures in the vicinity of Gopinatham, which endeared him to the villagers.

Srinivas hoped to reform Veerappan by requesting local villagers to boycott him. So when Veerappan sent word through his brother Arjunan that he would surrender at a farmhouse in Gopinatham, Srinivas believed him, and met a gruesome death.

Speaking to Frontline from Rajahmundry (in Andhra Pradesh), Srinivas' mother P. Jayalakshmi said that her son went to meet Veerappan because he "believed in non-violence and the basic goodness of man. If my son did not believe in ahimsa, Veerappan would have been dead long ago. He deserved the fate he met. He destroyed so many families. Good will always prevail over evil."

Terming Veerappan a Narakasura (a demon), she added that now that he was dead, her son's soul would rest in peace. Srinivas' father Anantha Rao said: "We always wished that Veerappan should die. All families bereaved by the mindless violence of the Narakasura would be celebrating as we are." He confessed that the sight of his son's headless torso would always haunt him, as that was how the forest officials had handed it over to him.

A highly respected officer, Srinivas was awarded the Kirti Chakra posthumously in 1992. A road has been named in his memory in Rajahmundry and the colony of houses he built for the lower-level forest staff in Chickmagalur (Karnataka) has been named after him. And the day he was killed - November 10 - is observed as Forest Martyrs Day by the Karnataka Forest Department.

There was, however, no joy in the Kamagere (Karnataka) residence of the late H. Nagappa, the former Minister who was kidnapped by Veerappan in August 2002. Parimala Nagappa, who was elected from her husband's constituency - Hanur - in 2004, said that the death of Veerappan could never bring back to life any of the victims he had butchered, nor would it lessen the grief suffered by many families. She, however, expressed relief that with the bandit gone, village communities living along the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border could lead peaceful lives.

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