Back to an offensive

Print edition : November 15, 1997

After the October 31 deadline they set for his surrender expired, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have decided to resume joint operations of their Special Task Forces to capture Veerappan.

THE patience of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments appears to have worn thin. They decided, on November 3, to resume joint operations of their Special Task Forces (STF) to capture the forest brigand Veerappan. The decision came three days after the October 31 deadline set by the two Governments for Veerappan's surrender expired. Veerappan responded to the deadline by sending a cassette, addressed to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his Karnataka counterpart J.H. Patel, in which he listed his demands, old and new. It must be noted that even though he carried out two abductions - in July and October - the two Governments gave him a long rope. Although he released the hostages eventually, he used the abductions to renew his offer of surrender, but on his own terms.

Veerappan in February 1997.-COURTESY: NAKKHEERAN

That Veerappan was in no mood to surrender was clear from the cassette that Karunanidhi received on November 1. One of Veerappan's demands was that his brother Madhayyan be released from the Coimbatore prison and be allowed to meet him in the forests. He also revived his earlier demand for serving only a two-year prison term, and insisted that the two Chief Ministers give him a written guarantee on this. Veerappan is also reported to have demanded that each of his men be paid a compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs once they surrendered.

Rejecting the demands, Karunanidhi said that they "cannot be accepted." He said, "From what he has said in the cassette, it does not seem like he will surrender." The Chief Minister noted that Veerappan had merely repeated what he had said in the earlier cassettes. When Karunanidhi spoke to his counterpart in Karnataka, the latter endorsed his rejection of Veerappan's demands.

The cassette sent by Veerappan reached R.R. Gopal, editor of the Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, on the afternoon of November 1, a day after the October 31 deadline expired. The cassette reportedly came to Gopal by speed post from Salem. Gopal then handed it over to Karunanidhi.

While setting the new deadline on October 23, the two Chief Ministers said that a package of nine concessions offered by the two Governments on August 19 would form the basis of any surrender. On October 21, Veerappan released six persons: three Karnataka Forest Department personnel, two naturalists-cum-wildlife photographers, Senani Hegde and S. Krupakar, and a scientist from the Indian Horticulture Institute, Dr. Satyabrata Maiti. He had abducted them on October 7 and 8. Whether he released them after Karunanidhi and Patel threatened to seek Army assistance is anybody's guess. Although he released them, he did so only after pouring scorn on the Army and the STFs of both the States and giving the impression that he was serious about surrendering.

Since Veerappan not only ignored the October 31 deadline but also made additional demands, the two Governments decided to make it clear to him that they meant business. On November 3, Karnataka Director General of Police T. Srinivasulu met his Tamil Nadu counterpart K.K. Rajasekharan Nair in Chennai. Tamil Nadu Additional DGP (Intelligence) A.X. Alexander also took part in the discussions. It was decided that Tamil Nadu Inspector-General of Police (Law and Order) P. Kalimuthu would be appointed as the Commander of the STFs of both the States and revive the joint forces' operations against Veerappan. Rajasekharan Nair said that the Special Task Forces involved in the combing operation would be activated "in the next couple of days."

Despite this, Karunanidhi held out an olive branch to Veerappan the following day. He said that although the joint operations would get under way soon, it was not too late for Veerappan to surrender. The Chief Minister said, "Even now there is time for him to accept the package offered by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments and surrender."

Until recently, the top echelons of the Karnataka Government, especially its STF personnel, had no illusions about Veerappan's surrender. But the Tamil Nadu political leadership was seemingly lulled into believing that he would surrender. Stark realisation came on November 1. Meanwhile, it may be several weeks before the Tamil Nadu STF gets its act together since it has become a shadow of its former self over the last 18 months.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor