The Tamil Nadu response

Published : Aug 05, 2000 00:00 IST

THE Tamil Nadu government decided to send an emissary to meet forest brigand Veerappan within hours after it received the news of the kidnapping of Kannada film actor Rajkumar and three others. The decision was taken after a 90-minute meeting between Chi ef Minister Karunanidhi and his Karnataka counterpart S.M. Krishna at the State Secretariat in Chennai. Subsequently it was announced that "Nakkheeran" Gopal, editor of the Tamil biweekly Nakkheeran, would be the emissary. The State Government had sent Gopal in July 1997 to secure the release of nine Karnataka Forest Department personnel held hostage by the brigand.

Krishna flew from Bangalore to Chennai along with Rajkumar's wife Parvathamma, son, the Karnataka Home Minister, the State's Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, and Director-General of Police to "request" Karunanidhi to send an emissary to Veerappan. Karuna nidhi was "gracious enough to lend support" to secure the release of Rajkumar and others, and "both of us will work towards that end", Krishna said at a joint press conference held after his meeting with Karunanidhi.

According to Krishna, Veerappan demanded in the recorded message he left with Parvathamma before taking away Rajkumar that an emissary be sent to meet him "to discuss some of the problems he is facing". He was "positive" that Veerappan made no other dema nds in the message, contained in a cassette. "On receipt of Veerappan's demands, we will consider the same," he added. According to officials, Veerappan has demanded that the emissary contact him within eight days.

Krishna ruled out joint combing operations by the Special Task Forces of the two States. "Let us not complicate matters further," he said.

Tamil Nadu's Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order) S. Kumarasamy earlier told newspersons that the Tamil Nadu STF was "in a state of readiness". He said that Rajkumar had been cautioned not to go to his farmhouse without informing the Kar nataka STF and the Tamil Nadu police. The actor had ignored that request, he said.

Karunanidhi asserted that Rajkumar had not informed the police of either State when he went to stay at his ancestral farm. That was why no police protection was given to him, he clarified.

According to Krishna, Veerappan assured Parvathamma that he would take good care of Rajkumar and that he would not harm him. Rajkumar has been keeping indifferent health, he said.

On the steps his government would take to prevent attacks on Tamils in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka, Krishna said he would request Kannadigas in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to show patience and forbearance "in the larger interests of getting the r elease of Rajkumar." Besides, they should help the administration of the two States to maintain peace, and law and order so that "things can happen faster than we expect," he said.

In a separate appeal, Karunanidhi said the abduction of Rajkumar had "shocked and pained" the people of both States. Both the governments would take appropriate steps to get in touch with Veerappan, he averred. "I expect that Veerappan will, in deference to the sentiments of the people of both States, release Rajkumar and the three others." Karunanidhi urged the people of Karnataka and Tamils in both States to maintain peace and cooperate with the State governments and the Centre in the efforts to secur e the release of Rajkumar.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalitha alleged that Veerappan had regained strength and built up "a striking force of more than a hundred persons" after Karunanidhi returned to power in 1996. When she was Chief Minister, the STF had been deployed under DGP Walter Dawaram to nab Veerappan. Veerappan's "huge gang of 150" had been reduced to a small group of five, she claimed. Jayalalitha added: "His weapons were seized and in th e end, he was frantically fleeing in (sic) with just two rifles and running from place to place scouring for food." She demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the abduction.

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