The sixth cassette

Published : Jan 03, 2003 00:00 IST

VEERAPPAN lays the blame for the death of Nagappa, his hostage who was shot on December 5, squarely on the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force (STF) in the sixth and last cassette he sent to the family of Nagappa. The cassette reached the family on December 8.

Insistent birdcall provides the background for Veerappan's voice as he recounts the events of the last two days of Nagappa's life. He speaks urgently and appears to be at pains to convince the family that he was to release Nagappa very soon, and that killing him was never on his mind. All his references to the Tamil Nadu STF, its head of operations, Walter Dawaram, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa are prefaced by expressions of extreme abuse.

The first minute of the cassette is unclear. Veerappan's voice is heard saying that he and Nagappa were listening to the radio reports on Kolathur Mani's release. Kannada radio, he said, announced that Mani's bail was through in the Chamarajanagar court. The voice of the son-in-law of Nagappa asks Veerappan to look after `periyavar' (elder person, a reference to Nagappa). They then listen to Tamil radio that announces that Mani will not get bail. "So I told Nagappa that this is the work of the (expletive deleted) Dawaram," Veerappan says on tape. "He (Dawaram) wants Mani's case to come up after my 12-day deadline. Periyavar then says: `See how they are lying. What harm have I done to Jayalalithaa?' I tell him that (expletive deleted) Jayalalithaa does not like people. It is like the relationship between a tiger and a deer. I don't know how the Tamil people have voted her." He briefly describes the "suffering" that the people of Tamil Nadu are undergoing in her regime. Veerappan then launches a tirade against Dawaram, who was brought back to head the STF at the age of 66. He accuses Dawaram of killing countless people and raping women.

It is evening when this conversation takes place. Veerappan says, "Dawn broke on Thursday. At night the omens were very bad so I told the gang that we should leave this place. We packed our belongings and tied up the bundles. I told Periyavar to have some milk and that we could eat elsewhere." Veerappan describes their route. They were climbing a hill to the south of Chengadi when Nagappa said his leg was paining and sat down. "Not two minutes had passed when two men from the Tamil Nadu STF, dressed in green, came running towards us very fast." Veerappan claims that he told his men to shoot and both the policemen fell to the bullets. But the gang was surrounded and what followed was a fierce encounter ("Ask the people of Chengadi if I'm telling you the truth"). Veerappan and his gang jumped behind the rock they were on and shouted to Nagappa to get down. "I shouted, "you'll get hit, you'll get hit, get down, `Periyavar, get down'," but he sat there like a god and stayed frozen," Veerappan says on tape. "At that point Nagappa rolled and fell down. We did not know what happened to him as we could not go near him. We had no choice but to leave the place, leaving our belongings. We only took the clothes we were wearing and our arms. We were surrounded on all sides and there was fierce shooting. We escaped under cover of fire and have no idea what happened," Veerappan says. He claims that when they left they did not know whether Nagappa was dead or alive.

"Whatever it is, they (the Tamil Nadu STF) should have immediately informed Nagappa's family. But these (expletives deleted), they left him dead and ran... (Tape unclear.) Their idea was to say that Veerappan killed Periyavar. This is the drama that Dawaram and company will make."

Having offered his version of the circumstances under which Nagappa was killed, the rest of the tape has Veerappan absolving himself of the crime and putting it squarely on the Tamil Nadu STF. "I swear to god I am not lying," Veerappan says. "But they are trying to blame me. I have never shot a hostage of mine so far. Even if they are with me for 10 days, they get used to me and become like one of us. For the sake of our principles and those of the Tamil people I even kidnapped Rajkumar. I kept (expletive deleted) so safe and he was happy. When he left us he even shed a few tears. I kept Periyavar for three months, over 100 days. Whatever he wanted I told him to write and give me. Ghee, tender coconut, bread, jam, apple and other things, he got to eat." Veerappan then goes on to say how Nagappa's release was imminent. "`Don't worry, Periyavar, soon Mani will come and you will leave in 15 days', I would comfort him," Veerappan says on tape. "Whenever he would hear his family's voices he would weep. We would comfort him and tell him that our families have also suffered. `Be brave, we are looking after you well,' we told him. This is the way we kept him," claims Veerappan. "These (expletives deleted) killed him deliberately and ran since they were in Karnataka territory."

Veerappan tries to reinforce his argument that he intended no harm to Nagappa. He says that Dawaram was opposed to negotiations even at the cost of Nagappa's life. Dawaram, he alleges, was on their trail, and had even paid Rs.10,000 to informers to track them. "Ask the people of Chengadi what happened at 10 a.m. on Thursday and check the place," he says. "I suspect Nagappa is dead. He rolled off the rock while we escaped." He recounts the travails of Nagappa's family, how they met the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister, the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. "The persons who killed Nagappa were (expletive deleted) Jayalalithaa and (expletive deleted) Dawaram. I am not responsible for the old man's death," he concludes.

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