The extremist connection

Published : Aug 19, 2000 00:00 IST

On the ultra-Left outfits now believed to have established links with Veerappan.


THE abduction of Rajkumar has once again put the ultra-left Tamil National Liberation Army (TNLA) led by Maran alias Senguttuvan in the limelight, revealing the nexus between it and the Veerappan criminal gang. Its striking power had earlier alarmed the Tamil Nadu government when it attacked a police station at Andimadam on July 13, 1997 and carted away arms and ammunition.

The Veerappan-TNLA nexus was evident in the brigand's list of ten demands. Besides the nature of the demands, what gave away the TNLA hand was the ninth demand for the release of five persons from Tamil Nadu prisons. These five are TNLA cadres: Ponnivala van, radio Venkatesan alias Srinivasan, Muthukumar, Rajendran and Nagaraj. Instead of Rajendran and Nagaraj, two other names are also given: Satyamurthy and Manikandan.

Ponnivalavan was involved in the Andimadam attack. Venkatesan is in prison under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for his role in a TNLA attack on the Kullanchavadi police station in November 1993. Muthukumar was arrested in 1997 in connection with smuggling of supplies to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at Manalmelgudi. When he was out on bail, he was reportedly involved in the attack on a police station at Vellitiruppur near Erode in 1998. Satyamurthy and Manikandan were also arrested in connection with this case. What is revealing is that Veerappan and his close associate Sethukuli Govindan have also been named as accused in this case of attack on the police station at Vellitiruppur. This shows that the nexus betw een Veerappan and TNLA is at least two years old. The police later detained him under the National Security Act.

Prior to its Andimadam assault, the TNLA murdered six persons belonging to two rival factions led by Ilavarasan and Koovagam Ramasamy in Perambalur and Cuddalore districts, which formed the nursery of TNLA activity. (The Maran faction is the third splint er group of the TNLA). Koovagam Ramasamy was murdered on June 8, 1997 by members of the Ilavarasan group near Vallam in Perambalur district. To avenge the murder, two members of the Ilavarasan faction, Sethu and Vikram alias Vikramadityan, were murdered by the Ramasamy group near Srimushnam village in Cuddalore district.

According to the police, Maran was a supporter of Ramasamy. Although it was initially suspected that the Ilavarasan group was behind the Andimadam attack, the police later concluded that Maran was behind it. The theory was that he would have wanted the b lame to lie at the door of Ilavarasan.

Tamilarasan was the TNLA's founder. Even police officers concede that he was a "genuine revolutionary" who wanted to end the inequities in society. A dropout from an engineering college in Coimbatore, he commanded the respect of villagers in Tiruchi and South Arcot districts for taking up the cause of landless peasants. A mob stoned him to death on September 1, 1987 after he robbed the State Bank of India branch at Ponparappi, 20 km from Ariyalur.

Four Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) groups are currently operating in Tamil Nadu: three rival factions of Ilavarasan, Koovagam Ramasamy and Maran; and the Tamil People's Liberation Army (TPLA) led by Ponparappi Rajendran.

The villages around Jayamkondan, Andimada, Perambalur, Srimushnam, Panrutti, Neyveli in the undivided Tiruchi and South Arcot districts form the area of these four groups' activities. Cashewnut groves here not only offer ideal cover to their activities b ut a source of income.

The TNLA not only believed in a revolution led by peasants and workers in Tamil Nadu but wanted to liberate the State from the Indian Union. It supported the Tamils' struggle in Sri Lanka for forming a separate Tamil Eelam. In the 1980s, Tamilarasan forg ed contacts with Nagarajan, a Sri Lankan Tamil who had been expelled from the LTTE, and they worked together for a while. Nagarajan was killed by the police in June 1993 near Dindigul, Tamil Nadu.

Tamilarasan also took an "adventurist" line: the TNLA started blasting railway tracks and robbing banks. It blasted the Marudayar bridge near Ariyalur, derailing the Rockfort Express on March 15, 1986. Twenty-five passengers were killed. The TNLA attempt ed to blast a bridge on the Coleroon river, near Tiruvaiyaru, in 1986 on the eve of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's visit. Its cadres robbed a branch of the Indian Overseas Bank at Ulkottai, Tiruchi district, on December 10, 1986.

After Tamilarasan was killed, Lenin alias Deivasigamani took over the leadership of the TNLA. The group grew rapidly under Lenin's leadership. Branches came up at Jayamkondan, Ariyalur, Vallam and other areas of the erstwhile Tiruchi and South Arcot dist ricts.

In order to acquire weapons, the TNLA led by Lenin attacked police stations at Puthur at Annamalai Nagar in 1992 and Kullanchavadi and Sethiathope in 1993 - all in South Arcot district. On March 29, 1994, while he was on his way to bomb a police station at Muthandikuppam in South Arcot district, Lenin was killed in a bomb blast.

After Lenin's death, the TNLA lay dormant for some months. Subsequently, Koovagam Ramasamy was elected its president and Ilavarasan its working president. The TNLA started conducting "panchayats" to settle disputes among the villagers, charging a fee for this. A part of this money was spent on the welfare of the villages, in the process of gaining the sympathy of the people.

The TNLA looted a cooperative bank at Vayalur, near Tiruchi, in 1995. When one of its members threatened to go to the police if he was not given one third of the booty, he was murdered. Such is the bloody history of the TNLA which is now acting in tandem with Veerappan.

That another Tamil extremist group, the Tamil National Retrieval Force (TNRF) has also linked up with Veerappan came to light when he came up with four demands in addition to the ten he had made earlier. The four demands were written on a piece of paper under Veerappan's signature, on behalf of "Veerappan group, TNLA and Tamil National Retrieval Force."

Informed sources said that the TNRF had linked up with the LTTE. P. Ravichandran, a TNRF operative, was an accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The Supreme Court sentenced him to life imprisonment in October 1999.

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