On June 29th 2001 the Director General of Police (Law and Order) rejected Veerappan’s offer to surrender.
Veerappan is remembered as one of India’s most deadly dacoits and was active for many years in forests covering 6,000 km sq across the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Wanted for killing 184 people, most of them police officers and forest officials, Veerappan was being hunted down by the police of three states. Veerappan was notorious also for having poached 200 elephants and smuggling ivory and sandalwood worth millions of dollars. There was a price of Rs. 5 crores riding on Veerappan’s head and he escaped the police for twenty years until he was killed by the police in 2004.
For many years, especially during the 1990s, Veerappan was notorious for kidnapping famous people and demanding huge ransoms. Most of the money paid to him in ransom was paid unofficially. It is also believed that Veerappan buried most of the money he received in various parts of the forest. After his death, the police recovered Rs. 33,66,350 from his gang, some of whom had no idea about the money they held.
In the year 2000, Veerappan kidnapped popular Kannada superstar Rajkumar from the Erode district of Tamil Nadu, along with three of his associates. In return of the film star, Veerappan demanded the release of his gang members who had been arrested under an obsolete anti-terrorism law. This abduction threw the Karnataka government into a tizzy and a massive man hunt was launched. Riots and protest broke out across Karnataka. The Supreme Court was upset that the government of Tamil Nadu had not given Rajkumar adequate security, despite there being threats of abduction from Veerappan. After a total of 108 days of being abducted, Rajkumar was released unharmed. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the abduction and release of Rajkumar. Veerappan was also responsible for the kidnappings of H. Nagappa, a former minister of Karnataka state in 2002. The police tried to release Nagappa in an encounter, but three months later Nagappa was found dead in a forest near his ancestral village.
Later Veerappan also got political support from nationalist organizations in Tamil Nadu such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which was a Vennair party (a caste to which Veerapan belonged). M. Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and a known supporter of Veerappan demanded that the death penalty be abolished when the same punishment was awarded to four accomplices of Veerappan. Organizations like the Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troop and the Tamil Nadu Lberation Army, which were essentially banned outfits, helped Veerappan secure a Robin Hood-like image for himself and helped him draft terms when he kidnapped prominent people.
In 2001, after the abduction of actor Rajkumar, Veerappan made an offer to surrender on the condition of being granted pardon by the state government. His offer was turned down by Tamil Nadu Director General of Police, A. Ravindranath who said that they were not ready to accept Veerappan’s offer.
Veerappan had offered to surrender and in return had asked for the withdrawal of the special task forces of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The bandit had named Mani, editor of the Tamil magazine Netrikkan, as an agent to assist his surrender in an audio cassette sent him through a messenger. Mani had conveyed Veerappan’s offer to the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O. Panneerselvam, but did not get an immediate response. Veerappan had asked Mani to return to the forest with a person of his choice with the reply of the government. In the cassette Veerappan said that though he stood by his demand for pardon by the government, he would consider conditions, if any, put forward by the state government. Further, Veerappan said that once the government had withdrawn their forces, Mani could come to the forest and discuss his surrender.
Similar offers of surrender were made by Veerappan in August 1993, July 1997 and December 1998. Veerappan had given Mani assurance that neither he nor the person accompanying him to the forest would be captured and said that he had lost faith in R.R Gopal, editor of the Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeram and Sivasubramaniam, a reporter in the same bi-weekly. Veerappan also asked that the cassette with his voice recording be played to AIADMK head Jayalalithaa. All demands made by Veerappan were rejected. When Jayalalithaa came to power as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, she beefed up search operations for Veerappan and entrusted the responsibility to W.I Dewaram, a retired DGP to head the team which had been entrusted with the responsibility to find Veerappan.
Veerappan was eventually killed on October 18th 2004 by the Tamil Nadu Special Forces. Veerappan’s death was termed as “death of a demon” by the Guardian, UK. The villagers of Gopinatham, where Veerappan originated from burst crackers as a sigh of joy and relief.
Also on this day:
1857: Battle at Chinhat takes place.
1864: Dr. Asutosh Mukherjee, great judge, educationist and lawyer is born in Calcutta.
1893: Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, physics, mathematics expert and founder of Indian Statistical Institute, is born at Calcutta.
1908: Pratapsing Gaekwad, Prince of Baroda, is born.
1909: Pandit Motilal, social reformer and freedom fighter, is born.