Climax of ravan: Veerappan story

The strategy worked flawlessly
By G. Satyamurty and V.S. Palaniappan
Photo: K. Ananthan 

The sub-inspector Velladurai (left), and the STF driver, Saravanan, who drove the ambulance for the gangsters.
SATHYAMANGALAM, OCT 20. "Either we capture the enemy or we get killed: these were the options available to us when we were sent on the Operation Cocoon," said Saravanan, who drove the ambulance that took Veerappan and his gangsters to the site of the encounter at Papparapatti in Dharmapuri district late on Monday night.
Speaking to reporters at the Sathyamangalam Special Task Force camp, Mr. Saravanan said, "We were fully aware of the risk but were confident of accomplishing the mission". Sub-Inspector Velladurai (who shot to fame in the Ayodhyakuppam Veeramani encounter at Chennai) was chosen to infiltrate the gang. He won its confidence posing as an armed revolutionary activist associated with groups in Sri Lanka. After assuring them medical aid and safe passage from the Yemanur and Pennagaram jungles, which are under tight STF vigil, he persuaded the gang to exit the forests in an ambulance.
Timing and location
A police vehicle was redesigned to look like an ambulance. This involved fabricating a compartment separating the driver's cabin from the rear side, that hid the four-member gang. The sub-inspector sat in the front seat along with the driver, Saravanan.
The vehicle proceeded towards the encounter site where the STF teams --- codenamed Angel, Rocky and Cobra, had taken up position after ensuring that the last bus on the route crossed the point. The teams had to wait for the night show at a nearby cinema either to end or act well ahead of it, to ensure that civilians were not hurt or killed in crossfire. The ideal window for the operation was put at between 10.50 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.
A desolate stretch was chosen for the ambush. The teams then took position inside a bunker created atop a lorry (one of the three commandeered for the purpose). The strategy was to position them for a strike from a reasonable height — a strategy used by Veerappan to ambush STF men and forest personnel. More policemen, armed with assault rifles, took positions atop a nearby school building.
One lorry carrying hidden armed reinforcements was positioned a 100 meters, ready to storm the ambulance, while another lorry laden with sugarcane was used to block the ambulance to make Veerappan believe it was heading for a sugar mill in nearby Palacode. Once intercepted, the brigand was asked to surrender over a megaphone. At this moment, the two STF men in the ambulance escaped. The gang greeted a second call for surrender with gunfire; the STF opened retaliatory fire on the ambulance. It was all over soon; a 15-year public menace had been eliminated in just 45 minutes. Ten months of meticulous planning had borne fruit.


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