Veerappan: Anatomy of a life of crime

Anatomy of a life of crime
By Our Tamil Nadu Bureau
DHARMAPURI, OCT.19. Veerappan, who was born at Gopinatham in Kollegal taluk of Karnataka, took to a life of petty crime such as poaching and tree felling at the age of 12. Soon enough, the lure of money made him a full-fledged criminal. He took to murder and abduction shortly thereafter.
Veerappan started off life in the major crime league by plundering forest wealth, joining hands with Xavi Gowde. The focus was primarily on elephant tusks, which fetched big money and led the bandit to felling elephants ruthlessly.
The growing demand for sandalwood soon led him to sandalwood smuggling at the age of 18. In his bid to overcome official resistance and to silence law enforcers, Veerappan targeted forest officials and police officials who stood in his way. His list of enemies grew.
Veerappan's first escape from the law came in 1965, after forest officials arrested him for killing an elephant. In due course, he formed his own gang, posing a challenge to both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The murder of a number of forest personnel during three successive years from 1984 turned the attention of the media as well as the State Governments on him.
Escaped from police net
On a visit to Bangalore in December 1986 during the SAARC summit, he was arrested by the police. But once again he escaped. The subsequent murder of forest ranger, Chidambaram, near Erode, drew nationwide attention.
The killing of five persons from his native village in 1989, the abduction and release of five forest personnel in June 89 and the killing of a forest guard in August `89 meant that he was not out of the limelight for long.
These incidents brought home the need for an organised and sustained effort to contain, if not arrest a growing criminal force. Consequently, a special wing of the police came into existence in 1989, both in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, charged with the mission of apprehending Veerappan.
Task force set up
The high-profile murders of the Karnataka Deputy Conservator of Forests, Srinivasan, in 1991, the Karnataka Superintendent of Police, Harikrishnan, in 1992 and sub-inspector, Shakeel Ahmad, in 1992, which put Veerappan on the front pages of the newspapers, led to the setting up of the Special Task Force.
The Special Task Force formally came into existence in 1993 after a landmine attack on the Superintendent of Police, Gopalakrishnan, and his team at Palar near Mettur during a combing operation.
Such became his notoriety that a battalion of the Border Security Force was requisitioned in 1993 to conduct operations against him. Veerappan while carrying out his criminal operations kept insisting on pardon and general amnesty, which none of the Governments could promise. The beheading of hapless villagers suspected of being informants made Veerappan a dreaded name in the Western Ghats.
His forest offences since 1978 included the killing of nearly 2,000 elephants for their tusks.
Veerappan is estimated to have killed 77 civilians at Gethesal, Thalavady, Hasanoor, Arepalayam, Pulinjur and nearby hamlets, nine police personnel from Tamil Nadu, one from the BSF and 24 police personnel from Karnataka. Karnataka lost 24 civilians and four forest personnel while the Tamil Nadu Forest department lost a range officer.
106 cases
There are 106 cases against him in Tamil Nadu, and 70 in Karnataka. His acquaintance with Tamil extremist movements such as the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA) and Tamil Nadu Retrieval Troops opened up new avenues to pursue his thirst for money, resorting to several abductions. Notable among them were the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Chidambaranathan, in 1994, the Karnataka matinee idol, Rajkumar in 2000, and the former Karnataka Agriculture Minister, H. Nagappa.


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