Veerappan: Beera of Ravan movie: robin hood for the poor

 These photos throw light on the kind of life Veerapan leads in his forest hideout...»
Has anybody wondered why one of India's most wanted criminals, with an official murder tally of 120 people, managed to remain invisible for more than four decades? Why is it that a force dedicated especially to capture him (STF), has been unable to drag him out from his natural habitat, the sandalwood forest, in 10 years?

First of all, the nation and especially the task force, needs to understand that Veerappan is not a myth. Of course, he remained virtually a mythical figure until a Nakkeeran reporter, Sivasubramaniam, brought him to limelight in the early 1990s. Ironically, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police did not even have the latest photograph of Veerappan until Nakkeeran broke the story. A lot has happened since then, but the bandit remains elusive to the police but visible to the local tribes who have nourished his ‘Robin Hood’ image.
Veerappan's roots
Nothing much is recorded or written about the brigand's early childhood or family background. All that is known is that he was born into a poor and backward Tamil-speaking Padayachi family. The village was Gopinatham in the Kollegal taluk of Karnataka, bordering Tamil Nadu. Since Gopinatham is set in the mountainous forest region, Veerappan was a natural in the jungles that would become his habitat for the rest of his life.
Early hits
It is not known how he took to the life of crime. Locals say that he was inspired by Malayur Mammattiyan, a notorious bandit of the 1950s and 60s, who hailed from Salem, close to Veerappan's native village. Veerappan's first recorded murder was that of Paramasivam, brother of Karuppan who killed Malayur Mammattiyan in an inter-gang war. However, Veerappan came into prominence only after he killed Tamil Nadu forest officer Chidambaram in July 1987. Apparently, Chidambaram was killed because he was an honest forest officer who sought to end sandalwood smuggling.
It seems logical that Veerappan took to sandalwood smuggling and poaching much earlier, probably in the late 1970s, as he was arrested sometime in 1986 by the Karnataka police and lodged in Mysore jail. This is the only time Veerappan has ever been in custody.
A seasoned criminal
Veerappan's crime graph shows that initially he targetted only forest officials who came in the way. They included Karnataka Deputy Conservator of Forests P Srinivas who believed that he could reform the brigand. Veerappan lured him into the forest on the offer of surrender and shot him dead. He left his severed head on a rock to serve as a warning to others. Some local sources say that Srinivas got too close to Veerappan and was also involved with his sister.
The hunt
Following the brutal murder of Srinivas, the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments constituted the Special Task Forces in May 1990. From then on, it has been a long battle between the Veerappan gang and the police in which more than 100 persons have been killed by the bandit, at least half of them police personnel.

Veerappan was on the run from 1991 to 96, when the Tamil Nadu STF was headed by Additional Director General of Police Walter Dawaram, known to be a ruthless cop. It was also the period when several innocent tribals were tortured, detained illegally or under TADA or shot dead in fake encounters on charges of supplying ration and extending such other help to Veerappan.

That was when Veerappan turned to quarry owners on both sides of the border for help. The quarry owners had no choice but to cough up "protection money". Apparently, they also supplied explosives with which Veerappan ambushed Tamil Nadu police patrols.
Dawaram claims that during that period, the STF reduced Veerappan gang's strength from 150 to eight. Many find it hard to believe that Veerappan was moving about with such a large entourage and yet was invisible to the police. But the fact remains that Veerappan felt the heat thanks to sustained STF operations and frequent encounters...
Abduction business
Veerappan turned to hostage-taking in December 1994.The first victim was a deputy superintendent of police in Coimbatore district, Chidambaranathan. Veerappan seized him during a visit to his farmhouse in Sirumugai. The compelling reason for this was not just to press for amnesty, which of course Veerappan did, but to get urgent medical aid for his brother Arjunan, who was wounded in an encounter.
Arjunan was allowed to come out, given treatment and detained after the hostage crisis ended with a police raid. Arjunan and two other gang members were reportedly bumped off while being transported to Mysore. The police version is they committed suicide by consuming cyanide.
Veerappan took hostages on two more occasions in 1997 to press for general amnesty, but eventually released them unconditionally and unharmed. The DMK, which was in power from 1996 to 2001, was known for being sympathetic to him but obviously could not give into his demand for amnesty.
Veerappan's pinnacle
It was Dr Rajkumar's abduction in July 2000 which got him national attention. For the first time, it became known that Veerappan had included in his gang members of two dreaded Tamil extremist outfits, the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army and the Tamil National Retrieval Troops, both modeled on the LTTE.
The nexus came to police notice when Veerappan and members of these two gangs launched a joint attack on a police station near Sathyamangalam in December 1998.
But they kept it a closely guarded secret. The nexus came to light when Rajkumar was abducted. Of course Veerappan had to release Rajkumar eventually when it became apparent that the two Governments would resume combing operations. Two major demands put forward by Veerappan concerned the release of five TNLA and TNRT extremists in Tamil Nadu jails and 51 TADA detenus in Mysore jail. The extremists are still in jail. But the TADA detenus have since been released by the Mysore sessions court.
Will he get caught?
Now Veerappan has struck again. Can he ever be caught? The chances are slim. He operates in a 6,000 sq km jungle. His survival instinct is strong. He has been known to be ruthless with his own community if anyone was known to help the police. At the same time, he has been generous with money to those who help him. As a result, he has acquired a Robin Hood image which the police find hard to fight.
While the police have all the latest gadgets, including AK-47 assault rifles and night vision binoculors, Veerappan still carries old hunting rifles. Though in his mid-50s, Veerappan is still physically active. He is constantly on the move, sometimes walking 40 kms a day. The jungle is so thick in some places that the visibility will be hardly 30 ft during daytime. He always pitches camp, for lunch or dinner, at a place which gives him a commanding height.
And finally, his information network has proved to be far more faster and reliable than the police's. He has struck twice in the same place, abducting Nagappa just a little over two years after seizing Rajkumar. And choosing the day when Rajkumar is on a visit to his farm house near Kollegal, the first since his abduction from there, and all police force is concentrated on the actor.

As always with Veerappan, it is a question of chance


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