Veerappan, the strategist

Veerappan, the strategist
By G. Satyamurty
COIMBATORE, OCT. 19. Even some top police officials had conceded that Veerappan was a brilliant strategist.
"He is a worthy foe," W.I. Dawaram, then Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF), had said after the Palar landmine blast in April 1993. That blast killed 22 persons, including seven police personnel. "Veerappan is a tricky customer who is not only ruthless but also cunning: he is able to read the minds of opponents very well," Mr. Dawaram said.
Despite intensive operations to catch him dead or alive over almost one and a half decades, he had never been even surrounded convincingly — until last night.
According to police sources, he was sighted only once. That was by a team led by Sanjay Arora, Superintendent of Police, STF — that too from a hill top. Before the STF could reach the spot, he had vanished. At one point, he is known to have murdered his infant daughter for fear that the child's screams could reveal his whereabouts.
Intensive combing operations did weaken but did not paralyse him. And he could frequently outwit the police thanks to intelligence gathered from tribal people. Many of them were loyal to him either because of favours received or out of fear.
Surprise was his weapon. He had as his playground jungle terrain extending to almost 14,000 sq km in the Eastern Ghats (from Chinnampathy in Coimbatore district to Anchetty in Dharmapuri district apart from a substantial forest area in Karnataka), which he knew as he did the palm of his hand.
Take, for instance, the ambush of three Sub-Inspectors and a constable of the Karnataka Police who were returning from a bath at the Hogenekkal Falls in April 1990. Or the shooting of five constables at the Rampura police station in May 1992. Or the ambush of six Karnataka Police personnel, including the Mysore SP, Harikrishna, in August 1992, or the landmine blasts near Palar the following year. He used the surprise element to devastating effect.
Mr. Dawaram considered him to be a "devious coward." "He rarely had the courage to engage us directly," the former Director-General of Police, Tamil Nadu, said. Of course, he was very good in guerilla tactics, using the "hit and run" strategy. The jurisdictional grey areas of the police helped him. He never had a direct confrontation with the police but saw to it that whenever possible they were ruthlessly eliminated using the weapons available and his expertise in deploying them.
While he shot dead Harikrishna and his Sub-Inspector, Shakeel Mohammed, at point-blank range on the ghat road leading to Rampura, he ensured that the personnel who were accompanying them could not come to their rescue. This he did by spraying bullets from a lofty vantage point.
Similarly, the landmines that he had laid in Palar for the team led by K. Gopalakrishan, SP, STF, were so powerful that 22 personnel were ripped apart on the spot.
Quite a few including the SP were injured too. A second police vehicle in which M. Ashok Kumar, an Inspector, was heading a team was late to enter the mine field by a fraction of a minute.
This enabled it to strike back. Otherwise, there would have been a massacre, claiming at least 70 lives including of some 40 police personnel.
Ultimately, it is the painstaking and meticulous strategy of the STF that sealed his fate.


Drugs rocket in AP